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Mesoamerica Question Answers

Explain what is meant when we talk about cultural diversity in Mesoamerica and how is cultural diversity affected by geographic diversity?

Mesoamerica was a tapestry of many yet similar cultures. Mayan, Incan and Aztec cultures are the most known cultures today but other cultures that were a part of Mesoamerica are; Olmec, Zapotec, Mixtec and Teotihuacan. The term Mesoamerica; refers to the shared cultures of these areas before the invasion of Europeans. Mesoamerican culture is diverse because it is a collection of somewhat similar cultures and not just one culture. A culture’s diversity is affected by its geography because the people adapt differently to different geographic conditions. People living in the mountains will have a different culture than those living in the desert.

In terms of what we know about Mesoamerica as documented by invasive colonial Europeans, Taube mentions colonial figures such as Diego de Landa and Sahagun, both Catholic priests. What was their role in documenting indigenous concepts and practices, and what biases might they incorporate in the documents?

During the invasion, many of the Mesoamerican heritage was destroyed; either due to military activities or on the grounds of religious beliefs of the invaders. When the Mayans showed their books to Diego de Landa; he ordered his men to burn these books as these contained superstitions and lies of the devil. He destroyed twenty-seven valuable books about Mayan culture. He was condemned for this action. Sahagun worked with the indigenous people and wrote an extensive encyclopedia that preserved the heritage that was destroyed by his superiors. This encyclopedia consists of twelve books. Although his views differed from the beliefs of Mesoamericans; he still helped in the preservation of their culture.

As we read in Carrasco, what does it mean to say that religion in Mesoamerican involves world making, world centering, and world renewing? How might this be related to a cyclic view of time?

The Mesoamerican societies were built around urban centers. These centers served as “Axis Mundi” which is an earthly axis between the celestial poles. The societies were built in a way that they represented the cosmos; this was the world-making. The rulers and priests aligned the cosmos with the urban center which represented the world centering. Lastly, the world was renewed through different rituals. The world renewing was done at the end of every time cycle as the rule of one deity would end and another would start. These cycles adhered to the calendar system of Mesoamerica.


Culture is ideas, ideas direct behavior. We know that ideology is a set of ideas that benefit a certain group in society.

    • What does the social organization of MA societies look like and what forces shape its structure?

The Mesoamerican societies were complex and had their calendar (260 days calendar), numbering system, deities, rituals and games. Their societies were a map of the heavens as the placement of the buildings was seen as the cardinal directions of the heavens. Their deities shaped their societies.

    • Discuss MA social organization and the worldview that supports it. What are the categories of hierarchy?

The Mesoamericans believed that the universe was made of multiple realms and these realms would be destroyed over time. Only the deities will remain as they are the center of the universe. These deities were organized according to hierarchy and the societies were organized according to this belief. These societies were strictly hierarchical. Macehualtin (commoners) were farmers, warriors, slaves and serfs, Pipiltin (nobles) included government officials, lords, military leaders, high priests, etc. Tecuhtli came under the emperor who himself was referred to as Huey Tlatoani.

    • Would you describe the MA society as egalitarian or otherwise and why?

Mesoamerican societies were stratified societies as their people were divided into different classes depending on their socio-economic standing. The people belong to different class systems depending on how many or fewer commodities they own. Other factors like race, ethnicity, education, wealth, occupation, etc. also play a huge part in the social standing of the individuals and their families. If Mesoamerican societies were egalitarian then everyone would have the same rights and opportunities. However; this was not the case as hierarchy was one of the core beliefs of the Mesoamerican societies.

What ideas and practices are used to assert or reinforce social status in MA society, for example how do luxury goods, such as jade or chocolate, fit into your statement about MA ideology?

As previously mentioned that Mesoamerican societies were strictly hierarchical and hierarchy was due to socio-economic differences. This system is similar to our system today as our societies are divided into the lower class, middles class, upper class and the elite class. So it is no wonder that luxury products contributed to the social standing of individuals. The Mesoamericans believed in the hierarchy because their deities were also arranged according to their superiority. The hierarchy was a part of their core belief, and it represented their way of life.



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