During the course of the sixteenth century, the Aztec (or Mexica) city of Tenochtitlan-Tlatelolco (present-day Mexico City) was transformed from a sweet-smelling lacustrine city into a foul one, the direct result of the Spanish invasion (1519–21). This article reconstructs both the sources of odors and culturally situated ideas about smell among the city’s Nahuatl-speaking residents. They are opposed to the ideas about smell held by settler colonists, derived from the framework of Hippocratic medicine. These imported ideas about acceptable smells (like those of urban slaughterhouses) and dangerous smells (swamps) came to have disastrous consequences as they played out in the unique environment of the Basin of Mexico.
Copyright 2021 by American Society for Ethnohistory