Latin America existed centuries before the so-called discovery of a ‘new world’ in 1492 by Columbus, which is very demeaning on the intelligence of the natives because they already had an established culture and religion, with civilized societies which were all violently destroyed by the Europeans. The Mayan, the Aztec and the Incan had well established societies with hierarchical structures and political power which determined and their lives, pointing to an ancient civilization before their conquest by the Hispanics.  In this essay, several aspects touching on the environmental adaptation of the pre-Hispanic civilization will be discussed. Of more emphasis is the Aztec community in the years prior to the colonization of Latin America by the Spanish and other Europeans (Schmidt-Nowara 228-237). Environmental adaptation in this context basically means the way these people changed their ways of living to suit the immediate environment and the means they devised to take advantage of these environmental conditions and the changes they undertook to the environment to avoid the undesired consequences brought about by the environment, for example floods, drought and disease.  The essay will look at the pre-Hispanic civilization of the Aztec and the importance of the human-environmental relations of this group. Highlighted in the essay are mainly the challenges that were presented to the these people by the immediate environment, the impact the surrounding environment had on them and how they responded to these challenges; in ways that were beneficial to them and in others where their actions aimed at responding to the environmental challenges became a liability in later years, leading to collapse of societies.

The pre-Hispanic civilization of the Aztec

The history of the Latin American continent is characterized mainly by the pre-Hispanic people who occupied the vast land of high plateaus, mountainous valleys and water basins including large areas covered by a network of rivers. The Europeans found the civilizations of the Aztec, the Mayan and the Incan. These three were very important civilizations in Latin America as the study of the history of this continent is incomplete without looking at the contribution of these societies, who define what Latin America is currently. The natives of this hemisphere are still referred to as Indians although a lot has changed since the Europeans, especially the Spanish, the Portuguese and the French penetrated and subsequently colonized them (Dominguez 165-166). Their cultures are largely defined by the romance languages of French, Spanish and Portuguese from which the term “Latin America” was crafted by the French in order to discourage British interests by declaring these three languages and their cultures as the defining characteristics of the region.

Environmental Constraints and opportunities for the Aztec

The Aztec mostly occupied Mexico’s spacious central valley where they proceeded to build an empire. They belong to one of the tribes known as Chichimec, and came from the Northern part and subdued the Toltecs who had earlier invaded the Mayas between the 12th and the 19th centuries. The Aztec ere a warlike community which had a well organized army for the purposes of protecting their territory and interests and as such they constantly engaged in fights with their neighbors. The Aztec were technologically advanced in terms of architecture and they constructed Tenochtitlan city in 1325 which later advanced to the current-day Mexico City, the capital city of Mexico. They did so taking advantage of the physical envivironment from which they got the materials used for construction.  They also built a major empire touching the Caribbean. The Ancient Aztec ruins in Mexico are reminiscent of this ancient civilization which was well organized in its structures within the empire.

The Aztec were faced with several challenges that were brought about by the immediate environment. There were also economic as well as cultural imprint from the Spanish and other Europeans who colonized them. The Aztec, just like the Mayas and the Incan, were aware of the importance of preserving the environment and as such they transformed the landscapes of Latin America (Vanden and Prevost 18-20).  Faced with the challenge of having to find a solution to their need for food, they resulted to clearing the forests in order to find fields in which they could plant their crops. The forests posed a great challenge to them and they had to clear them in order to find some space in which they could cultivate their crops and rear their livestock. Although this method which they had adopted in order to find a solution to their need for food was of great help to them, they later ended up exhausting the land besides bringing about deforestation and, of course, the depletion of water resources.

Technological innovations to adapt to the environment

The Aztec adapted to the environment by modifying it in order to increase agricultural production and to get space and materials for construction. They exploited water, wood from the trees and minerals which they used to their advantage in building their cities. They undertook the production of metal for construction as well as trade which was their major economic activity besides agriculture. They cleared forests and selectively burned them as well as grazed grasslands and curved mountains into terraces. They were innovative enough and diverted the waters that were infrequent in the desert. The Aztec used traditional technology to reap benefits out of the physical environment that would otherwise have been a disadvantage to them.

