Trono de Montezuma

Trono de Montezuma

El magnífico monumento de piedra conocido como el Monumento de la Guerra Sagrada, el Teocalli de la Guerra Sagrada, la Piedra del Templo o, más simplemente, el trono de Motecuhzoma II (Montezuma), el rey azteca (tlatoani) que gobernó en la época de la conquista española, está cubierto de relieves de símbolos, dioses y el propio Motecuhzoma. El trono, tallado en forma de templo piramidal, conmemora la Ceremonia del Nuevo Fuego de 1507 EC y, a través del arte, demuestra el vínculo inseparable entre el fuego y el agua y entre los gobernantes de este mundo y el cosmos eterno. Es una de las obras maestras del arte azteca y se puede admirar en su sede permanente en el Museo Nacional de Antropología de la Ciudad de México.

Objetivo

Descubierto en 1831 d.C. cerca del palacio de Motecuhzoma II bajo lo que hoy es la Ciudad de México, el trono fue tallado en 1507 d.C. en piedra volcánica y mide 1.23 metros de altura y alrededor de 1 metro tanto de profundidad como de ancho. del sol y la parte superior está inscrita con la Casa del año 2, que se traduce como 1345 EC, considerada como la fecha tradicional de fundación de la capital azteca, Tenochtitlán. El trono tiene la forma de una pirámide escalonada típica azteca con la parte posterior que representa el templo sagrado que se encontraba en la parte superior de tales monumentos. La piedra puede, de hecho, ser considerada como un votivo conmemorativo o teocalli (que significa 'casa de dios') de la guerra sagrada y la Ceremonia del Nuevo Fuego (Toxiuhmolpilia). Este ritual, que se lleva a cabo solo una vez cada 52 años al completar el ciclo completo del calendario azteca, fue quizás el evento más importante en la religión azteca y la vida en general.

El trono tiene la forma de una pirámide escalonada típica azteca con la parte posterior que representa un templo sagrado.

Presidida por el Xiuhtechutli, el dios del fuego, el propósito de la ceremonia era asegurar la exitosa renovación (o reaparición) del sol. En la cima del monte Uixachtecatl (o Citlaltepec), cerca de la capital azteca de Tenochtitlán, los sacerdotes se reunieron a la medianoche y esperaron una alineación precisa de las estrellas. Luego se hizo un sacrificio a Xiuhtecuhtli cortando el corazón de una víctima sacrificada. Luego se encendió fuego dentro de la cavidad torácica abierta y, si el fuego se encendió con éxito, todo estaba bien. Si la llama no se encendía, se creía que indicaba la llegada de terribles monstruos, los Tzitzimime, que deambularían por la oscuridad devorando a toda la humanidad.

Con la posibilidad impensable de que el sol no reapareciera, cada ceremonia fue un momento crucial en la sociedad azteca, pero quizás la de 1507 EC fue más significativa que la mayoría. El imperio azteca había sufrido varias desgracias antes del evento, en particular una hambruna devastadora y tormentas de nieve destructivas, por lo que un nuevo ciclo y un nuevo comienzo era justo lo que necesitaba Motecuhzoma. Al final, el sol apareció de nuevo para dar la bienvenida a otros 52 años de armonía cósmica pero, en realidad, fue solo 14 años después que extraños del oeste provocarían el colapso catastrófico de la civilización azteca.

Detalles

Los doce escalones que se acercan al asiento están flanqueados por una imagen de un conejo a la izquierda que significa la fecha del calendario 1, mientras que en el lado derecho las cañas representan la fecha 2. Los estudiosos han sugerido que estas fechas representan el primer y el último año. del ciclo de 52 años o los años en los que esta particular Ceremonia de Fuego Nuevo cruzó. Encima de estos smbolos, de nuevo, uno a cada lado, hay representaciones de cuauhxicalli - los vasos utilizados para contener ofrendas, como los corazones de las víctimas de los sacrificios durante las ceremonias religiosas. El de la izquierda tiene marcas que indican una piel de jaguar y el de la derecha tiene plumas de águila.

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El respaldo del asiento del trono lleva un gran disco solar en el que se indican los puntos cardinales e intercardinales, motivo común en el arte azteca. A la izquierda del disco solar se encuentra la figura de Huitzilopochtli, el dios de la guerra y el sol, con su habitual tocado de colibrí y con el pie izquierdo en forma de serpiente de fuego mientras que a la derecha está Motecuhzoma II realizando un sacrificio a la Dios. El asiento del trono tiene un relieve del monstruo terrestre Tlaltecuhtli de la mitología azteca. Por lo tanto, cuando Motecuhzoma se sentó en el trono, estaba en contacto tanto con la tierra como con el sol, y así cumplía su rol de guardián sagrado de ambos, separándolos con su persona y evitando que el sol colapsara sobre la tierra.

