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Chichimec Waves and Toltec Influences

By Tim Hazell

Toltecs were among the last inheritors of Mesoamerican culture, holding sway over central Mexico from the tenth to twelfth century AD. Their capital, Tula—or Tollan (Place of the Reeds)—was located about 50 miles north of Mexico City.

The word Toltec became a symbol for people of knowledge, later referred to as Tlatoani or Tlamatini (teachers). The Aztecs who followed in their wake regarded Tollan as a mythical city of plenty, where an ear of corn was so large that it was all a man could carry, and people reclined upon leaves of giant amaranths. Toltecs had absorbed many elements of their Mayan predecessors. Although Tula, known for its Atlante columns, was impressive, a branch of this culture established itself in the Yucatan, where the postclassic city of Chichen Itza was more extensive. Toltec refinement attracted leading scholars, healers, engineers, architects, and poets to Mexico’s central plateau.

Embers of an advanced civilization were jealously guarded by remnants of Toltec populations after the rise of the barbarians and invasion by early Chichimecs in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Following universal patterns of assimilation and development, militant invaders would gradually adopt the cultured mores of their neighbors. Most prominent among the first recorded warrior princes, Xolotl led his nation into Mexico’s central valley region by 1244. His military successes were greatly enhanced by the bow and arrow. Highly trained legions of archers employed by the chieftain were analogous to the longbowmen of feudal England. Their weapons were far superior to the less efficient “atl-atl,” the spear thrower used by the Toltec defenders. The innovative arsenal was employed with devastating effect.

Xolotl firmly established Chichimec supremacy and hegemony during his long reign (1244-1304) with the conquest of the city of Culhuacan and marriage of his son Nopaltzin (Revered Prickly Pear) to a Toltec princess. With the subtle influence of the Toltec urbane citizenry came a gradual mellowing and process of refinement. Along with changing notions of aesthetics, Chichimecs adopted Nahuatl, soon to become the dominant language of the valley and later Aztec empire until the Spanish conquest in 1521.

The Yucatan Penninsula provided a cradle for Classic and Post-Classic architecture, religions, deities, and cultures. The region is also famous for its authentic native cuisines and ingredients. This traditional recipe for a salad of shredded meat called “Dzik” was originally made with venison. Any cooked meat can be used, however, and the dish provides a refreshing way to use up leftover roast chicken, pork, or beef.


Yucatan Shredded Meat


2 cups shredded meat of choice

1/2 cup orange juice

1/4 cup lime juice

1/2 cup finely chopped radish

1 scallion, chopped

1 minced chile manzano or jalapeno (optional)

1/2 cup finely chopped coriander leaves

1 tsp salt or to taste

1 small red onion sliced


Mix all the ingredients together except for the onion and let them season for a half hour before serving. Garnish with onion slices and serve with warm tortillas.


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