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Cannibalism In Aztec Culture Research Paper

Undoubtedly, cannibalism in any form is shunned in society as horrific crime against the nature of civility—at least by the standards of the Western culture transported to the Americas by the Spanish Conquistadors in the 16th-century. In the ancient Americas, cannibalism was another part of native life, yet not in the way explorers perceived it. The few and far between tribes who practiced the modern perception cannibalism did so as part of religious sacrifices, funerary rights, or necessity to preserve livelihood during bad harvests.

Then why are the Natives Cortez encountered marked down as inimical savages? Did the modern remembrance of history come from the eyes of the victors who rewrote the people they brutalized to rationalize their own savagery? Although Western Culture views cannibalism in any form as the pinnacle of savagery, the Europeans’ ignorance to understand Native cultures in the Americas during their urge for self-propagation led to the usage of circumstantial evidence as a scapegoat for the degradation and enslavement of a whole variety of different groups.

Under the ideologies that made up the Western depictions of society, explorers ostensibly conquered Natives out of religious and civilized duty while remaining ignorant to the difference in cultures. Without the influence of Greek philosophy, the Renaissance, and other cultural revolutions that racked Europe, native tribes in the Americas lived a life unknown to the societal depictions of Europe, completely abstracting from the possibility of being civilized in the eyes of the Europeans. Scientists were anxious to view men living in ‘a savage state’ and draw conclusions about the development of civilizations” to rationalize, to the Europeans, the difference between them and natives without needing to put the effort forward to understand the complexity of Native civilizations. It was easier for the European conquerors to visualize themes of “filthiness, indolence, and laziness” surrounding the Natives during conquest, especially once the Natives’ advance views of sovereignty demanded high payment for any goods or land used by the Europeans, rather than treat Native tribes as they would treat a fellow, civilized man.

Religious differences doubled the Europeans’ low opinions of the Natives as the “intruders were described not as Spaniards, Europeans, or whites, but Christians, and the Indian was not a savage of any particular type, but a naked pagan, available to be converted. ” Once religious duty entered, the need to spread Christianity cajoled Europeans to force religious conversations on the natives, perceiving the apparent cannibalism as “a prime symbol of ‘barbarianism’… [and] cultural ‘other’ to the Enlightenment notions of refinement, modernity, and Western Civilization. Thus, Westerners devalued Natives into little more than creatures that needed to be saved through exposure to western religions and society as to blind themselves from the complexity of the Native cultures they were destroying for finical gain. While cannibalism was prevalent in certain tribes and utilized in hardships, the tenets that all tribes were inimical savages stemmed from partial—and at times completely nonexistentcommunication between explorers and Natives. The most famous and historically noted usage of cannibalism comes from the Aztecs.

While other tribes exist outside of this reasoning, Michael Winkelman hypothesized that “unfavorable agricultural conditions, seasonal crop failures, the lack of domesticated herbivores, the depletion of wild game in the region, food scarcity, famine, and environmental circumscription caused by limitations on the expansion of agriculture” led to cannibalism infiltrating Aztec culture. Albeit that cannibalism in any form is modernly looked upon with horror, consideration to the mstances pushing on Native societies’ acts as a strong advocate against pure barbarianism and towards the preservation of Aztec society. Similarly as to how organs are taken from donors upon their death, cannibalism was a way to benefit the greater good. Instead of risking starvation, Aztec leaders utilized the resources available to them to secure a future for their people, the means seeming completely normal to Native cultures. Other actual recorded mentions of cannibalism in the Americas originate in Native religious ceremonies, which often contained human sacrifice and offerings to tribal gods.

To Westerners, these religious practices were outrageously extreme, yet the Christian faith they preached venerated the consumption of the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. That noted, many tribes used the Western aversion to cannibalism “to blacken [other chiefs’ and tribes’] reputations. ” Intertribal relations and disputes led to the chiefs playing against one another for the support and alliance of Europeans, yet the slander they shared in hopes of degrading enemy tribes was warped through communication barriers laying a blanket idea of savagery over all tribes.

