Long before Jamestown, long before the Roanoke Colony (“Lost Colony”), long before the first English attempts to gain a foothold in the Americas, Spanish explorers and adventurers were hard at work trying to plant the royal flag of Spain in Central America and South America.
On August 13, 1521, Hernán Cortés and his small force captured Tenochtitlán, the capital of the Aztec empire, on the site of present-day Mexico City. This conquest marked the downfall of the Aztecs’ far-flung domain, as Cortés became the de facto ruler.
Before the fall of their capital, the Aztecs’ empire embraced almost 500 small “states” with a population of 5-6 million people. At the pinnacle of Aztec power, the capital city had more than 140,000 inhabitants and was the most densely urban city that ever existed in Mesoamerica.
Disease played a role in the transition of power, as it did later in the conflict of European settlers and Native Americans in North America. An outbreak of smallpox among the Aztecs in 1520 substantially weakened their ability to resist the Spanish conquistadors. Almost 250,000 Aztecs died in the fighting for Tenochtitlán.
By 1530, the Spanish conquerors had renamed the Aztecs’ domain and called it “New Spain.”
The Aztecs had an advanced culture, including sophisticated science and highly developed commerce and arts. Familiar words in our modern conversations can be traced to Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs: these include avocado, chocolate, coyote and guacamole.
Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.