The Aztec tribe of Tenochtitlan – the Mexica – obtained political independence in 1428 AD. In less than a century, they created an empire stretching from the Pacific coast to the Gulf of Mexico. The process of military conquest and expansion and the subsequent growth of importance of Tenochtitlan led the Mexica to reassess their identity. More in detail, they appropriated and reinvented cultural traits of earlier societies and elaborated new ones which could suit their new acquired status of leading people of Central Mexico. The awareness of this new condition was manifested in the development of a monumental sculptural programme in the core of the capital city. In this paper, I want to analyse how the Mexica rulers used monumental images and public sculpture to fulfil their political purposes. Among those purposes can be found the creation of a reconstituted Mexica identity and a sense of pride and belonging to a powerful city, destined to achieve illustrious victories by its patron god, Huitzilopochtli. By appropriating and reinventing the cultural heritage of peoples who had preceded them in the Central Mexican area, the Mexica rulers presented themselves as the heirs of their predecessors, being thus authorised to exercise political power and control over the neighbouring peoples. The study also takes into account, when possible, the effects which such strategies had on the addressed audience.
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