The Fall of the Aztecs
Stunned AztecsLust for GoldQuetzalcoatl

"He has appeared! He has come back! He will come here to the place of his throne and canopy, for that is what he said he would do when he departed." - Montezuma, on hearing Cortés' description.

Were the Spaniards long-lost rulers or deities of the Aztec pantheon? An unnerving series of coincidences led Montezuma to believe that perhaps Cortés was the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, who had promised to return one day to reclaim his kingdom.

Quetzalcoatl, "the feathered serpent," stood for the solar light, the morning star. He symbolized knowledge, arts, and religion. In his time, he had been a rich, powerful man, but he had been expelled and vanished across the sea eastwards, near Veracruz, where Cortés had landed. Legend had it that Quetzalcoatl was white-skinned, bearded and he was opposed to human sacrifice. Unnerving as were these similarites to Cortés, there was one factor that was positively spine-chilling: for the year in which Quetzalcoatl was born and died, and the year in which Montezuma's astrologers expected him to "strike at Kings," was 1-Reed. By a 52-1 chance, 1519, the year that Cortés arrived, was 1-Reed.

Quetzalcoatl, "the feathered serpent"
Credit: Codex Telleriano-Remensis, Bibliotheque nationale de France
Close this Window