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Aztec Merchants


Aztec merchants were called pochtecas. A variety of goods were produced by the craftspeople. Some items were for the ruler and his nobles. Some were sold in the Aztec markets and some were traded with peoples of distant tribes. Some of the items that were traded were gold ornaments, brightly colored woven cloth and salt harvested from the lake bed. They were traded for other luxury items, such as tropical bird feathers and jaguar skins (used for ceremonial garments), cotton, rubber, and cacao beans (for chocolate). Merchant life was hard and dangerous when traveling long distances and visiting foreign places. Since the Aztecs had no wheeled vehicles or pack animals, trading goods were carried by canoe and by long caravans of porters. Warriors went along to protect the caravans and the merchants.

The pochtecas lived in a separate part of the city, had their own laws, and temples to worship their own gods. One of these gods was Yacatecuhtli, or 'Lord Nose' which was the merchant god. The pochtecas helped to make Tenochtitlan rich. But the pochtecas didn't dress to show their wealth, they wore very basic clothes in public. The pochtecas used their wealth on expensive feasts to impress the other merchants. Since they carried so many valuable items with them, they left cities at night and had secret warehouses for storing their goods to hide them from thieves.

Pochtecas also served as spies to the ruler of Tenochtitlan in the lands they visited. They used their trading as cover for spying sincet they spoke many different languages and easily blended in with other tribes. By 1500 they were rivaling the nobility for wealth and power.

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