The year was 1522

Hernan Cortés

Hernan Cortés was known for killing Aztecs, but did he murder his wife with an axe?  The Aztecs, a sect of the Nahuatl Indians, lived in Mexico for about 300 years.  An advanced civilization with mammoth stone buildings, including pyramids, an alphabet and an extremely accurate calendar system, the Aztecs had a few flaws, including appeasing their gods with human sacrifices.  They were a culture of blood.  Then, in 1521, the Conquistadors, under the banner of Hernan Cortés, arrived.

Moctezuma was the Aztec king.  The Spaniards captured him and imprisoned him in the Aztec sacred city, Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City).  Aztec warriors stormed the city in an effort to rescue their king.  Cortés ordered Moctezuma to turn the Aztecs back, but the king refused and was killed.  The Aztecs were repelled anyway.  The Aztecs named a new king, Cuitlahuac, Mocteuma’s son-in-law.  In the beginning of July, 1520, he and his Aztec warriors drove the Spaniards out of the capital, but he died of the new disease – smallpox – after a reign of only four months.


Now, Cuauhtemoc, who hated the Spaniards, ascended to Aztec leadership.  Cortés demanded that Cuauhtemoc and his people surrender.  Cuauhtemoc defiantly said he would kill all Aztecs who had converted to Christianity.  Cuauhtemoc, too, was captured by Cortés.  The Spaniards tried to force Cuauhtemoc to guide them to Aztec’s gold.  They were absolutely certain there were whole cities of gold hidden somewhere.  There weren’t.  A few years later, Cortés accused Cuauhtemoc of treason and had him hanged.

Cortés wanted riches and honors from the Spanish king.  He got a lot, but to his way of thinking, not nearly enough.  Still, he was rising up in the world.  Then his wife, Catalina Suarez, and her brother and sister arrived from Spain in the summer of 1522.  The marriage had produced no children, but Cortés knew it wasn’t his fault – he had a few babies with various native women to prove it.  Plus, with his new titles, Cortés could make a better marriage than with Catalina.  Conveniently, during the night of Nov. 21st, she died mysteriously.  He went on trial for her murder, but was acquitted.  Seven years later, he married Juana Ramirez de Arellano de Zuniga, a woman of much higher status than Catalina.

Today, Cuauhtemoc’s name is immortalized in Mexico as streets, parks and arenas are named after him.  Hernan Cortés, who died in bitterness in Spain, has come down to us with a much more complicated legacy, although he did legitimize all his children before he died.  What a great word, legitimize.

Aztec Pryramid

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