El águila grande en la parte posterior del trono recuerda la leyenda de la fundación de Tenochtitlán cuando Huitzilopochtli indicó el sitio correcto con un águila sentada sobre un cactus. Las figuras son el pueblo azteca que ofrece su corazón en sacrificio y homenaje a sus dioses y gobernante. A los lados de la piedra se sentaron dioses, cada uno con un tetl o símbolo de piedra en sus espaldas, sangre de autosacrificio de sus lomos, ritual típico de la religión azteca. Las cuatro deidades representadas son Tlaloc (dios de la lluvia), Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli (Amanecer), Xiuhtecuhtli (dios del fuego) y Xochipilli (dios de las flores, el verano y la música). También están marcadas las fechas 1 Pedernal y 1 Muerte y un espejo humeante para representar a Tezcatlipoca, el dios del destino. Estas escenas, por lo tanto, se combinan con las otras tallas en relieve en todos los lados de la piedra para dar un testimonio convincente del favor divino disfrutado por el reinado de Motecuhzoma.


Un avance de Moctezuma: Aztec Ruler

Tu rostro se refleja en el espejo negro, pero no puedes verte con claridad. Tus rasgos nadan dentro y fuera de la vista, como una visión en el humo, en uno de los objetos más espeluznantes (y eso es decir algo) en el sensacional éxito de taquilla de este otoño en el Museo Británico.

Es fácil imaginar por qué espejos como este, hechos de una astilla muy pulida del mineral oscuro obsidiana, fueron codiciados por los magos en la Europa del Renacimiento después de la conquista de la civilización indígena americana que los hizo. Hay una cualidad oculta en la imagen de ti mismo que se materializa por un momento, haciéndote preguntarte exactamente quién eres. ¿Moctezuma, último gobernante del imperio azteca, sufrió esa misma ansiedad cuando se miró en su espejo negro? Se dijo que vio presagios perturbadores allí, señales de que se acercaban extraños. Premoniciones de catástrofe inminente.

El espejo de obsidiana negra captura el misterio y la tragedia en el corazón de la nueva exposición del Museo Británico. La historia de Moctezuma es de poder absoluto y entrega abyecta. El verdadero poder emocional de este espectáculo llega al final, cuando ves las armaduras y los estandartes de los soldados españoles que destruyeron a este gobernante y su mundo, y te enfrentas a un acertijo de detectives. ¿Por qué se lo puso tan fácil?

Una epopeya de la vida real

La caída de Moctezuma es un capítulo legendario en el sangriento camino europeo hacia la conquista del mundo y constituye una conclusión adecuada para la serie de exposiciones del Museo Británico sobre grandes gobernantes. Esta serie comenzó con el Primer Emperador de China y termina con uno de los últimos gobernantes nativos de América. La historia que cuenta, y una de las virtudes de este espectáculo convincente es que le da a un lugar y tiempo distantes una narrativa humana comprensible, es una de las epopeyas de la vida real más inquietantes.

En 1519, el aventurero español Hernán Cortés y sus 450 hombres, con la mente llena de oro, desembarcaron en la costa mexicana. Mientras se acercaban a la ciudad dominante de la región, Tenochtitlan, su todopoderoso rey-dios Moctezuma II se preguntaba qué hacer. Al final decidió reunirse con los extranjeros en paz, darles regalos e invitarlos a quedarse. Cuando de repente le propusieron arrestarlo, se fue pacíficamente. Su último acto fue dirigirse a sus súbditos rebeldes, que estaban a punto de finalmente levantarse contra los viciosos intrusos, e instarlos a mantener la calma, a ser pasivos como él. Fue golpeado por piedras arrojadas por la multitud vengativa. Tres días después murió a causa de sus heridas, o eso informaron sus captores españoles. La evidencia presentada en esta exposición sugiere que simplemente lo apuñalaron hasta la muerte cuando se dieron cuenta de que se había vuelto tan impopular que no tenía influencia sobre su pueblo, que tan recientemente lo había adorado.

Moctezuma es una especie de cruce entre Tutankamón y Neville Chamberlain, un rey espléndido convertido en un cobarde apaciguador. Esta exposición no tanto revierte esa imagen como la complica, enriquece y replantea, materializando el mito, haciendo historia a partir de la leyenda.

