The Tarascan Empire in the Protohistoric Period (ca. A.D. 1450-1521)
At the beginning of the sixteenth century, much of the Occidente -almost 75,000 km.2 in the present-day states of Michoacán, Guanajuato, Jalisco, and Guerrero- was under the control of the Tarascan state (Pollard 1993); the second-most powerful empire in Mesoamerica after the Aztecs, and the only state ever to flourish in the Occidente (Figure 46). This polity may have been the most strongly centralized state in all of Postclassic Mesoamerica, while the population under the Tarascan king (known as irecha, or cazonci), may have included more than one million people (Pollard 2003:78). What follows is a discussion of two aspects of this ancient state that will help the reader to understand its importance within Mesoamerican cultural history: Prehispanic urbanization at Tzintzuntzan, the Tarascan capital, and the Tarascan state within the Mesoamerican world system.
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