Next time you sit down to eat Thanksgiving dinner, you should give thanks to the Aztecs – they’re the ones who put that turkey on your table! The tasty bird was first brought back to Europe by the Spanish conquistadors who toppled the golden empire of the Aztecs, but as kids reading this issue will find out, that’s not all Aztecs are famous for. Over 700 years ago, on the spot that is now modern-day Mexico City, the Aztecs built their new capital, Tenochtitlan, which eventually became one of the biggest cities in the world – far bigger than London or Paris at that time. In this grand metropolis of five million people, the Aztecs created a many-leveled society, with the all-powerful “Great Speaker” at the top.
As master temple-builders, life was all about rites and rituals for the Aztecs. For kids curious about the human sacrifices the Aztecs are famous for, there is plenty of info here on the grisly ceremonies and the priestly traditions behind them. However, the Aztecs had a festive side to them too: They were devoted to a soccer-like sport they called tlachtli, and fond of festivals too. But their zest for life – and death – was cut short with the arrival of Spanish explorer Hernan Cortes in 1519, who waged war with the empire and enslaved many of the remaining Aztecs. For kids who like dramatic tales of glory and defeat, this issue has it all.