Economy. – The great majority of Mexicans were made up of workers of the land and they attended to it with every care, as the primary element of subsistence and life; one of their months was devoted to agriculture and in their pantheon, several deities, more perhaps than war itself, represented it. The working tools were the stick with a crook tip (coatl) to make holes in the ground, in which to sow the corn grains, in addition, a small ax of flint or copper, a kind of spade (huictl) and a pannier to transport the earth. Once the plant grew a little, it was covered with earth to defend it from the wind. They did not know the agricultural rotation: once the land was exhausted, they left it to rest to grow the grass which, when burned, fertilized the soil with the ashes. The fallows were surrounded by hedges of agaves or by dry stone walls to defend them from animals; they were diligently watered. In addition they had threshing floors and granaries of tree trunks and clay (cencalli) in which the grain could be kept dry and preserved for several years.
Many Mexican edible plants, first of all corn (tlaolli, centli), sweet potatoes (camotli), yucca, beans, peppers, cassava, allspice, chicle, onions, and a very large number of fruit; also the cocoa that was used to make chocolate, which perfumed with vanilla (teilxochitl). The hunt bore good results; but it was mostly reserved for the nobles who sported luxurious robes and weapons; great jokes were made with nets, traps, traps for deer, peccaries, rabbits, agouti and birds. A small mountain dog was used for hunting. For fishing, which was quite fruitful in rivers and lakes, the Mexicans used monoxyl dinghies for 5-6 people and large boats for 50-60, with nets, hooks, javelins; besides the fish they caught alligators, tortoises and iguanas and caught oysters.
Commerce. – Since the Mexicans settled on the shores of Lake Texcoco, it can be said that trade with neighboring populations began and, later, with the more distant ones. The traders were highly regarded and came, in the hierarchy, immediately after the priests and warriors; they were united in powerful guilds and enjoyed great privileges; the city of Tlaltelolco became, over time, their main seat. They were divided into three classes: 1. Pochetas, the most authoritative; 2. Nahualaztomeca, who acted as informants, and if necessary, also as spies; 3. Teyaualouani, who engaged in the slave trade. Their main patron deity was Yacacoliuhqui.
The main market (tianquiz) of the capital was in Tlaltelolco, and it is described to us with admiration by Cortés and the historians of the time. Numerous merchants from the surrounding area gathered in it and all products, every specialty, real riches flowed in; it was strictly ordered and had in the center the tecpán, building of the corporation company, which was the seat of a court of twelve members for regulating traffic, contracts, payments, etc.
In addition to exchanges in kind, Mexicans used various kinds of money; cocoa grains in piles of 8000 grains (xiquipilli), squares of cotton fabrics, grains of pure gold and powder contained in tubes of duck feathers. There was also another coin spicie, consisting of small axes of thin copper sheets and another of small discs of tin, perforated in the middle for ease of transport. The authors disagree in telling us whether Mexicans used scales and weights.
The viability, without reaching the development of the Peruvian one, was carefully maintained, with frequent shelters for caravans; the rivers had passed with rowboats, rafts or bridges of ropes intertwined with vines and wicker. It should be noted, however, that these roads were to be used only for men on foot, lacking pack animals and draft animals and vehicles. Numerous caravans radiated the trade of products, of sale, exchange or purchase, going into the distant regions of Tehuantepec, Yucatán, Guatemala, Honduras. Such caravans also had the purpose of exploring the regions they crossed to exploit them and, under favorable circumstances, even occupy them with a sudden assault. The history of Mexican conquests is full of deeds performed by these merchants in distant lands.
The house. – The houses of the people (tezcalli) were poor wooden huts, branches, mud, mostly cubic, made up of one or two rooms, with a flat roof that sometimes served as a terrace; they could also be made of dry stone or joined with lime with whitewashed walls and sloping roofs; the door was closed with a mat. The furniture is very simple: a reed mat spread out on the floor for the bed (petatl), made of palm with a cotton cloth for the less poor; an eagle of wood or stone and for blanket the mantle (maxtlatl); another mat on the floor for the canteen; more or less fine terracotta pots or hollowed out of a lacquered pumpkin; seats of palm and rushes; the metatlof stone, to knead the boiled corn and make a paste that was eaten seasoned with salt and allspice. To wash they used the fruit of the copaxocotl and the root of the amolli (Saponaria americana); the soda and potash they drew from the waters of their lakes. Almost every house or group of huts had its own brick, hemispherical steam bath (temazcalli).
Foods. – The nourishment, in addition to corn, legumes and cocoa, was given by game, by the domestic turkey (guayolote) and by a small dog called techichi ; they also fed on an aquatic urodel (Amblystoma tigrinum), on reptile and insect eggs, with which they made a kind of caviar (ahuahutli) and on a gelatinous deposit of aquatic plants (tecultatl). As drinks, chicha extracted from corn, from agave l ‘ octli, later called pulque, and other liqueurs such as mescal, tequila, etc. After the meal they smoked tobacco (yetl) in pipes or tubes, perfuming it with essences or smelling it in powder form. They also used drugs such as peyotl (Conhalonium Lewinii) which gave excitement, intoxication and delusional visions, or teonanacatl and ololiuhqui (Ipomoea sidaefolia).