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Mexican tattoos are some of the most striking new patterns around. They take their themes from those of ancient Mayan, Inca and Aztec art, a very distinctive look that’s different from most other types of tattoo designs, yet instantly recognizable. The bold, geometric patterns of Mexican tattoos make them very well suited to tattoo art.
Ancient Aztec Tattoos
The Aztecs were a tribe that lived from the 13th to the 16th century in and around the area that is now called Mexico. Religion and the many gods were very important in the Aztec culture, a lot of the daily life of the Aztecs was meant to honour and please the gods.
Tattooing played an important role in the Aztec culture though, even children were tattooed.
The ancient Aztec tattoo designs were rather rudimentary, and were not only designed to decorate the body, but for a variety of reasons:
- Aztec tribal tattoos were done during rituals and always in honour of a specific god.
- Tattoo designs were used to differentiate between the different tribes.
- Aztec tattoo designs were used to mark a person’s status, to show a warrior's rank and accomplishments.
There are several tattoo designs that we commonly see with regard to Aztec and Mexican tattoos:
- Many Aztec tattoo designs involve the sun in one way or another. Sun tattoos were in honour of Huitzilopochtili, the Aztec sun god. The sun was very important to the Aztec people, it was the guardian of the heavens. That's why today, an Aztec sun tattoo symbolizes belief in an afterlife.
- Quetzalcoatl – the feathered serpent god of ancient Mexico – has also been adapted to Mexican tattooing. Quetzalcoatl, the god of weather, creativity and fertility, was the most powerful of all Aztec gods.
- Tezcatlipoca, the god of warriors.
- The Aztec calendar is a nice design for a tribal tattoo. Here's a video of an Aztec calendar tattoo in the works:
- Eagle: Aztec warriors drew strength from the eagle.
- Other Aztec tattoos that are popular today are cross tattoos and sun & moon tattoos.
Nowadays people are interested in Aztec tribal tattoos because of their symbolic meaning, to honour their heritage or because they feel a connection with the ancient and powerful culture of the Aztecs.
Mexican Prison and Gang Tattoos
On the other hand, one type of Mexican or Hispanic tattoo has been current for some time, and that is the gang or prison related tattoo. These tattoo designs often feature:
- Ornate tattoo lettering.
- Christian (specifically Catholic) images. These include images of certain saints, the Virgin Mary, as well as cross or Christ imagery.
Examples of Mexican mafia tattoos include:
- An eagle with a snake in its mouth, standing on the initials EME.
- A black hand.
- MM: Mafia Mexicana.
Other Mexican Tattoo Designs
Nowadays, there’s much more to Mexican tattoos than a prison or gang related design. Mexican style tattoos are among the most beautiful and original new tattoos designs today.
- Mexican skull tattoos: inspired by the Mexican Day of the Dead, a holiday in which the Mexican people remember those who have died.
- Mexican pride tattoos: a lot of Mexicans work in the United States, away from their origins. To honour their heritage and show their Mexican pride, some adorn themselves with for example a Mexican flag tattoo.
Before you decide on a Mexican tattoo design, do a bit of research about the mythology that engendered it, and the precise meaning of the image you are choosing. After all, you will be living with this image for the rest of your life (at least until the cost of tattoo removal comes down a bit), so you want to make sure that it resonates with you – in more ways than just appearance. Some of Aztec, Maya and Inca mythology is inspiring, but some of it tends to be a bit dark, so you need to make sure that you don't end up with an image whose meaning you aren't completely comfortable with!
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