Aztlán is the legendary land from which the Mexica, or Aztec people, believed they had migrated. The name “Aztlán” means “the place of whiteness” or “the place of the heron.” Scholars and archaeologists have long debated whether Aztlán was a real place or just a myth, much like Atlantis, but here’s what we do know:
The Aztecs arrived in the Valley of Mexico sometime in the thirteenth century and had been migrating for around a century before arriving. The migration of the Aztecs and other Nahuatl tribes was noted by both indigenous and colonial scholars. The Aztecs told the Spanish conquistadors that they had lived in Tenochtitlan for three hundred years, and that before that their people lived in a placed called Aztlán-Chicomoztoc. According to the Aztecs, their ancestors in Aztlán dwelled in caves. “Chicomoztoc” was known as “the place of the seven caves.”
Archaeologists have found some evidence for this migration. Evidence suggests that the Aztecs were the last of many tribes that migrated out of Northern Mexico and the Southern United States due to serious droughts. Also, the Nahuatl language spoken by the Aztec was not originally a language of Central Mexico, supporting the migration story. Many have searched for Aztlán, but the results remain inconclusive.
Today, Aztlán is an important symbol of spiritual and national unity in Chicano culture.