Se pone cada vez mejor, desde un comienzo innecesariamente desconcertante. El Museo Británico en los últimos años se ha proyectado a sí mismo como un lugar de encuentro liberal de culturas del mundo, con razón y con resultados enormemente populares. Pero solo ocasionalmente su determinación de decir lo correcto puede volverse un poco remilgada y digna. Me irrita entrar en una exposición que dice en el cartel "Moctezuma: gobernante azteca" sólo para encontrarme con un texto de pared altísimo y muy largo que explica firmemente que ya no debemos llamar a los aztecas "aztecas" en absoluto. Al parecer, este nombre se impuso a principios del siglo XIX. El nombre correcto es Mexica. A lo largo de este programa, se le advierte, se usará el nombre Mexica, ¡no escucharemos más de aztecas! Y, por cierto, agrega, Montezuma, el nombre con el que su héroe será familiar para muchos, es un error ortográfico en inglés. A partir de ahora es Moctezuma, muchas gracias.

Si no se siente un poco ofendido por esta severa conferencia, probablemente sea un mexicano, tranquilamente satisfecho de que se haya corregido un nombre incorrecto de siglos. Yo mismo, lo encontré distraído y un poco inútil, porque de todos modos no pronunciaremos Mexica correctamente, ya que no entendemos bien el nombre de Michelagnolo, y de todos modos nadie saldrá de esta exposición con pensamientos acogedores sobre la preconquista estadounidense. culturas. Porque pronto queda claro que los aztecas con cualquier otro nombre están igualmente empapados de sangre.

Ninguna cantidad de retorcimiento de manos o buenas intenciones puede convertir la civilización que los españoles encontraron en 1519 en un benigno paraíso precolonial. Cuando finalmente se recupera del pedante comienzo del espectáculo, una de las primeras cosas que llama la atención es un águila de piedra colosal con una palangana tallada en la espalda, un receptáculo para la sangre humana de los sacrificios en el Templo Mayor de Tenochtitlán.

Y ese es solo el comienzo. Tres cráneos de piedra seguidos son una representación escultórica de galerías de cráneos reales de víctimas de sacrificios que se elevaban sobre la ciudad. Dos hermosas vasijas de cerámica también tienen sorprendentes cráneos tridimensionales que brotan de ellas. Estos cráneos están pintados de rojo y blanco, imitando brillantemente, señala el catálogo, los trozos de grasa ensangrentada aún adheridos a cráneos recién desollados.

Si las salas de apertura de la exposición parecen un poco correctas, el estilo de presentación pronto comienza a tener sentido. Los curadores no intentan disfrazar o disculparse por los sacrificios humanos mexica. En un modelo del recinto sagrado de la ciudad, muestran ríos de sangre que corren por los escalones blancos del gran templo. Este regalo de sangre a los dioses era necesario para asegurar la supervivencia misma de la naturaleza. Moctezuma se hirió ritualmente a sí mismo y dio su propia sangre cuando fue coronado en 1502, luego tuvo que liderar a su ejército en una "guerra de coronación" cuyo objetivo era proporcionar cautivos para el sacrificio humano.

Todo esto se expone con frialdad y, palabra perversa, con sensibilidad. Se trata de una exposición que pretende reconstruir todo un universo social, político y religioso en torno a la figura de un solo hombre, Moctezuma. Fácilmente nos puede hacer estudiar una exposición detallada y escuchar un poco de conferencias, porque el fuego del arte mexicano es tan intenso que todos los textos antropológicos cumplen la útil función refrescante de la crema agria con ají.

Un enorme bloque de piedra tallada que para mí parece un trono, pero el catálogo describe como una escultura que celebra la guerra sagrada, se eleva en el corazón mismo de la exposición, directamente debajo del óculo de la cúpula de la Sala de Lectura. Los dioses con rostros de muerte desfilan sobre él en un friso en bloques, debajo de un disco puntiagudo que representa el sol. Es una de las esculturas mexica con más razón, un punto culminante en una tormenta de serpientes de fuego, dioses emplumados y guerreros que cambian de forma que cautiva la imaginación.

Detalle de un retrato de Moctezuma de la Galería Uffizi, expuesto en la exposición Moctezuma: Aztec Ruler en el Museo Británico. Fotografía: Felix Clay

Una historia truncada

Moctezuma heredó una de las tradiciones visuales más ricas del mundo. Todos los estilos de arte de esta muestra tienen orígenes que se remontan a 3.000 años hasta la época de los olmecas. No solo el arte, sino también las ideas de los mexicas se basaron en la larga historia de las ciudades estado en la región que ahora se conoce como Mesoamérica. Incluso el calendario complejo que usó Moctezuma se remonta a los mayas y, en última instancia, a los olmecas. Lo que vemos aquí es una instantánea de una larga historia justo antes de que fuera violentamente interrumpida, y de ninguna manera era un mundo en declive. Los mexicas tenían un sentido especial por el realismo, por la observación vívida. La cola de una serpiente de piedra gigantesca tiene un sonajero finamente observado. La decoración turquesa, aparentemente abstracta y retorcida de una máscara, resulta que, en una inspección más cercana, representa dos serpientes entrelazadas: como señala el catálogo, esta es una representación precisa de la forma en que las serpientes se aparean. Los mexicas miraban fijamente a las serpientes.

