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How dancers in Mexico honor the last emperor of the Aztecs

March 27, 2012 |  4:30 am

Aztec dancer

REPORTING FROM MEXICO CITY -- Every February, Aztec dancers flock to the mountain town of Ixcateopan, where the bones of the last emperor of the Aztecs are said to lie.

Archaeologists in Mexico say the story of the remains of Cuauhtemoc is false, and many dismiss the quasi-spiritual culture of veneration that has developed around the bones.

Yet the lore still draws people to Ixcateopan. The remains -- of at least one woman and several men -- lie in the ex-church of this small mountain community in Guerrero state, attracting Aztec dance groups from near and far every February for the observance of Cuauhtemoc's birthday.

PHOTOS: The bones of Cuauhtemoc?

In an article in The Times last week, the believers who belong to the loosely tied mexicanismo movement say the "bones" of the last Mexican tlatonai represent "hope" for a new age in Mexico.

So how real, or unreal, are they?

"I think it's perfectly possible for people to think, on one level, that the bones are fraud, and on some level, know that they're a metaphor," said historian Paul Gillingham.

Check out our photo gallery of the dancers above and read more about the bones here.

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Trying to get back to the only life he knew

-- Daniel Hernandez

Photo: An Aztec dancer from Mexico City arrives at Ixcateopan, Guerrero, to honor Cuauhtemoc, last emperor of the Aztecs. Credit: Daniel Hernandez / Los Angeles Times

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