With language barriers already creating issues with communication, cannibalisms use in Native society could never be explained or rationalized, especially once tribes began utilizing it to tear down one another. 777 Generated from Columbus’ mendacious initial encounter, the spread of the cannibal myth allowed the Spanish monarchy to reap and raze the Native peoples and lands for finical gain. Columbus first brought back encounters of the Americas and its native peoples to the Spanish aristocracy in 1492, and the literary elite became enthralled with the tales of horrific maneating “opponents of European imperialism.

This perception developed from Columbus’ first description of the Native Caribs as “cannibals, a people very savage and suitable for the purpose [of enslavement]” to Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand Il of upon Columbus’ return to Castile. Thus, before they had even encountered Europeans, Native Americans already “possessed a reputation as blood-thirsty man eaters,” and any future interactions were colored by the tall-tales spreading around Europe from the imagination of Christopher Columbus.

The making of the murder complete, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand could rationally fund their expeditions and conquest into the Americas, since instead of enslaving an already established people, the monarchs were now protecting European values by stunting the expansion of barbarian culture and taking advantage of underutilized resources for European benefit. The race for the Americans had begun. “Spanish onomic backwardness and inequalities of wealth” urged explorers like the Conquistadors to colonize the Americas, causing a ripple of “harsh, intensely exploitative treatments of the Indians” in desperate attempts for valor.

With Columbus’ story already creating an innate hatred towards the natives, glory blinded the Conquistadors from reality of Native culture. Along with plundering “Indian gold and silver objects,” Conquistadors turned to the “imposition of intolerable tribute burdens… destructive, wasteful exploitation of Indian labor… and large scale traffic of Indian slaves,” utilizing the supposed savagery of the cannibal Natives to distract from Spanish greed. Not only did Europeans pillage Native American lands, goods, and societies, but they did so under the pretense of a superiority that was created from the spread of ignorant myths.

As if Western imperialistic greed could be rationalized if imposed on a barbaric, cannibal society. Western explorers used this fallacy of the savage, uncivilized cannibal to muster support for enervating tribes that once provided aid or were simply accustomed to doing what was necessary for survival. With due consideration to the fact of Conquistadors’ complete infringement of Native American sovereignty, the actions of the Spaniards cannot be explained as defense, seeing as how they perceived the retaliation of the Native tribes they were trying to oppress as savagery, not a rational people yearning to be free.

Not only does the Conquistador actions of “seizing and robbing the [native] people” highlight their belief of self-importance, but the Spanish “[seizure] and [setting] apart of the pretty woman” emphasizes the Spaniards complete ignorance and bigotry towards Native Americans. In a letter to Charles V, Hernando Cortez remarks, “[The natives] dines well on limbs of the vanquished,” creating a narrative of battle that defended his decisions and audacious war crimes, since any persecution against Cortez is lost once the situation is framed as horrendous battle against cannibalistic monsters.

Since Cortez won in the end, historical narratives include the cannibalistic tropes prevalent in his letters, and fail to mention—as Cortez himself failed to note—the spirituality of certain Native tribes, which highlights a ridged morality that prohibits the prevalence of barbarianisms like cannibalism. Many southern tribes, such as the Choktah, “abstain [from] eating the blood of any animal,” since it “contains the life and spirit of the beast,” showing the “least trace of deserving [for] the hateful name of cannibals.

Not only does the Westerners’ complete disregard for the difference in Native American cultures—seen in placing a generic term over a diverse group of people—disgrace Native American traditions, but it highlights the Europeans central role in spreading and producing a majority of the cannibal myth. Ignorance and a feeling of self-importance led to the degradation of a culture that did as the Europeans did; face and act on harsh decisions during poor harvest and practice extreme religious ceremonies and traditions.

Yet, without a consideration into the complexity of the diverse cultures, Europeans deemed Native American decisions as horrendous, since Native American choices differed from what the Europe deemed as acceptable. With notions of religious duty, Christianity acted as a cover for genocide, and the umbrella term of cannibal was throw over a variety of native groups to offer rationality for the egregious treatment of the Natives by explorers.

The careless slander by the Spanish Explores carried on with new explorers’ future interactions with the New World, labeling any Native American settlers encountered as part of a barbaric “cannibal” group, with no offered explanation for such brutality. Whether the Spanish monarchs truly believed in their rationality of religious and imperialistic duty, their arrogant assumptions and generalizations of Native Americans, through the cannibal myth, gave way to the complete degradation of Native American culture in the future.

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