Las observaciones más conmovedoras que hicieron estos artistas fueron del rostro humano. "Representación" es probablemente una palabra engañosa. No hubo "retratos" en este mundo. Las imágenes mexica de rostros son arquetípicas, pero fascinantes. El rostro gris ceniciento del dios Tezcatlipoca me sostuvo durante mucho tiempo. Sus rasgos tallados en piedra verde suave son tan realistas como si se tratara de una máscara de arcilla moldeada en un rostro real: la nariz con sus rebordes vívidos y huesos fuertes, los labios separados para revelar dientes cuadrados. Igualmente seductora es la cabeza de un guerrero águila, su casco de ave de presa declara que pertenece a la élite del ejército de Moctezuma. Los ojos hundidos miran desde un rostro humano poderosamente preciso de un hombre que ha asimilado la fuerza de un ave rapaz.

Lo que nos devuelve a la enigmática historia que cuenta esta exposición. Si comienza torpemente, termina brillantemente. Pinturas y objetos españoles y coloniales, y códices - libros mexica - que cuentan la historia de la conquista, dan un relato complejo e inquietante de la caída de Moctezuma. ¿Realmente, como afirman los manuscritos aquí, vio prodigios en los cielos y otros presagios del ataque español? ¿Fue su parálisis de alguna manera dictada por la profecía, o es solo un mito europeo?

Moctezuma fue un gran líder de guerra, y las imágenes de guerreros águila y jaguar y la imagen de la guerra en forma de trono dejan en claro cuán marcial era la cultura mexica. Entonces, ¿qué salió mal? En cierto modo, es obvio. Uno de los objetos más sorprendentes de la exposición es una daga de sacrificio. Su asa está fabulosamente decorada. Pero su hoja es pedernal tallado, una especie de hoja que dejó de usarse en el Viejo Mundo con el paso del Neolítico. A pesar de toda la riqueza de su civilización, el elaborado calendario y la estupenda arquitectura, los mexicas vivían literalmente en la edad de piedra. Trabajaron oro, pero no hierro. El peto y la espada del conquistador de acero lo dicen todo, y eso es sin los caballos españoles, nuevos en América, y las armas.

Esta exposición logra revelar un mundo perdido. La aceptación pasiva de Cortés por parte de Moctezuma sugiere que simplemente no veía el uso de la lucha. Tal vez fue un gobernante sabio que hizo todo lo posible por su pueblo instándolos a no perder el tiempo contra todo pronóstico. Obviamente, eso nunca le otorgaría la reputación de héroe nacional mexicano. De todos modos, la lucha era incluso más irrelevante de lo que pensaba. Los españoles trajeron accidentalmente la viruela, que redujo la población indígena en un 90% en pocos años. Los mexicas temían el fin del mundo, sus rituales intentaron retrasarlo por un período más de 52 años. La increíble crueldad de la historia estaba escrita en sus creencias. Moctezuma pudo verlo en su espejo negro.


Contenido

El monolito fue tallado por los mexicas a finales del Posclásico Mesoamericano. Aunque se desconoce la fecha exacta de su creación, el glifo del nombre del gobernante azteca Moctezuma II en el disco central fecha el monumento a su reinado entre 1502 y 1520 d.C. [6] No existen indicios claros sobre la autoría o finalidad del monolito, aunque sí existen ciertas referencias a la construcción de un enorme bloque de piedra por parte de los mexicas en su última etapa de esplendor. Según Diego Durán, el emperador Axayácatl "también se afanaba en esculpir la famosa y gran piedra, muy labrada donde se esculpían las figuras de los meses y años, días 21 y semanas". [7] Juan de Torquemada describió en su Monarquía indiana cómo Moctezuma Xocoyotzin ordenó traer una gran piedra de Tenanitla, hoy San Ángel, a Tenochtitlán, pero en el camino cayó sobre el puente del barrio Xoloco. [8]

La roca madre de la que se extrajo proviene del volcán Xitle, y podría haber sido obtenida de San Ángel o Xochimilco. [9] El geólogo Ezequiel Ordóñez en 1893 determinó tal origen y lo dictaminó como basalto olivino. Probablemente fue arrastrado por miles de personas desde un máximo de 22 kilómetros hasta el centro de México-Tenochtitlan. [9]

Tras la conquista, se trasladó al exterior de la Templo mayor, al oeste del entonces Palacio Virreinal y la Acequia Real, donde permaneció al descubierto, con el relieve hacia arriba durante muchos años. [8] Según Durán, Alonso de Montúfar, arzobispo de México de 1551 a 1572, ordenó el entierro de la Piedra del Sol para que "se perdiera el recuerdo del antiguo sacrificio que allí se realizaba". [8]

