The Maya have a unified regional culture but never have a broad territorial state or empire like the Aztecs develop. How would you describe the Mayan political structure? 

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sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Since the Maya were not unified under a single ruler, king, or governing body like the Aztecs developed it seems like Mayan culture would tend toward more diversification than history indicates.  While no single empire existed, individual city states did exist that were ruled by a "king" or some of kind of council.  Additionally, the city states did share similar ideologies.  More critical than a shared worldview though was the states' linkage through trade and political alliances.  That kind of linkage can really unify an area because the economic welfare of one state is so closely linked with the economic health of their neighbor.  

Some might disagree with me, but I see that kind of unification as similar to the early United States.  Prior to the Civil War, American documents about the United States would be written as follows: "The United States of America are. . . "  The use of the verb "are" indicates that the subject is plural, not singular.  That connotes that each state is its own governing body, capable of its own decisions and rule.  A state was part of a whole for sure, but the US did not act as ONE. It benefited states to be similar to each other for trade relations and mutual protection, but each state thought of itself as its own entity.  After the Civil War, documents were written like this: "The United States of America is . . . " This now makes the United States a singular noun and not plural.  The U.S. is a group of states unified under one central government.  The pre-Civil War U.S. I think works to describe the Mayan political structure.