Mexica History
Aztlan Uprising

The Military Conquest

And when we saw all those towns and villages built in the water, and other great towns on dry land, and that straight and level causeway leading to Mexico, we were astounded. These great towns... and buildings rising from the water, all made of stone, seemed like an enchanted vision... Indeed some of our soldiers asked whether it was not all a dream... It was all so wonderful that I do not know how to describe this first glimpse of things never heard of, seen or dreamed of before...                      Today all that I then saw is overthrown and destroyed... nothing is left standing...

                                                                                                   the  Bernal Diaz Del Castillo

They laid before them golden streamers, quetzal feather streamers, and golden necklaces.

And when they have given them the gift, they appeared to smile, to rejoice exceedingly, and to take great pleasure.  Like monkeys they seized upon the gold.  It was as if then they were satisfied, sated, and gladdened.  For in truth they thirsted mightily for gold; they stuffed themselves with it, and starved and lusted for it like pigs.

                                                                                                  -Friar Sahagun - writing the Mexica's accounts about the truth of the Spaniards.

In Western-based version of the Spanish conquest, it is said that Cortes and a few hundred soldiers easily conquered the Mexica Empire of several hundred thousand people. The truth is the Spaniards weren't such efficient soldiers; they allied with many natives, who were enemies of the Mexica, especially the Tlaxcalteca. Also, Smallpox killed off a large amount of the indigenious people. The soldiers were not driven by religious reasons as they teach us as small kids, but the greediness for gold.

Lets begin our story...

According to Florentine Codex, the Mexica people saw bad omens. The first omen happened 10 year before the arrival of the Spaniards. It was a comet in the sky.  It looked:

like a tongue of fire, like a flame, as if showering the light of the dawn.

It was seen for over a year starting in the year 12 Calli.

But this was just the beginning...

For the second Omen, the Great Templo burned mysteriously. Supposely no one started the fire. When the fire was first seen, the Mexica shouted:

Mexicanos, come running! We can put it out! Bring your water jars...!

When they poured water, it only made the flame worst   For the third omen, the temple Xiuhtecutli was struck by lightling. Supposely, it was a normal thunder rainy day except there was no thunder that came after the lighting bolt that struck the temple.

For the fourth omen, on a sunny day, fire streamed the sky.

For the fifth omen, the lake foamed and boiled and flooded Tenochtitlan. The flood destroyed many houses.

For the sixth omen, the Mexica would hear a woman crying in the night in Tenochtitlan. She would cry:

My children, we must flee away from this city!

At other times she would wail:

My children, where should I take you?

For the seventh omen, fisherfolk caught a bird that looked like an ashed-color crane which had a mirrior on its forehead. They shown it to Moctezuma and when he glazed at the mirrior, he saw stars. Of these stars, he saw Mamalhuaztli, which was three stars that are very important to the Nahua religions. When he looked for the second time, he saw armed men which were being carried by hornless deers fighting a group of people. He asked his soothsayers:

Can you explain what I have seen? Creatures like human beings, running and fighting...!

When Moctezuma tried to show them, the vision has disapeared. The soothsayers said nothing. He then asked Nezahualpilli and he forecast the destruction of the nations of Mexico.

For the eighth omen, two headed men were found and they were taken to Moctezuma. They would vanish when Moctezuma saw them.

Motecuhzuma became frighten by the omens and asked his seers and magicians whether the omens meant war was approaching or something else. They could not answer him.

One day, a macehual came to Motecuhzuma. What makes this story weird is that no one has sent him to report to Motecuhzuma. He said to Moctezuma:

Our lord and king, forgive my boldness. I am from Mictlancuauhtla. When I went to the shores of the great sea, there was a mountain range or small mountain floating in the midst of the water, and moving here and there without touching the shore. My lord, we have never seen the like of this, although we guard the coast and are always on watch.

Another report told him that the floating mountains had men that:

have very light skin, much lighter than ours. They all have long beards, and their hair comes only to their ears.