Hacia finales del siglo XVIII, el virrey Juan Vicente de Güemes inició una serie de reformas urbanísticas en la capital de la Nueva España. Uno de ellos fue la construcción de nuevas calles y la mejora de partes de la ciudad, mediante la introducción de desagües y aceras. En el caso de la entonces denominada Plaza Mayor, se construyeron alcantarillas, se niveló el piso y se remodelaron áreas. Fue José Damián Ortiz de Castro, el arquitecto encargado de las obras públicas, quien informó del hallazgo de la piedra solar el 17 de diciembre de 1790. El monolito se encontró a media yarda (unos 40 centímetros) bajo la superficie del suelo y 60 metros al oeste de la segunda puerta del palacio virreinal, [8] y removida de la tierra con un "aparejo real con doble polea". [8] Antonio de León y Gama acudió al lugar del descubrimiento para observar y determinar el origen y significado del monumento encontrado. [8] Según Alfredo Chavero, [10] fue Antonio quien le dio el nombre de Calendario Azteca, creyéndolo objeto de consulta pública. León y Gama dijo lo siguiente:

. Con motivo de la nueva pavimentación, bajándose el piso de la Plaza, el 17 de diciembre del mismo año, 1790, se descubrió a solo medio metro de profundidad, y a una distancia de 80 al Oeste de la misma segunda puerta de el Palacio Real, y al norte del Portal de las Flores, la segunda Piedra, por la superficie posterior del mismo.

El propio León y Gama intercedió ante el canónigo de la catedral, José Uribe, para que el monolito encontrado no volviera a ser enterrado por su percibido origen pagano (por el que había sido enterrado casi dos siglos antes). [11] León y Gama argumentó que en países como Italia se invirtió mucho en rescatar y exhibir públicamente los monumentos del pasado. [11] Es de destacar que, para el espíritu de la época, se hicieron esfuerzos para exhibir el monolito en un lugar público y también para promover su estudio. [11] León y Gama defendió en sus escritos el carácter artístico de la piedra, en competencia con los argumentos de autores como Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, que daban menos valor a los nacidos en el continente americano, incluido su talento artístico. [11]

El monolito fue colocado a un costado de la torre oeste de la Catedral Metropolitana el 2 de julio de 1791. Allí fue observado, entre otros, por Alexander von Humboldt, quien realizó varios estudios sobre su iconografía. [8] Fuentes mexicanas alegaron que durante la guerra entre México y Estados Unidos, soldados del Ejército de los Estados Unidos que ocuparon la plaza la utilizaron para tiro al blanco, aunque no hay evidencia de tal daño en la escultura. [8] El victorioso general Winfield Scott contempló llevarlo de regreso a Washington DC como trofeo de guerra, si los mexicanos no hacían las paces. [12]

En agosto de 1855, la piedra fue trasladada a la Galería Monolito del Museo Arqueológico de la calle Moneda, por iniciativa de Jesús Sánchez, director de la misma. [8] A través de documentos de la época se conoce la animosidad popular que provocó el "encierro" de un referente público de la ciudad. [8]

En 1964 la piedra fue trasladada al Museo Nacional de Antropología e Historia, donde la piedra preside el Salón Mexica del museo y está inscrita en varias monedas mexicanas.

Antes del descubrimiento del monolito de Tlaltecuhtli, deidad de la tierra, con medidas de 4 por 3,57 metros de altura, se pensaba que la piedra solar era el monolito mexica más grande en dimensiones.

Plaza Mayor de la Ciudad de México de Pedro Guridi (c.1850) muestra el disco solar adherido al costado de la torre de la catedral, fue colocado allí en 1790 cuando fue descubierto y permaneció en la torre hasta 1885

El artista suizo Johann Salomon Hegi pintó el famoso Paseo de las Cadenas en 1851, la piedra del sol se distingue debajo y a la derecha del follaje del fresno

Imagen de la piedra en la Catedral Metropolitana

La Piedra del Sol tal como se exhibió en el Museo Nacional, fotografía tomada en 1915

Fotografía de 1910 de la piedra del sol con (entonces presidente) Porfirio Díaz

Fotografía de 1917 de la Piedra del Sol con (entonces presidente) Venustiano Carranza

Los motivos esculpidos que recubren la superficie de la piedra hacen referencia a componentes centrales de la cosmogonía mexica. El monumento patrocinado por el estado vinculaba aspectos de la ideología azteca como la importancia de la violencia y la guerra, los ciclos cósmicos y la naturaleza de la relación entre los dioses y el hombre. La élite azteca usó esta relación con el cosmos y el derramamiento de sangre a menudo asociado con él para mantener el control sobre la población, y la piedra del sol fue una herramienta en la que la ideología se manifestó visualmente. [13]

