Tonatiuh has yet to rise from the East and shine upon us all, but already I hear stirs and murmurs coming from the street and even from the apprentice quarters of my own home. It has been an exhausting month for me and I would like nothing better than to sleep all day. However, here in Texcoco, the market only meets once a week and I must sell my goods as soon as possible.(Smith,119). My wife, heavy with child, slowly begins to wake beside me, so I rise to the new day.
My name is Tochtli, born to that day some 33 years ago. I am of the Mexica tribe, born and raised in the sacred capitol city of Tenochtitlan. I am of the pochteca and am proud to serve my gods and lords faithfully in war and sacrifice, as my father did before me. I have been very successful and have been able to provide my wife and two (soon to be three) children a comfortable life. It is wise to say that the god Yacatecuhtli, looks generously upon me and I owe all to him (Smith, 213).
Before I am even dressed I can smell my wife and daughter preparing tortillas from the patio. Being from the highest order of pochteca, my home is larger than most in my calpolli. It is built in a half-moon fashion around a central patio. The structure is made up of four rooms, or quarters: The sleeping quarters of my wife and I, the room my children share, a room for my apprentice and any tlamama I may have under my service at the time, and a small shrine room where my family and I can worship.
In the patio, the tlamama, my apprentice and my son eat a breakfast of tortillas before we head to the market. I had just returned the night before from a most successful, but long trade expedition. I had set out a little over a month ago, along with two other pochteca from my guild, two of our apprentices, and four tlamama who are professional porters. I was worried to leave on such a long expedition when my wife was so close to bearing our third child, but after consulting with the calendar and the priests of my patron god, Yacatecuhtli, it was determined that the day we left on was surely the luckiest (Smith,256). Besides that, my son, Ocelotl, is now nine and almost old enough to guard the household.
We left loaded with cloth, jewels and spinning tools and set out for Acolman, where we traded the bulk of our goods for slaves. In these other cities, markets meet weekly or only periodically, so it was important to time our route well. From Acolman we set out for Pachuca where we planned to trade the remainder of our goods for some of the obsidian tools that the region is renowned for (Smith, 87). That was the most dangerous part of our journey because of its length, the size of our payload and how close our path came toward enemy territory outside of the triple alliance. Pochteca are generally allowed free travel throughout the world, enemy or friendly without harm (Smith, 122). In my time I have traveled throughout the far reaches of this land, but I am still wary of enemy territory, and always travel well armed and ready for battle. After a rest in Pachuca, where we bartered for the obsidian, we began our long journey home.
We finally reached Texcoco early yesterday morning, but camped outside the city until nightfall. Upon returning from any expedition, pochteca always enter the city under the cloak of darkness. We then quickly unload our goods from the canoes, so that it is all hidden in our homes by daybreak (Smith, 121). This has been a practice as old as the guild itself. It is very useful since it is wise to keep the success of ones expedition a secret. Pochteca, no matter how successful, are not nobles and not allowed to display such wealth openly (Smith,121). To do so might offend our lords, and hence our gods. I agreed to keep the obsidian and two of the tlamama at my home for the night, while my partner kept the slaves at his home.
My wife, Calli, calls for me to eat before I must leave for the market. She hands me warm tortillas and smiles at me lovingly. I admire the roundness of her belly, and only then do I realize how much I have missed her. Teteoinnan, the mother of gods, has truly blessed me with a wife both fertile and beautiful. As the tlamama, my apprentice and my son load up for the market, I kiss my wife and daughter good-bye before setting out. They will spend most of the day purifying the home in anticipation of the coming baby. As I left, my wife was already sweeping our house clean of evil spirits. She also tells me that she is going to make tamales and sauce to take to the temples as an offering for my successful and safe trip. My daughter, the beautiful Xochitl, will no doubt continue the weaving she has been working on, she has become quite talented and will make a fine wife (Smith, 141)!