From this part on, the accounts are from many sources.

In April 1519, Cortes and his men first touch land in Veracruz even though Spanish have been exploring south of there for the past few years.

On August 19, 1519, the Spaniards marched to Cempoala which is Totonac territory and got four hundred of them as porters.

The Spaniards wanted the Tlaxcalteca to be their allies because the Spaniards knew the Tlaxcalteca hated the Mexica.

The Tlaxcalteca first attacked the Spaniards because Xicotencatl (both the young & the elder) did not believe that the Spaniards could be trusted and that they could be with the Mexica. After the battle, the Tlaxcalteca found out the truth and 1,000 of their warriors joined them. Before Cortes left Tlaxcala, he put a cross and converted many native women (in order to have sex with them.).

While going to Tenochtitlan, on 12 October 1519, Cortes stopped at the city of Cholula. The Tlaxcalteca were enemies of the Cholula, since they were allied with the Mexica, and did not want to stay there. The Tlaxcalteca told Cortes that the Mexica were trying to kill them. Cortes captured the leaders Tlaquiach and Tlalchiac. When they returned with more than what he said, he ordered his men (including the Tlaxcalteca) to kill the natives. Three thousand natives (including women and children) died in this massacre including the destruction of Cholula. Before leaving Cholula, the Spaniards put a cross on the pyramid of Quetzalcoatl.

On November 8th, 1519, the Spaniards reached Tenochtitlan. When the Spaniards enter Tenochtitlan, the Conquistadores couldn't believe their eyes on what they saw. Bernal Diaz del Castillo wrote:

Next morning, we came to a broad causeway and continued our march towards Iztapalapa. And when we saw all those cities and villages built in the water, and other great towns on dry land, and that straight and level cause way leading to Mexico, we were astounded. These great towns and cues [temple-pyramids] and buildings rising from the water, all made of stone, seemed like an enchanted vision from the tale of Amadis. Indeed, some of our soldiers asked whether it was not all a dream. It is not surprising therefore that I should write in this vein. It was all so wonderful that I do not know how to describe this first glimpse of things never heard of, seen or dreamed of before.


And such were the marvels we saw that we know not what to say, or whether to believe what was before our eyes, for on the one hand were great cities on the land, and on the lake many more, and we saw canoes everywhere and along the causeway were many bridges at regular intervals, and before us stood the great city of Mexico.

Mothers kept their children in their homes. The roads were clear for the people feared the worst.

Moctezuma greeted Cortes. The moment was so important that there is a monument made of this encounter in Mexico City:

Which says:

En este sitio llamado Huitzilan
se dio lugar el encuentro del seƱor
Moctezuma Xocoyotzin
y el conquistador hispano
Hernan Cortes
el dia 8 de noviembre de 1519

Which translates to:

In this site called Huitzilan
was the meeting encounter of Lord
Moctezuma Xocoyotzin
and the Spanish conquistador
Hernan Cortes
in November 8th, 1519

Informants of Sahagun wrote what Moctezuma probably said:

My lord, you have become fatigued, you have become tired, to the land you have arrived. You have come to your city, Mexico. Here you have come to sit upon your throne and seat... The lords and kings Itzcoatl, the elder Moctezuma, Axayacatl, Tizoc, Ahuitzotl. Oh, for what a short time they protected and guarded the city of Mexico on your behalf... No, I am not dreaming, nor am I rising heavy with sleep. I am not seeing in dreams, nor seeing visions. I have in truth seen you and have now set eyes upon your face... take possession of your royal abodes... Come to your land, O lords.

What Moctezuma said was being humble towards Cortes.

Moctezuma let the Spaniards & their allies stay at the palace that was built for Axayacatl which was prepared before they came.

When Cortes went to the temple of Huitzilopochtli, Cortes said to a priest:

It will give me great pleasure to fight for my God against your Gods, who are a mere nothing.