Disco central Editar

En el centro del monolito a menudo se cree que está el rostro de la deidad solar, Tonatiuh, [14] que aparece dentro del glifo de "movimiento" (náhuatl: Ōllin), el nombre de la era actual. Algunos eruditos han argumentado que la identidad de la cara central es la del monstruo de la tierra, Tlaltecuhtli, o de una deidad híbrida conocida como "Yohualtecuhtli", a quien se hace referencia como el "Señor de la Noche". Este debate sobre la identidad de la figura central se basa en las representaciones de las deidades en otras obras, así como en el papel de la piedra solar en el contexto del sacrificio, que involucró las acciones de las deidades y los humanos para preservar los ciclos del tiempo. [15] La figura central se muestra sosteniendo un corazón humano en cada una de sus manos con garras, y su lengua está representada por un cuchillo de sacrificio de piedra (Tecpatl).

Cuatro soles o eras anteriores Editar

Los cuatro cuadrados que rodean a la deidad central representan los cuatro soles o eras anteriores, que precedieron a la era actual, "Cuatro Movimientos" (Náhuatl: Nahui Ōllin). Los aztecas cambiaron el orden de los soles e introdujeron un quinto sol llamado "Cuatro Movimiento" después de que tomaron el poder sobre las tierras altas centrales. [16] Cada era terminó con la destrucción del mundo y la humanidad, que luego fueron recreados en la siguiente era.

  • El cuadrado superior derecho representa "Cuatro jaguares" (náhuatl: Nahui Ōcēlotl), el día en que terminó la primera era, después de haber durado 676 años, debido a la aparición de monstruos que devoraron a toda la humanidad.
  • El cuadrado superior izquierdo muestra "Cuatro vientos" (náhuatl: Nahui Ehēcatl), fecha en la que, después de 364 años, los vientos huracanados arrasaron la tierra y los humanos se convirtieron en monos.
  • El cuadrado inferior izquierdo muestra "Cuatro lluvias" (náhuatl: Nahui Quiyahuitl). Esta era duró 312 años, antes de ser destruida por una lluvia de fuego, que transformó a la humanidad en pavos.
  • El cuadrado inferior derecho representa "Cuatro aguas" (náhuatl: Nahui Atl), una era que duró 676 años y terminó cuando el mundo se inundó y todos los humanos se convirtieron en peces.

La duración de las edades se expresa en años, aunque deben observarse a través del prisma del tiempo azteca. De hecho, el hilo conductor de las figuras 676, 364 y ​​312 es que son múltiplos de 52, y 52 años es la duración de un "siglo" azteca, y así es como pueden expresar una cierta cantidad de siglos aztecas. Así, 676 años son 13 siglos aztecas, 364 años son 7 y 312 años son 6 siglos aztecas.

Entre estos cuatro cuadrados hay tres fechas adicionales, "One Flint" (Tecpatl), "Una lluvia" (Atl) y "Seven Monkey" (Ozomahtli), y un Xiuhuitzolli, o diadema turquesa del gobernante, glifo. Se ha sugerido que estas fechas pueden haber tenido un significado tanto histórico como cósmico, y que la diadema puede formar parte del nombre del gobernante mexica, Moctezuma II. [17]

Primer anillo Editar

La primera zona o anillo concéntrico contiene los signos correspondientes a los 20 días de los 18 meses y los cinco nemontemi del calendario solar azteca (náhuatl: xiuhpohualli). El monumento no es un calendario funcional, sino que utiliza los glifos calendáricos para hacer referencia a los conceptos cíclicos del tiempo y su relación con los conflictos cósmicos dentro de la ideología azteca. [18] Comenzando en el símbolo a la izquierda del punto grande en la zona anterior, estos símbolos se leen en sentido antihorario. El orden es el siguiente:

1. cipactli - cocodrilo, 2. ehécatl - viento, 3. calli - casa, 4. cuetzpallin - lagarto, 5. cóatl - serpiente, 6. miquiztli - cráneo / muerte, 7. mázatl - ciervo, 8. tochtli - conejo, 9. atl - agua, 10. itzcuintli - perro, 11. ozomatli - mono, 12. malinalli - hierba, 13. ácatl - caña, 14. océlotl - jaguar, 15. cuauhtli - águila, 16. cozcacuauhtli - buitre, 17. ollín - movimiento, 18. técpatl - pedernal, 19. quiahuitl - lluvia, 20. xóchitl - flor [19]

Segundo anillo Editar

La segunda zona o anillo concéntrico contiene varias secciones cuadradas, y cada sección contiene cinco puntos. Directamente encima de estas secciones cuadradas hay pequeños arcos que se dice que son adornos de plumas. Directamente encima de estos hay espolones o arcos puntiagudos que aparecen en grupos de cuatro. [19] También hay ocho ángulos que dividen la piedra en ocho partes, que probablemente representan los rayos del sol colocados en la dirección de los puntos cardinales.

