In Mexico, at least as early as the 16ᵗʰ century – ?, a measure of length among the Aztec, the distance from the ground beneath one foot to the extended fingers of the upraised opposite arm, about 2.5 meters.
This unit has often been erroneously identified with the Spanish braza:
Molina (1571): “una braça, para medir” (a braza, for measuring).
Brinton¹: “cemmatl, from the tip of the fingers of one hand to those of the other. Although this word is apparently a synthesis of ce, one, maitl, arm, and means ‘one arm’, it is uniformly rendered by the early writers una braza, a fathom.”
Several indigenous units, and the Spanish braza itself, were all called “braza”, which accounts for the enormous range of values attributed to the braza in the Spanish colonies. For a full discussion, see Castillo, pages 211-215.
1. Daniel G. Brinton.
The Lineal Measures of the Semi-Civilized Nations of Mexico and Central America.
Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 18, no. 118 pages 194- 197 (March 1885).
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Last revised: 10 May 2007.