The Arrival of the Indigenous-Spanish Coalition To Mexico Tenochtitlan
by lorena medina martínez
The "map of Nuremberg", drawn up in Germany in 1524, is the oldest that exists of Mexico City (then Tenochtitlan).
On August 13, 1521, the Aztec empire was defeated by an army made up mainly of Mesoamerican indigenous people, and a group of approximately 500 Spaniards under the command of Captain Hernán Cortés. Here, we present the second of three articles to highlight this historical event.
On November 8, 1519, the historic encounter between Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin and Hernán Cortés took place in Huitzilan (today Hospital de Jesús, downtown Mexico City), beginning a period that can be analyzed from the different negotiations and pressures among the Aztecs from central Mexico and the indigenous-Spanish coalition.
In this first encounter between Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin and Hernán Cortés, they had their first communication mediated by Malintzin and Jerónimo de Aguilar. During this first meeting there was also a political exchange of gifts. After this, the Spanish were accommodated in the palace of Axayacatl by the Aztecs. These series of events must have been carefully and politically attended by both sides since they did not know how the events would continue to unfold. Once the Spaniards settled in the Aztec capital, in May 1520, Hernán Cortés had to, temporarily, leave Tenochtitlan to go to Veracruz, leaving Pedro de Alvarado in command. Pedro de Alvarado, lacking in political tactics provoked the massacre known as “Matanza del Templo Mayor” during the Aztec celebration of toxcatl, in honor of Tezcatlipoca, an Aztec deity. As a consequence of this massacre, Emperor Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin dies while trying to calm the onrush of the Aztec people.
These events and others strained the political situation between the Aztecs and the indigenous-Spanish coalition that culminated in the historically known “Noche Triste” (“Sad Night”), the night of June 30, 1520 in which the Spanish try to leave Tenochtitlan without being seen by the Aztecs. The Tenochcas or Aztecs find out and persecute the indigenous-Spanish coalition, driving them out of the Aztec capital. The story goes that, after this defeat, Hernán Cortés in his escape stopped in an ahuehuete tree, on the present time Mexico Tacuba avenue, Popotla, where he cried the defeat at the hands of the Aztecs.
After this event, the Spaniards escaped through the Tepeyac hill, in the direction of Tlaxcala, a place where, with the support of indigenous groups such as the Tlaxcalans, they planned their strategy to return and attack the Aztecs. One of the tactics by Hernán Cortés, the Spaniards who accompanied him and their indigenous allies was the construction of twelve brigs (two masted sailing vessels) which were built in Tlaxcala and put together in Texcoco. It is important to emphasize that among the many aspects and events that took place between 1519 and 1521, a process of recognition of each other began. It was a long process, but in which each group analyzed and recognized their counterpart. The recognition of the other, wanting to know who they were, how they were, how they thought and what objectives they were pursuing was a continuous question that began when the Aztecs learned that the Spaniards were prowling the coast of Cozumel, a process also experienced by the Spaniards of wanting to know who the lord behind the volcanoes was, the emperor Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin, who the Aztecs were, and what that city of Mexico Tenochtitlan was like.
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