Before the explorers set out from Europe to colonize new lands and find vast riches, the Mexico valley was inhabited by various tribes who for centuries were hunter-gatherers that also dabbled into agriculture.
It was in the beginning of the 13 th century that a group of natives from the North made its South. When they tried to settle on the western shore of lake Texcoco, they were chased out by the another dominant tribe. They fled and finally settled on a island in the middle of the lake. This was the beginning of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan.
Moctezuma I was the first supreme ruler of the Aztec empire. After first suffering great losses at the hands of bad weather, the civilization soon rebounded. The Aztecs then set out on the warpath. They would first conquer an area then set up a system where tax collectors were charged with collecting large sums of tributes These were an essential part of the Aztec economy. Thousands of pounds of cotton, maize and other essentials flooded the city. Three cities, Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tacuba now formed a triple alliance that would be seen as the beginning of the Aztec Empire in the Mexico Valley.
Though the Aztec Empire was defined by the cities in the triple alliance, it was the city of Tenochtitlan that was the center and capital.
Several times cities rose up against Aztec power only to be reconquered and subjected back to Aztec rule.
There was an Aztec warrior named Ahuitzotl, who came to power and started several campaigns against revolting provinces. It was these campaigns that then provided the empire with slave labor to build the great temple of Tenochtitlan which had originally begun building under Moctezuma I.
Upon its completion there was a huge celebration and the inauguration of the temple. It is said that 80,000 people were sacrificed during the inauguration as human sacrifices were necessary to feed the Aztec gods and also helped to continue their campaign of terror against enemies.
The Aztecs: The Rise
Hernan Cortes was a Spanish explorer. After landing in Cuba first, he then set out to explore the coast of Mexico in 1519.
The Aztec leader, Moctezuma, learned that the first the Spanish had landed and he sent people to replenish to find out their intentions under the guise of replenishing their supplies.
When the Spanish began their push into the Mexico valley away from the coast they encountered natives that were enemies of the Aztecs. They provided support to the Spanish.
Once the Spanish were inside Tenochtitlan and were treated well, they betrayed the Aztecs. Moctezuma II was tried to calm his people but they were up in arms.
Cortes and his men fled the city across a causeway and into the outlining forest where they formulated a plan to return and siege the city. The Aztecs held out for three months until famine and disease took over. The survivors either fled or were taken prisoner as the city was pillaged by the Spanish and their Indian allies.
Though there is no direct evidence of how Moctezuma was killed, the Spanish claim that it was by his own people.
The Aztecs: The Fall
After Cortes’ siege of the Aztec capital, the Spanish not only forced obedience to the Spanish crown onto the natives, they also brought in the missionaries to begin converting to them to Christianity.
The Spanish called the Aztecs worship method was idolatry and as such had the Aztec temples burned down. Their priests or shamans, as they were called, were either killed or forced to convert.
Other native cities mistakenly thought that if they collaborated with the Spanish, they would soon leave. Unfortunately they were wrong and the Spanish set themselves up as the superior race. They felt the Native Indian was inferior to the white man and were treated that way. They used the idea that by converting them to Christianity and bringing in European culture, they were making life better for the natives and advancing their society.
The Spanish even used Aztec warriors to help quell uprisings by natives and as soldiers on campaigns into central America.
Mexico City would soon become the most populous city in the New World and Central America would never be the same.
The Aztecs: Under Cortes
Ocelotl, born in 1496 in Tenochtitlan, now modern day Mexico City. He was an Aztec priest or shaman during the Cortes siege of the city. He was called before Moctezuma II and ordered to be put to death. However, he was released in 1521 and was able to escape the killings and disease that was occurring as part of the fall of Tenochtitlan.
He was soon baptized into Catholicism and became a Catholic priest. That’s when he was given the name Martin. He also never forgot his old ways of worship. He became a influential priest around New Spain to the Spanish and the Native population. He flourished as a healer, Shaman and priest and acquired land and wealth. As his power spread, many priests feared his influence and he was eventually accused of using witchcraft and practicing idolatry.
It was 1536 and Martin was placed on trial before the Inquisition. Though he vowed his innocence many witnesses came forward and he was convicted. His punishment was public humiliation and he was forced to ride a mule through the streets with someone reading a letter of his guilt. He was then banished to Spain. He never made it across the Atlantic because his ship was lost at sea.