The Aztec used technology as well as social organization in adapting to the physical environment which was very harsh. They did this by structuring it to fit their needs and they also took advantage of environmental conditions that were favorable to advance their chances of survival. The Aztec were highly technological and inventive in terms of agriculture. They took to modifying their environmental surroundings so as to suit their lifestyles as well as needs. The landscape posed challenges that were a threat to sustainable growth and development. They perfected the art of controlling water. They constructed a network of dams which was very extensive and they had irrigation systems as well as drainage canals around the Mexican basin aimed at coping with rainfall which was highly seasonal and of a variable pattern which sometimes produced droughts and at other times large wetlands and lakes. They developed an agricultural system which permitted agriculture in wetland environments and in lakes. They would build an island of soil combined with vegetation in order to tap the benefits of the fertile soil and water for the crops to increase food supply (Skinmore and Smith 3-12).

The environment posed a great challenge to them in terms of diseases which were brought by the wide variety of pests like mosquitoes and tsetse flies. These diseases included malaria which killed thousands of them and they responded by clearing the forests and burning grasslands in order to put in check the influx of these pests. The people were highly vulnerable to epidemics and diseases which were brought about by the pests that thrived in the tropical forests surrounding them. These environmental factors and events therefore characterized the human geography of the Aztec in terms of determining their population and migration patterns. They were also highly disadvantaged by the volcanic activities which brought calamities whenever they erupted from time to mime.

The Aztec capitalized on the high basin, which was surrounded by mountains, to build the current-day Mexico City as a strategic place where invaders were put on check. They used the mountains as strategic points for surveillance. The greatest disadvantage was that the wet climate became a constraint to development. This climate provided conducive conditions for pests to grow, which were notorious for killing many animals and people, for example malaria.

They turned the rivers into benefit by using them for transport. The waters were also used for fishing which became a major source of lifeline in terms of fish for food and trade. They applied technological innovations whereby in dry areas they built small dams to ensure that they had adequate water supplies. They also built channels to bring water for domestic use and irrigation of their crops. It can be argued that modern agricultural technologies borrow heavily from the innovations of the Aztec.

Domestication was the dramatic way in which the Aztec transformed nature. They domesticated animals as well as wild plants. Most of the major food crops today were as a result of domestication by the indigenous people of Latin America including the Aztec. They bred llama and alpaca for meat as well as guinea pigs and dogs for meat and pets. They took advantage of the wild crops to come up with maize, potatoes and manioc. Avocadoes and tomatoes are some of the fruits which they domesticated. They selectively bred these animals as well as trees into the characteristics that they found desirable and suitable to them. The agricultural practice of mixing desired genetic characteristics to get hybrid animals and plants is an innovation of the Aztec who did it in order to survive the harsh climate of the time.


The history of Latin America is deeply rooted in the pre-Hispanic cultures of the Mayas, the Aztec and the Incas who inhabited the vast land before the arrival of the Europeans who colonized them and dramatically changed their cultures. It is there fore important to understand these pre-Hispanic cultures in order to understand the several aspects of the modern cultures of this continent. Without background knowledge on the way the ancient societies lived, one would never understand the current aspects of the Latin American culture.


Skinmore, T, E and Smith, P, (2006). Modern Latin America, Sixth Ed. New York, OxfordUniversity Press.

Vanden, H, E and Prevost, G, (2002). The politics of Latin America: The Power Game. New York, OxfordUniversity Press.

Dominguez, J, (2010).  “Recent Books on International Relations: Western Hemisphere: Cuba: What Everyone Needs to Know”. Foreign Affairs 89.2 (2010):  ABI/INFORM Global, ProQuest. Web.  16 Sep. 2010.

Schmidt-Nowara, C, (2010). “POLITICS AND IDEAS IN LATIN AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE”. Latin American Research Review 45.2 (2010): ABI/INFORM Global, ProQuest. Web.  16 Sep. 2010.



Revisions Modern latin Class [?] Code: 71450403 [?]

Revision requests on the Order # 71450403

Dear writer,

Can you please change the very first sentence of the essay and make
more interesting than to explain what would be written in the essay

Also, can you highlight the answers from the file essay prompt 1
including your reaction and explanations please.




  • Main Body
    • Answer the following questions, using one pre-Hispanic civilization of your choice as an example:
      • What were the environmental constraints and/or opportunities of the region?
      • What technological innovations were developed that enhanced the society’s ability to adapting to, or exploit, these constraints and/or opportunities?
      • Any additional information that you find pertinent and/or interesting to your discussion of this civilization’s interactions with the environment.
  • Conclusion
    • On a personal level, why do you think understanding pre-Hispanic people and landscapes in Latin America is important? Please explain your answer carefully.