The sun breaks as we start out for the market in the center of the city. My son and I walk ahead of the tlamama, with my apprentice in the rear. We dress in the modest clothing of the pochteca. My son begs for stories of my most recent expedition, his eyes wide and thirsty as I recall foreign cities and rugged country. He squeezes every detail out of me. I cant help but smile at his exuberance, after all I was no different when my father would return from his journeys. It shocks me how much the boy has grown in just the last month. Soon he will be ten years old and of school age. You can imagine the pride I felt when I learned that he will be attending the calmecac of Texcoco. When I was a boy back in Tenochtitlan, I attended one of the cities many telpochcalli. It was there, living under spartan conditions, that I was trained in the song and dance of rituals. We also aided on construction of temples and were trained in the art of war (Smith,137). I can still remember my first time in battle as a novice warrior. Many a god was appeased with the sacrifice of the captives we returned with on that day!
Yet, there will be an even brighter future for my son. His intelligence and strength has not gone unnoticed in the city. The calmecac is a school for nobles and only the most exceptional commoners. There he will train in the temples, under the tutelage of only the wisest priests (Smith,138). He will be trained for a future in government, or priesthood, or military! Working under priests will no doubt teach him the self-discipline, obedience and control that the gods look most favorably upon.
As we enter the market, I once again admire the grandeur of it all. I think only those who have traveled can truly appreciate the spectacle of the Texcoco market, the second largest in the empire. Thousands upon thousands gather to barter or sell their goods. In the vast plaza, vendors set-up countless stalls in streets according to their goods. One vast street holds any type of game or dog a person could eat ( and more stench than a person should bear). Another consists of herbs and medicines, while yet another sells food and drink (Smith, 116). This is all done under the watchful eyes of the gods whose images can be seen everywhere, inspecting and guarding. Almost every artisan and merchant has a patron god.
I meet with my partners where we agree to split-up with my partners handling the slaves and me the obsidian and other goods. We agree to meet later and divide the profits. Along with my son and my apprentice I go about my business, already knowing which nobles or wealthy merchants were interested in my expensive goods. Although I am always open to barter, today I look to sell much of the goods for money in the form of cacao beans or quachtli (Smith,124). Some of the obsidian tools I have are easily worth five quachtli each.
The market place swirls with conversation of all sorts. Haggling here, gossip there, old friends meet as do new ones. I can think of few places more exciting and pleasurable than the Texcoco market. As I buy my son a fish pie, two tlanecuilo approach me for help. As pochteca of the highest order it is our duty to oversee and pass judgment on market affairs (Smith,117). These two common merchants tell me of another commoner who has been passing off counterfeit cacao beans filled with sawdust. Though busy, it is my duty to investigate the matter. The merchant in question swears that he has never counterfeited beans and was unaware that they were filled with sawdust. I see that the old man is not lying and is a victim of some other culprit. I order him to reimburse the two other merchants along with a small fine and warn him to be wary of the people he does business with in the future. The man gratefully heeds the advice and I once again assume my business.
As it approaches noon, I see an old friend and partner of mine, Ozomatli. We have known each other since I first moved to Texcoco after my marriage. Our fathers who were pochteca before us became good friends after one of my fathers frequent expeditions to Texcoco from my native Tenochtitlan. They remained close throughout the years and when I came to settle in Texcoco he looked out for me like I was his own son. Since then Ozomatli and I have become like brothers in life and work.
Although we have not spoken in a month, I remember our last conversation and realize we may soon become true relatives. His son, now eighteen and out of school, is ready for marriage and his teachers and relatives have all suggested my daughter as a fine bride. A matchmaker had already approached my wife while I was gone and little is left but my approval. My daughter, now 13 years old, is has been ready for marriage for sometime now, yet I have been reluctant to let her go to just any commoner. But Ozomatli’s son is a good, strong young man perfect for my daughter. I tell Ozomatli that nothing would make me happier than to see them married and us family. Ozomatli shares my happiness and excitement. He tells me that tomorrow he and his wife will consult a soothsayer and determine a lucky day for the marriage, because a marriage on an unlucky day will surely not succeed (Smith, 138). We part, both eager for our upcoming plans.
