In the pantheon of Mexico’s pre-Hispanic gods, most Aztec deities are depicted as brutal, blood-thirsty beings only appeased by human sacrifices.
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But Mexico’s Templo Mayor museum on Friday put on display for the first time an exhibition dedicated to Xochipilli, the Aztec god of singing, dancing and the morning sun.
The Aztecs usually sacrificed quails to Xochipilli, rather than still-beating human hearts. And he was worshipped at vast poetry and music festivals rather than martial displays.
Museum director Patricia Ledesma said the display is meant to show another side of deities worshipped by the Mexica people who inhabited the Aztec empire.
“This is part of what we wanted to show, that the Mexicas didn’t just do warlike or bloody things, but also artistic things,” Ledesma said at the opening of the exhibit of pieces unearthed in 1978 at a small shrine on one side of the sprawling Templo Mayor complex in Mexico City.
The exhibit is unusual in that it consists of miniature stone carvings of musical instruments — rattles, drums, whistles and flutes — and for the red coloring doused over many of the objects.
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Red was a color associated with the first rays of morning sunlight. The poetry of songs praising Xochipilli, which were written down by chroniclers after the 1521 Spanish conquest, also forms part of the exhibition.
“We wanted to show a lesser-known facet of a people categorized as warriors, that they could express themselves with exquisite artistic style,” Ledesma said.