|The Last Stand: An Aztec Iliad
Cortés and his allies landed their forces in the south of the island and fought their way through the city, street by street, and house by house. Though better armed, the Spanish still suffered reverses. Gradually, the whole southern part of the island, the original city of Tenochtitlán, fell to the Spanish. The defenders, who were estimated at 300,000, became concentrated in the northern part of island, where they fought for 80 days.
When a guiding omen confirmed that defeat was inevitable, the Aztec leaders gathered to discuss what to do, how best to surrender, and "what tribute to pay." Cuatemoc was led to Cortés. "Cortés stared at him for a moment and then patted him on the head." The meaning of this apparently demeaning gesture seems to be revealed in the account of Alva Ixtilxochitl, a descendant of one of the allied kings who fought for Cortés. "Cortés received him with all the respect due to a king. Cuautemoc then asked Cortés to kill him: 'For you have already destroyed my city and killed my people.'" The same day as the surrender, the Spanish looted the city while their native allies ran amok, taking revenge against their ancient tormentors. Many people fled to the mainland by canoe in daytime, most by night, "crashing into each other in their haste."
Violent fighting broke out. On both sides there were deaths.
Noblemen from other tribes came to confer with Cuatemoc, new ruler of Mexico.
All the captives we forced back. Later it was ordered that all of the captives be sacrificed everywhere in the temples.
Credit: "General History of
the Things of New Spain" (Florentine Codex), Books
I-IX and XII, translated by Arthur J. O. Anderson and Charles
E. Dibble. Santa Fe, New Mexico and Salt Lake City: The
School of American Research and the University of Utah Press.
Used courtesy of the University of Utah Press.