As I finish up my business, we pass the great temples in the center of town. It has been a while, so I stop to pay homage and respect to our gods. It is for and through them that I have governed my life the way I have. I remind my son of this and he listens intently and thoughtfully as I speak, knowing the seriousness of what I speak. As I speak to him, I begin to remember when my father told me the same things at the great temples in Tenochtitlan. I remember how he told explained to me our creation and how we all are indebted to the gods through a cycle of blood: the blood they gave to create us and the sacred blood we sacrifice to appease and thank them. The year before, I took my son to Tenochtitlan to witness the great Toxcatl ceremonies. The Toxcatl ceremonies come at the height of the dry season and are dedicated to the god, Tezcatlipoca, in supplication for the start of the coming rainy season (Smith,236). My son marveled at the immense city and elaborate, beautiful ceremonies the same way I did so many years before. The priests stoked roaring fires of incense as the sacrifices were conducted. The temple was stained red that day and the air filled with the smell of blood. Once again the gods were fed and in time the rains came again.
Dusk approaches and the market begins to die down. I remember I still have an important errand to run and we head back toward our capolli. As we walk back my son asks when he will be allowed to join me on expeditions and I tell him he will soon be on expeditions of his own. In my heart I feel he will succeed in his life to degrees I dare not dream. My apprentice, who is my faithful shadow, and I discuss and analyze the days events. He is a fast learner and I am glad to see him and my son becoming friends.
We come to the home of Molotecatl, the Tecuhtli lord of our capolli and one of the most favored nobles of our tlatoni, the Imperial Ruler of Texcoco. At the gates of his huge, two-story home, I tell my son and apprentice to wait outside as I go in to conduct business. Molotecatl has been a wise and good lord to our family and I know he looks upon me with great respect and admiration. I have a suspicion that he had a major influence in having Ocelotl invited to the calmecac. I have served him faithfully since I’ve been his subject and have helped him prosper.
He greets me graciously and I bow with respect. He offers me food and drink that I dare not refuse and asks me of my most recent expedition. Often time I have traded goods directly for him, but this time I had not. This time he was more interested in information I had gathered from my trip. The pochteca have long and respected tradition of spy work and information gathering ( Smith,123). He is curious of the conditions in the northeastern realm of the empire from which I had just returned. I tell him that I saw little to cause alarm and assure him the enemies to the east have not grown too bold. I can tell he is happy to hear this and assures me that when he conveys this information he will attribute the source. It fills me with pride that my voice will reach the tlatoani’s ear.
Molotecatl then presents a most serious and interesting proposition to me. He asks me to head an expedition to the southeastern parts of the Triple-Alliance empire in an effort to gather information on strange rumors of floating cities off the western coast. Although it is greatly interesting, I remind him that I am older now and not of the same spirit and strength that I once was, when I made yearly expeditions to the most dangerous corners of the world. But, now I tell him I fear I’m too old. He offers to send me with armed guard and promises handsome rewards hard to turn down. I tell him that my wife will be with child soon and will need me to stay close to home with my daughter getting married, but that I shall consider it in a few months time. He seems hopeful of this and assures me I’m the only man he is considering to send. I thank him for his regard and pay my respects to his family before leaving.
It is dark by the time I emerge from his home to find my son and apprentice throwing stones at large stump in the field next to the house. We hurry home where my wife has had food prepared for sometime and is busy keeping it warm. Though full from the food I had just eaten at my lords home, I eat my share of my wife’s cooking, not wanting to upset her. As we eat, we discuss the upcoming marriage of our daughter and I see that both my wife and daughter are excited.
After dinner we all head to our quarters for sleep and I tell my wife of my lord’s proposition. I can tell she doesn’t want me leaving on any more expeditions and with my success I really don’t need too. She says she will still support any decision I make and suggests I consult a soothsayer on the matter. I agree, and pull her close to me as I rub her belly.
Three children! Nothing could make a man happier, and truly I was looked favorably upon by the gods. In the path they had set for me in life, I had not failed and in the role they had chose for me, I served dutifully. I pray that my own children will be as lucky and favored. Ocelotl shall truly make a fine warrior, and Xochitl the most fertile of mothers. And my unborn child? Who knows what extraordinary life the gods had planned for it! And dreaming of his still unwritten life, I fell into a peaceful sleep.