The indigenous societies of the Andes were free institutions, making it possible for individuals to engage in lifelong education, to adopt both common-law and civil marriage, to acquire and transmit wealth, to gain improved status as warriors, as skilled and honorable craftsmen and artisans, to obtain such luxuries as wheat, barley, horses, and servants, and to protect their property rights.... The Andean people had the sense of their place in the universe, and they were convinced that they were the true custodians and protectors of their native lands. They recognized the creative genius and humane disposition of the Creator. The Andean conception of the cosmos resembled that of the Iroquois Indians, the ancient Chinese, the Indian tribes of the Pacific Northwest, and the aborigines of Australia. It differed fundamentally from that of our modern civilizations which almost always predict national decline and eternal strife.
Here was a philosophy that was regarded as morally superior to Western philosophical attitudes. The creator could be worshipped and his influence felt in the universe. The white man's idea of "progress" was very different from that of the indigenous peoples. Their ethical systems were based on a sense of duty, and they saw man as created in the image of God. They did not regard this as true of our "progressives," who are understood merely to have evolved from animals. Their progress is seen as an increase in numbers; ours as an increase in the killing of animals and the destruction of earth.
However, by no means was this a rigidly formalized pattern of beliefs. The concepts of ancestor, intergenerational solidarity, and nationhood were fluid, adaptable, and open to social, cultural, and political change. There was a continuous change in the concepts used to symbolize the political and social principles that existed in Aztec society. The Aztecs lived in an environment of natural emptiness that was not indicative of divine neglect of the human condition. The Aztecs, who are typically demonized by students of Mesoamerican culture, actually possessed a sophisticated and dynamic civilization. As they encountered new environments, they developed a new level of sophistication. d2c66b5586