The World of Mesoameria
From the tremendous amounts of artifacts found in the likeness of little Xolos, we know that these dogs lived abundantly within the early Colima, Mayan, Olmec, Toltec, and Aztec civilizations– all totaling about 3,000 years. They have had quite a history that includes much more than household ratter and guard dog.
Today, we think of Chihuahuas as pets with no other reason than to keep us company– for the most part, Chihuahuas are just lovable lap dogs.
However, back then, cultures viewed these little dogs as having a whole lot more importance. In nearly all of these civilizations, these dogs were prized possessions and were vital to your health, both physically and spiritually.
For starters, since these dogs in particular give off tremendous amounts of heat– especially the hairless variety– they became known as comforting healers. The warmth of their skin not only helped keep their owners from catching a cold on icy nights, but helped soothe numerous ailments including rheumatism, asthma, toothaches and insomnia.
I can see this is probably where Roxy inherited her 'heat' gene. During the night, she sleeps with me under the covers, but at some point, she gets so warm that I'm almost frightened for her. I always wonder if this ever damages her internal organs.
These 'powers to heal and soothe' only enhanced ancient belief systems that they were special gifts from the heavens, more specifically, from Xolotl the Mexican god of the underworld.
According to Aztec mythology, the god Xolotl made the Xoloitzcuintli from a sliver of the Bone of Life from which all mankind was made. Xolotl gave this gift to Man with the instruction to guard the dog with his life and in exchange it would guide Man through the dangers of Mictlan, the world of Death, toward the Evening Star in the Heavens.
As a sad consequence, it was upon the owner's death, that the dog's life also ended– they were sacrificed. Dog's were associated with 'new beginnings', and for this event, it was believed that the dog would take on all sins of the owner so that he could begin his travels to the world of the dead worry free. Quite a responsibility for such a little dog.
With this, you see how very important these dogs were to people and essentially the price you'd pay for not giving them the best care. Which leads us to the topic of killing them for food. It was true that the ancient peoples consumed these dogs, however, it is unclear as to who, why and when this was done.
I have read three distinct accounts, and without further investigation, I cannot say any of them but the last one is true. The first is that the dogs were sold and eaten regularly by everyone, the second is that the dogs were eaten only by the wealthy, the third is the dogs were eaten for religious ceremony showing great thanks and reverence for life and death.
Keep in mind, that the confusion goes way back to early colonial Spanish records from which we have based a lot of truth and fact. Not only that, the infusion of the Spanish lifestyle significantly altered early american cultures.
Until I do more investigation, I am hesitant to declare exactly how often and who ate these dogs, as well as, what exactly was being kept in pens for meat.
The Techichi was the Aztec word for dog– 'chichi' meaning dog, and 'tetl' meaning stone, essentially spells 'stone-dog'. I am not sure where the 'stone' description was derived– could it have been reference to all the stone temple carvings in their honor?
Could the Spaniards, for lack of knowledge, have blurred the lines in calling every small rodent, even a fox or small bear, a Techichi? Could this be where the confusion of a 'mute dog' comes from?
Regardless, it is noted that Techichis were indeed dogs and they were sacred and one thing we do know from archeological remains is that these dogs were on the menu for special occasions.
Huge Aztec feasts for giving thanks consisted primarily of turkey or deer with dog being only a very small percentage. Over 90% of bones found at archeological digs consist of deer.
The Spaniards, on the other hand, ate meat regularly and may have imposed their voracious meat eating habits onto the americans. Colonial records make plenty of mention of eating these dogs regularly before the arrival of cattle, so much so, that they nearly wiped-out the entire lot of them.