By Karen Latchana Kenney
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It was a violent game, and players were likely to be seriously injured or killed. The game also had ritual significance, and players were sometimes sacrificed. At the bottom in social rank were the landless serfs, or mayeque, and slaves, or tlacotin. The landless serfs were free people who did not own land and did not belong to a calpulli. The mayeque were bound to the noble’s land where they worked as tenant farmers, fishermen, or artisans. They paid the noble for use of his land with a portion of their harvest, catch, or goods created.
The beans grow in long pods filled with 20 to 60 beans each. These beans were ground into powder and used to make a chocolate drink prized by the Aztecs. Nobles drank the chocolate with added chili water, flowers, vanilla, bee honey, or other flavorings. One hundred cacao beans could buy a fine cape. Sixty-five cacao beans could buy a manta. Cacao beans were even counterfeited. The counterfeiters formed earth into the shape of a bean and then covered and sealed it with a cacao husk. Cortés brought cacao back to Spain, where it became popular among the nobility.
Matchmakers and parents arranged the marriages between young men and women. Nobles often married to create alliances or for profit. The bride was ceremonially bathed and covered with red feathers; her face was painted in glittering crushed pyrite, a gold-colored mineral. Four days of feasting followed the marriage ceremony, and elders counseled the bride and groom. Once married, the husband and wife had clearly defined roles. The man was the head of the family, but women were regarded as equals.
Ancient Aztecs by Karen Latchana Kenney