The Mexica were ready to die for their Gods and insulted the Virgin Mary.

Cortes feared the very worst and ordered the Spaniards to seized the royal palace and hold Moctezuma prisoner in chains.

Cortes put an image of the Virgin in the temple of Huitzilopochtli. The priest of Huitzilopochtli slowly went out of the city sadly. After they left, drought struck the valley.

Moctezuma gave Cortes gold as he wanted. Cortes seperated a fifth of the gold for the king and a fifth for himself and the rest was divided amongst his soldiers.

Cacama, nephew of Moctezuma and ruler of Texcoco, 25 at the time, gathered the caciques allies, including Cuitlahuac, to rescue Moctezuma. Cortes somehow found out and captured them and put them into chains.

While all this was going on, Diego Velazquez, governor of Cuba, had sent an expedition to Mexico to overthrow Cortes. Velazquez ordered 900 men to capture Cortes to arrest him and bring him to trial in Cuba for insubordination, mutiny, and treason. Leading these men was a Spaniard called Narvaez. It looked like it was all over for Cortes. He had Narvaez's men and the Mexica to worry about. Cortes led part of his force against Velazquez's force and leaving some of his men in Tenochtitlan. After successfully defeated Velazquez's force, Cortes returned to Tenochtitlan with all the men (Cortes promised them gold) except for Narvaez who wished to stay at Veracruz. Cortes thought he had everything under control until he went back to Tenochtitlan.

While he was gone, the Mexica were getting ready to celebrate Toxcatl which is the festival to celebrate Huitzilopochtli. Lieutenant Pedro de Alvarado had ordered the killing 600 Mexica which caused a revolt during the festival when all Mexica warriors were unarmed. A Mexica retells the account:

They attacked all the celebrants, stabbing them, spearing them, striking them with their swords. They attacked some of them from behind, and these fell instantly to the ground with their entrails hanging out. Others they beheaded... No matter how they tried to save themselves, they could find no escape.

While the people were being attacked, the warriors came:

They hurled their javelins with all their strength, and the cloud of missiles spread out over the Spaniards like a yellow cloak.

The Spaniards ran into the palace. As the Mexica surrounded the palace, Cortes ordered Moctezuma to tell the Mexica to go back to their regular lives. Legend says that Cuauhtemoc was amongst the Mexica surrounding the palace. When he heard Moctezuma's speech, he got furious and said:

What is this Spaniard's wife talking about? He is a vile man and should be punished.

He threw a javelin which would cause the Mexica to throw stones at him. This did not kill Moctezuma. The Spaniards will kill Moctezuma because they believed he was useless.

Cuitlahuac was elected as Tlatoani.

Cuitlahuac set out to organize a determined resistance to the conquistadores. Cuitlahuac drove Cortes's men out of Tenochtitlan during the Noche De La Victoria (or as the Spaniards know it as La Noche Triste) on a rainy night in 1 July 1520. The Spaniards were trying to sneak out of Tenochtitlan, from the causeway to Tlacopan, with the gold that they have stolen in their clothing. Someone found out that they were trying to escape and warned the Mexica. A battle took place. A Mexica retells:

The canal was soon choked witht he bodies of men and horses; they filled the gap in the causeway with their own drowned bodies. Those who followed crossed to the other side by walking on the corpses.

About 2/3 of the warriors on the side of the Spaniards (including Tlaxcalteca) died in this battle. When the survivors regathered after they left, the Spaniards reported that their comrads were either killed, missing, or wounded. The 20 horses that survived were all wounded.

The Spaniards & the Tlaxcalteca retreated to Tlaxcala.

Cuitlahuac ruled four months (some say 40 days) after the Noche de La Victoria. His death was caused by smallpox.

After Cuitlahuac's death, Cuauhtemoc became emperor by being chosen by the council of noble elders. In the meantime, Cortes took over most of the cities under Mexica control; some in battle while others by diplomacy. Only Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco remained. The Spaniards had built 13 brigantines while in Tlaxcala territory and now planned to use the vessels in a naval assault on Tenochtitlan.

