The Beginning of the End Destruction- Montezuma II was the ruler of the Aztecs by 1500 AD when the Spaniards arrived (1519 AD) Hernan Cortes and a group of Spanish adventurers arrived at Veracruz and led an expedition to Mexico in 1519. This year also marked the end of the Aztecs; 52 year cycle when they feared that the god Quetzalcoatl would return from exile and destroy them. When the Spanish arrived in Mexico Montezuma dared not fight because he thought they were gods and instead sent gifts of gold so they would go away. Instead, it made the Spaniards even more hungry for gold and more decided to reach the City Capital.
La Ruta Cortes Cortes was 34 years old, landed in Tabasco on February of 1519 with 678 men and 200 natives. Jeronimo de Aguilar joined him because he had explored these lands a few years before and spoke the Mayan language
La Malinche After a tough battle, the Tabascans give in and offer food, gold, and 20 women to Cortes. One of them being Malintzin which Cortes baptizes as Dona Marina. She spoke both Nahuatl and Mayan. She is forever known as Malinche.
His group reaches Veracruz on April 1519. That day was Good Friday, the day of Holy Week known as the day of La Vera Cruz ( True Cross ) — hence he chose the name of La Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz. It was from this base in August 1519 that Cortez began his course of conquest inland to Tenochtitlan and left behind the city with 150 men and no ships. He was afraid some of his men would betray him and return to Cuba because he knew the Governor of Cuba, Velasquez was after him.Tenochtitlan
He left Cempoala in August towards Tlaxcala who were enemies of the Aztecs. After fierce battles, Cortes’ men were able to defeat them and form a crucial alliance that would benefit the Spanish in conquering Tenochtitlan. The Spaniards stayed 20 days among the Tlaxcalans. From there they headed towards Cholula, a holy city for the Aztecs south of Tenochtitlan (now Puebla). Here, they were well received at first, but the Cholula leaders did not allow the 5,000 Tlaxcalans to enter their city. With Malinche’s help, Cortes uncovers the plot to attack the Spaniards and the Tlaxcalans enter the city and together massacre 3,000 Cholulans.
Sword and Cross Cortes destroyed many of the temples and statutes placing the Christian cross in their place. Cortes allowed some of Moctezumas ambassadors to return back to Tenochtitlan to tell him that he did not hold him responsible for the Cholulans deceit and would still wish to visit the great city. On November 8 th, 1519 Cortes finally met the great Emperor at the doors of the entry city of Xolotl (Salmoral 1988).
Murals by Diego Rivera at the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City
Moctezuma II Moctezuma was about 40 years of age and was the 9 th ruler of the Mexicas. The Emperor took the Spaniards to one of his palaces in Tenochtitlan. The city is estimated to have had between 150,000 and 300,000 inhabitants. Following a few days of his arrival the Emperor was taken prisoner by Cortes in its own palace.
La Noche Triste Cortes has to leave Tenochtitlan to head back to the Coast because the Governor Velazquez had sent 1,500 men to capture him under the leadership of Panfilo Narvaez. Cortez is able to quickly defeat the force and more Spaniards are added to his force. While celebration festivities for the god Tezcatlipoca, Pedro Alvarado recreates what Cortes had done in Cholula and decides to interrupt the ceremonial festivities and massacres 2,000 to 3,000 Aztecs in fear that they were plotting to kill the Spaniards. The Aztecs started to attack and fight back the Spaniards. Cortes hurried back with his men to assist Alvarado.
By now, Moctezumas’ nephew, Cuauhtemoc had assumed the military leadership of the Mexicas and began an attack on the Spaniards day and night. In one attack to the Palace were Cortes was staying cost him 46 of his men (Salmoral 1988). On June 30, 1520 Cortes and his men decide to escape the city by night with all the gold they could carry. Many sank due to the weight of their gold when the Aztecs caught their escape and intercepted them at the bridges. Many Spaniards and native allies were killed that night. A total of 800 Spaniards perished that night. Cortes is said to have retreated that night to a solitary tree and cried that night for his men (or at least for his gold!).
Old World Diseases Eventually, they make it back to Tlaxcala and begin to recuperate to attack Tenochtitlan once again. On December 29, 1520 he decides to retake the great city again with 10,000 Tlaxcalans. By now, many citizens of Tenochtitlan had contracted the small pox brought by one of Narvaez men and were dying by the thousands. By April of 1521, Cortez began the suffocation of Tenochtitlan by surrounding the city and depriving it of water and food. On June 30, 1521 he decides to attack the city but many of his men are either killed or taken prisoners to be sacrificed. The city held off for another 85 days but it was finally defeated.
The End of the Aztec Empire According to Bernal Diaz, all the houses had dead natives and the few that were left alive were skinny and smelly. Most were just eating weeds and grasses, even the bark of trees. (Salmoral 1988:102). Cortes estimates they killed 100,000 natives in the siege (Cockcroft 1988:19). He sends his captains to conquer other lands in Central America and north of Mexico. He himself explores the Baja Peninsula. Within 12 years of Cortez landing, most of Mesoamerica was under Spanish rule! In 1539 he returns to Spain but is eventually ignored by the Crown and retires to live in Sevilla where he dies in 1547.
Fray Bernardino de Sahagun * Codice Florentino He came to Mexico in 1529 and by 1547 he had learned nahuatl and began writing about Aztec culture and religion primarily for Christianization and indoctrination. By 1569, he had completed his “ Historia general de las cosas de Nueva Espana ” which was composed of 12 books in Spanish, nahuatl, and Latin. Around 1588 his work reaches Italy where it gains its name of Florentine. He is often called “the father of modern ethnography” because he gathered his information by studying and interviewing older generation of Aztecs that were still alive.
Ritual or Cannibalism? Huitzilopochtli was said to be in a constant struggle with the darkness and required nourishment in the form of sacrifices to ensure the sun would survive the cycle of 52 years, which was the basis of many Mesoamerican myths. While popular accounts claim it was necessary to have a daily sacrifice, sacrifices were only done on festive days. There were 18 especially holy festive days, and only one of them was dedicated to Huitzilopochtli. 18