Warwick Bray comments on markets among the Aztecs; some cities had multiple markets.

Warwick Bray

Warwick Bray, Everyday Life of the Aztecs (New York: Dorset Press, 1968), 110-11

Dorset Press
Warwick Bray
Reading Public


Every town had its market place, and in the larger cities there were several of them. Even the villages held markets at five-day intervals, and people came in from all the country areas round about, walking up to 10-15 miles each way. The attraction was not just the opportunity to buy and sell, but also the change to meet friends, gossip, and to exchange items of local news. The law decreed that nobody might sell his goods on the way to market for fear of offending the market gods, and, although the old gods are no more, the custom has persisted until the present day in parts of rural Mexico.

Certain towns were famous for their specialties: Acolman for edible dogs, Azcapotzalco for birds and slaves, Cholula for featherwork, and Texcoco for its textiles and painted gourds. But the greatest market of all Mexico was in Tlatelolco, close to the main temple, and both Cortés and Bernal Díaz were so impressed by what they saw there that they have left extensive descriptions of it.

Cortés wrote: ‘There is one square trice as large as that of the city of Salamanca, surrounded by arcades where there are detail assembled more than 60,000 souls, engaged in buying and selling.’ The market was under the direct control of the ruler. Pedlars and stall-holders paid a fee to the market superintendent, and inspectors mingled with the crowds, checking the quality of all merchandise and making sure that the prices were not too high. False measures were smashed, and any trader caught passing off shoddy goods had his entire stock confiscated. Thieves, or person suspected of selling stolen property were taken to the market course where they were tried on the spot by 12 magistrates. Punishment followed directly on sentence, and convicted thieves were beaten to death in the market place where they had committed their crimes. The same court dealt with any disputes between traders.

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