In March 1521, the attack begun, Cortes began with a reconnaissance in force to gain control of communities in the Valley of Mexico adjacent to Tenochtitlan. He got as far as the neighboring settlement of Tacuba before Cuauhtemoc drove the Spaniards and Tlaxcala back. Cortes cut the water supplies to Tenochtitlan from Chapultepec. The Mexica now ran zigzag style during battle towards the Spaniards while they held guns instead of going straight to avoid the blast since guns were inaccurate. Battle tactics and skills became a lot better. They would attack the Spaniards from the roofs of the houses. It looked as though the Mexica were going to win and the Spaniards were going to lose.

After Tenochtitlan was destroyed, the Mexica went to Tlatelolco, which was the center of the Mexica resistance. When Hernan Cortes ordered Cuauhtemoc to surrender, he said:

Well, since you wish it so, then carefully husband the maize and provisions we have, and let us all die fighting. Henceforward let no one dare to ask me for peace, for if anyone does, I will have him slain.

Battle took many days and Cuauhtemoc knew the resistance couldn't fight the Spaniards for much longer if they were in Tlatelolco. Cuauhtemoc gathered his official retinue and a couple of women and sailed for dry land. The Spaniards found out and one of their brigantines accost Cuauhtemoc before he reach his destination. They were captured and taken to Cortes. When Cuauhtemoc was taken to Cortes, he said:

Lord Malinche, I have done my duty in defense of my city.  There is nothing more I can do. Hence, as I am forced to come before you a prisioner of your power, take the dagger you wear at your side and kill me with it at once.

Cortes refused to kill him; not because he was "Christian", but because he wanted the Mexica Warriors at Tlatelolco to stop fighting and to suffer knowing that his nation (not the people) no longer existed and now in control of the Spaniards.

On August 13, 1521, was the fall of the Mexica Empire (not the people).

Tenochtitlan was destroyed and the our people ate anything to survive. Our people wrote a poem about this defeat called Broken Bones (mistranslated as Broken Spears):

Auh ixquichi in topa michiuh
in tiquitaque in ticmahuizoque
in techocti in tetlaocolti
inic titlaihyohuique.
Auh oc in otlica omitl xaxamantoc
tzontli momoyauhtoc
calli tzontlapouhtoc
calli chichiliuhtoc
Ocuilti moyacatlamina otlica
Auh incaltech hahalacatoc in quatextli.
Auh in atl za yuhque chichiltic za yuhque tlapatlatl
ca yuh tiquique tiquia tequixquiatl.
Auh oc in atl tiquique tequixquiatl xantetl ipan tlatetzotzontli
in atlacomolli za teneneixcahuil
chimaltitlan in pieloya
in oc nen aca moteiccequiliznequi za chimaltitla.
Tiquaque in tzonpan quahuitl
in tequixquizacatl
in xantetl in cuetzpalli quimichi
teutlaquilli. Ocuilli.
in iquac tlepan quimontlaliaya
i ye icuicic inacayo
uncan con no
yuh tleco quiquaya.
Auh in topatiuh nochiuh
in ipatiuh nochiuh in telpochtli
in tlamacazqui in ichpochtil in piltzintli
i ye ixquich macehualli in ipatiuh mochiuh
za omatecohctli tlaolli za matlactli axaxayaca tla tlaxcalli
tequixquizacatl tlaxcalli za canpohualli topatiuh mochiuh.
In teucuitlatl in chalchihuitl
in quachtli in quetxcalli
i ye ixquich tlazotli
auctle ipa motac za tetepeui.

The Spaniards did whatever they could to built their new nation.

Not one stone of the Templo Mayor would remain one over the other. The destruction of the Templo Mayor would be replace with the Christian Cathedral. This would be the beginning of the Religion Conquest...