Keynote Speaker Educates on Aztec Pictograms

Photo by Nicole Williams

Dr. Ligia Rodriguez, chair of the Modern Language Department at the College of Farmingdale at SUNY, New York State College, came to speak to Ramapo College students on Monday about The Mendoza Code and the raising of Aztec children, in honor of Latin@ Heritage Month.

Both students and faculty came to hear what Rodriguez had to say. At the presentation, Rodriguez started off by introducing the initial Aztec alphabet and their system of writing, while showing what certain symbols might mean and how one can interpret them by what the symbols look like. Rodriguez explained where the names of the letters originated and discussed the different rulers of the Aztec empire. 

“The Mendoza Codex was put together 20 years after the conquest of Mexico,” Rodriguez explained.

The Mendoza Codex is an Aztec manuscript in three parts that contains a history of the Aztec rulers and their conquests, a list of the tributes paid by the conquered and a description of daily Aztec life, in traditional Aztec pictograms. Rodriguez showed the crowd Aztec pictograms from different dynasties and explained what certain parts of the pictograms meant.

One of the first pictograms shown was the Tenochititlan Empire. On this pictogram, there were many different small images drawn by the Aztecs that represented different things. Rodriguez pointed out a small temple.

“The temple is falling, which represents the Tenochtitlan Empire being conquered,” Rodriguez stated.

The edges of the pictogram were comprised of many small squares, which Rodriguez described as days, all adding up to the length of the Tenochititlan Empire.

Rodriguez showed the audience the growth of an Aztec child. This was represented with pictograms taken straight from and produced during the Aztec time period.

“Here we have the dots from the top of the pictogram, it is showing how old the child is. The mother and father are telling the son what he should be doing. The mother is giving instructions to the daughter,” Rodriguez explained.

The pictograms were separated for each different age of the child, and in each strip the children were doing different things, representative of their age at the time.

“The Aztecs were very, very strict with the education of their kids, they would pinch the kids with needles as a way of punishment,” Rodriguez said while explaining everyday life and education of Aztec children.

Rodriguez’s message was simple in its own right: the Aztecs are a representative example of latino heritage and were incredibly diverse in their numerous rulers and different time periods. They were a very intelligent people and worked hard to hand down their traditions from generation to generation.