Tercer anillo y más externo Editar

Dos serpientes de fuego Xiuhcoatl, ocupa casi toda esta zona. Se caracterizan por las llamas que emergen de sus cuerpos, los segmentos de forma cuadrada que componen su cuerpo, las puntas que forman sus colas y sus cabezas y bocas inusuales. En el fondo de la superficie de la piedra, hay cabezas humanas que emergen de la boca de estas serpientes. Los estudiosos han intentado identificar estos perfiles de cabezas humanas como deidades, pero no han llegado a un consenso. [19] Una posible interpretación de las dos serpientes es que representan dos deidades rivales que estuvieron involucradas en la historia de la creación del quinto y actual "sol", Queztalcoatl y Tezcatlipoca. Las lenguas de las serpientes se tocan, haciendo referencia a la continuidad del tiempo y la continua lucha de poder entre las deidades sobre los mundos terrenal y terrestre. [20]

En la parte superior de esta zona, un cuadrado tallado entre las colas de las serpientes representa la fecha Matlactli Omey-Ácatl ("13 cañas"). Se dice que corresponde a 1479, año en el que surgió el Quinto Sol en Teotihuacan durante el reinado de Axayácatl, y al mismo tiempo, indica el año en que fue tallada esta piedra solar monolítica. [19]

Borde de piedra Editar

El borde de la piedra mide aproximadamente 8 pulgadas y contiene una banda de una serie de puntos, así como lo que se ha dicho que son cuchillos de pedernal. Se ha interpretado que esta zona representa un cielo nocturno estrellado. [19]

Desde el momento en que se descubrió la Piedra del Sol en 1790, muchos estudiosos han trabajado para dar sentido a la complejidad de la piedra. Esto proporciona una larga historia de más de 200 años de arqueólogos, eruditos e historiadores que se suman a la interpretación de la piedra. [21] La investigación moderna continúa arrojando luz o arrojando dudas sobre las interpretaciones existentes como descubrimientos como una prueba más de la pigmentación de la piedra. [22] Como dijo Eduardo Matos Moctezuma en 2004: [19]

Además de su tremendo valor estético, la Piedra del Sol abunda en simbolismo y elementos que continúan inspirando a los investigadores a buscar más profundamente el significado de este singular monumento.

Las primeras interpretaciones de la piedra se relacionan con lo que los primeros eruditos creían que era su uso para la astrología, la cronología o como reloj de sol. En 1792, dos años después del desenterrado de la piedra, el erudito mexicano Antonio de León y Gama escribió uno de los primeros tratados de arqueología mexicana sobre el calendario azteca y Coatlicue. [23] Identificó correctamente que algunos de los glifos de la piedra son los glifos de los días del mes. [21] Alexander von Humboldt también quiso transmitir su interpretación en 1803, después de leer la obra de Leon y Gama. No estuvo de acuerdo con el material de la piedra, pero en general estuvo de acuerdo con la interpretación de Leon y Gama. Ambos hombres creyeron incorrectamente que la piedra había sido colocada verticalmente, pero no fue hasta 1875 que Alfredo Chavero escribió correctamente que la posición correcta para la piedra era horizontal. Roberto Sieck Flandes en 1939 publicó un monumental estudio titulado ¿Cómo se pintó la piedra conocida como el calendario azteca? que dio evidencia de que la piedra estaba efectivamente pigmentada con colores azul brillante, rojo, verde y amarillo, al igual que muchas otras esculturas aztecas también se han encontrado. Este trabajo fue posteriormente ampliado por Felipe Solís y otros académicos que volverían a examinar la idea de colorear y crear imágenes digitalizadas actualizadas para una mejor comprensión de cómo podría haber sido la piedra. [19] En general, se estableció que los cuatro símbolos incluidos en el glifo de Ollin representan los cuatro soles pasados ​​por los que los mexicas creían que había pasado la tierra. [24]

Otro aspecto de la piedra es su significado religioso. Una teoría es que la cara en el centro de la piedra representa a Tonatiuh, la deidad azteca del sol. Es por esta razón que la piedra se conoció como la "Piedra del Sol". Richard Townsend propuso una teoría diferente, afirmando que la figura en el centro de la piedra representa a Tlaltecuhtli, la deidad de la tierra mexica que aparece en los mitos de la creación mexica. [21] Los arqueólogos modernos, como los del Museo Nacional de Antropología de la Ciudad de México, creen que es más probable que se haya utilizado principalmente como un recipiente ceremonial o un altar ritual para los sacrificios de gladiadores, que como una referencia astrológica o astronómica. [4]

