The inhabitants of Huexotzinco are thought to have in frequent warfare with those of Mexico-Tenochtitlan in ritual flowery wars. The purpose of these battles was to capture prisoners rather than conquest. The poem that follows is spoken through the voice of one of those captured prisoners of the Mexica, held captive in Tlatilolco, one of the suburbs of Tenochtitlan.
The tone of the poem is one of despair and hatred against his captors with a suggestion of a thirst for vengeance.
Only sad flowers, sad songs, are here in Mexico, in Tlatilolco, in this place these alone are known, alas.
It is well to know these, if only we may please the Giver of Life, lest we be destroyed, we his subjects, alas.
We have angered Him, we are only wretched beings, slaves by blood; we have seen and known affliction, alas.
We are disturbed, we are embittered, thy servants here in Tlatilolco, deprived of food, made acquainted with affliction, we are fatigued with labor, O Giver of Life, alas.
Weeping is with us, tears fall like rain, here in Tlatilolco; as the Mexican women go down to the water, we beg of them for ourselves and our friends, alas.
Even as the smoke, rising, lies in a cloud over Mount Atloyan, in Mexico, so does it happen unto us, O Giver of Life, alas.
And you Mexicans, may you remember concerning us when you descend and suffer before the majesty of God, when there you shall howl like wolves.
There, there will be only weeping as your greeting when you come, there you will be accursed, all of you, workers in filth, slaves, rulers or warriors, and thus Tenochtitlan will be deserted.
Oh friends, do not weep, but know that sometime we shall have left behind us the things of Mexico, and then their water shall be made bitter and their food shall be made bitter, here in Tlatilolco, as never before, by the Giver of Life.
The disdained and the slaves shall go forth with song; but in a little while their oppressors shall be seen in the fire, amid the howling of wolves.
The song, in its native Nahuatl:
1. Zan tlaocolxochitl, tlaocolcuicatl on mania Mexico nican ha in Tlatilolco, in yece ye oncan on neiximachoyan, ohuaya.
2. Ixamayo yectli in zan ca otitech icneli ipalnemohuani, in za can tipopolihuizque in timacehualta, ohuaya.
3. Ototlahueliltic, zan titotolinia timacehualtinquezo huel tehuantin, otiquittaque in cococ ye machoyan, ohuaya.
4. Ticmomoyahua, ticxoxocoyan in momacehualy in Tlatilolco cococ moteca cococ ye machoyan ye ic ticiahuia ipalnemoani, ohuaya.
5. Choquiztli moteca ixayotl pixahui oncan a in Tlatilolco; in atlan yahqueon o in Mexica ye cihua nelihui ica yehuilo a oncan ontihui in tocnihuan a, ohuaya.
7. In an Mexica ma xiquilnamiquican o yan zan topan quitemohuia y ellelon i mahuizo yehuan zan yehuan Dios, yehua anquin ye oncan in coyonacazco, ohuaya.
6. In ic neltic o ya cahua Atloyantepetl o in Mexico in poctli ehuatoc ayahuitl onmantoc, in tocon ya chihuaya ipalnemoani, ohuaya.
8. Za can ye oncan zan quinchoquiz tlapaloa o anquihuitzmanatl incan yeŭch motelchiuh on ya o anquin ye mochin, ha in tlayotlaqui, ah in tlacotzin, ah in tlacateuctli in oquichtzin y huihui ica ça ye con yacauhqui in Tenochtitlan, ohuaya.
9. In antocnihuan ma xachocacan aya ma xăconmatican ica ye ticcauhque Mexicayotl huiya, zan ye yatl chichixhuiya no zan ye tlaqualli chichixaya zan con aya chiuhqui in ipalnemoani ha in Tlatilolco y, ohuaya.
10. Tel ah zan yhuian huicoque hon in motelchiuhtzin ha in tlacotzin zan mocuica ellaquauhque ac achinanco in ahiquac in tlepan quixtiloto in coyohuacan, ohuaya.
Source: Daniel G. Brinton, Ancient Nahuatl Poetry, Containing the Nahuatl Text of XXVII Ancient Mexican Poem. Brinton’s Library of Aboriginal American Literature, Number VII, with a translation, introduction, notes and vocabulary by Daniel G. Brinton.
As Fray Bernardino de Sahagún observed: the Mexicans “are held to be barbarians and of very little worth; in truth, however, in matters of culture and refinement, they are a step ahead of other nations." We explore the history and legacy of the Nahua and Maya civilizations, both of which challenge our preconceptions.