Viva Mi Raza! A Brief Look at Aztec Art and Tattoo Body Art Design

Aztec/Mexican tattoos have seen a remarkable boom of late, which shouldn’t be too surprising seeing as the mark- ing of skin was an integral part of the ancient Aztec culture. Since religion was essential to their daily lives, Aztecs worshipped myriad gods and goddesses, and would tattoo the chest, wrist, and stomach of children with very specific designs and symbolic patterns in order to show dedication to gods such as Chalchiuhtlicue, Huitzilo- pochtli, Uitzilopochtle, and the more popularly known Quetzalcoatl.

Unfortunately, the true meaning of a great deal of Aztec art is lost it was written in the ancient script of Natuatl, which was a language so complex that it defies proper translation to this very day. This, of course, is a minor setback for the tattoo artists of today who have created interesting and unique tattoos revolving around sun designs. Why the sun, you ask? For the simple fact that the sun was extremely vital to the Aztecs as it was worshipped as the giver of life. They even designed their calendar with the sun in mind, decorating it with various images including skulls, gods and animals.

Another popular design is the Coat of Arms found on the Mexican flag, which is an eagle, holding a serpent in its talon. The serpent is perched on top of a nopal which is situated on a rock that rises above a lake. This image actually stems from the legend of Tenochtitlán, which tells us that the Aztec people were sent on a quest by the war god Huitzilopochtli to travel across Mexico in search of the divine sign that would let them know where to build their new home. The sign, of course, was the eagle and serpent on a prickly pear cactus that grew on a rock in the center of a lake. In case you’re curious, the Aztecs finally came across the divine sign two hundred years later on a small island in Lake Texcoco, and their built their home that today is called Mexico City.

And rounding out the most popular Mexican/Aztec tattoo designs is the scripted phrase, “Viva Mi Raza” which loosely translates to “long live my race”. A variant of this is “Viva La Raza” (“long live the race”). “La Raza” as a proper noun which refers to the Mestizo (or Mestiço) race, a term that usually refers to persons with mixed Latin, European and Amerindian ancestry.

Copyright ©2005 Rhyan Scorpio Rhys

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