Chicomoztoc, which means “seven caves,” the place from which the Aztec believed they came, was the Nahautl word for the mouth or womb.
The seven caves are thought to be allegorical references to the seven tribe that inhabited Aztlan. In the Aztec myth of creation, the Mexica left the bowels of the earth and settled in Aztlán, from which they acquired the name Aztec and from whence they undertook a migration southward in search of a sign for where they should settle once more.
There is no certainty as to whom the “seven tribes” were. Many legends speak of the seven caves and include different tribes. The most popular theory is that the seven tribes are the Nahuatl speaking cultures who settled in central Mexico. These are the: Xochimilca, Tlahuica, Acolhua, Tlaxcalan, Tepaneca, Chalca, and Mexica.
Map of the Journey from Aztlán
Aztlan is mentioned in several ethnohistorical sources dating from the colonial period, and each of them give different lists of the different tribal groups who participated in the migration from Aztlan to central Mexico, but the Mexica who went on to found Mexico-Tenochtitlan are mentioned in all of the accounts.
Historians have speculated about the possible location of Aztlan and tend to place it either in northwestern Mexico or the southwest United States, although there are doubts about whether the place is purely mythical or represents a historical reality.
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.