Yet another characteristic of the stone is its possible geographic significance. The four points may relate to the four corners of the earth or the cardinal points. The inner circles may express space as well as time. [25]

Lastly, there is the political aspect of the stone. It may have been intended to show Tenochtitlan as the center of the world and therefore, as the center of authority. [26] Townsend argues for this idea, claiming that the small glyphs of additional dates amongst the four previous suns—1 Flint (Tecpatl), 1 Rain (Atl), and 7 Monkey (Ozomahtli)—represent matters of historical importance to the Mexica state. He posits, for example, that 7 Monkey represents the significant day for the cult of a community within Tenochtitlan. His claim is further supported by the presence of Mexica ruler Moctezuma II's name on the work. These elements ground the Stone's iconography in history rather than myth and the legitimacy of the state in the cosmos. [27]

Connections to Aztec ideology Edit

The methods of Aztec rule were influenced by the story of their Mexica ancestry, who were migrants to the Mexican territory. The lived history was marked by violence and the conquering of native groups, and their mythic history was used to legitimize their conquests and the establishment of the capital Tenochtitlan. As the Aztecs grew in power, the state needed to find ways to maintain order and control over the conquered peoples, and they used religion and violence to accomplish the task. [28]

The state religion included a vast canon of deities that were involved in the constant cycles of death and rebirth. When the gods made the sun and the earth, they sacrificed themselves in order for the cycles of the sun to continue, and therefore for life to continue. Because the gods sacrificed themselves for humanity, humans had an understanding that they should sacrifice themselves to the gods in return. The Sun Stone's discovery near the Templo Mayor in the capital connects it to sacred rituals such as the New Fire ceremony, which was conducted to ensure the earth's survival for another 52-year cycle, and human heart sacrifice played an important role in preserving these cosmic cycles. [28] Human sacrifice was not only used in religious context additionally, sacrifice was used as a military tactic to frighten Aztec enemies and remind those already under their control what might happen if they opposed the Empire. The state was then exploiting the sacredness of the practice to serve its own ideological intentions. The Sun Stone served as a visual reminder of the Empire's strength as a monumental object in the heart of the city and as a ritualistic object used in relation to the cosmic cycles and terrestrial power struggles. [29]

The sun stone image is displayed on the obverse the Mexican 20 Peso gold coin, which has a gold content of 15 grams (0.4823 troy ounces) and was minted from 1917 to 1921 and restruck with the date 1959 from the mid 1940s to the late 1970s. Different parts of the sun stone are represented on the current Mexican coins, each denomination has a different section.

Currently the image is present in the 10 Peso coin as part of the New Peso coin family started in 1992 having .925 silver centers and aluminum bronze rings changing in 1996 where new coins were introduced with base metal replacing the silver center.

The sun stone image also has been adopted by modern Mexican and Mexican American/Chicano culture figures, and is used in folk art and as a symbol of cultural identity. [30]

In 1996 the Mexican national football team employed a depiction of the sun stone image on to its home, away and third match kits. With each individual shirt being assigned the green (home), white (away) and red (third) colors of the Mexican flag respectively. The kit was featured until the 1998 World Cup in which the Mexican side impressed the world with satisfying results.

Impact of Spanish Colonization Edit

After the conquest of the Aztec Empire by the Spanish in 1521 and the subsequent colonization of the territory, the prominence of the Mesoamerican empire was placed under harsh scrutiny by the Spanish. The rationale behind the bloodshed and sacrifice conducted by the Aztec was supported by religious and militant purposes, but the Spanish were horrified by what they saw, and the published accounts twisted the perception of the Aztecs into bloodthirsty, barbaric, and inferior people. [31] The words and actions of the Spanish, such as the destruction, removal, or burial of Aztec objects like the Sun Stone supported this message of inferiority, which still has an impact today. The Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan was covered by the construction of Mexico City, and the monument was lost for centuries until it was unearthed in 1790. [20] The reemergence of the Sun Stone sparked a renewed interest in Aztec culture, but since the Western culture now had hundreds of years of influence over the Mexican landscape, the public display of the monument next to the city's main cathedral sparked controversy. Although the object was being publicly honored, placing it in the shadow of a Catholic institution for nearly a century sent a message to some people that the Spanish would continue to dominate over the remnants of Aztec culture. [32]

Another debate sparked by the influence of the Western perspective over non-Western cultures surrounds the study and presentation of cultural objects as art objects. Carolyn Dean, a scholar of pre-Hispanic and Spanish colonial culture discusses the concept of “art by appropriation,” which displays and discusses cultural objects within the Western understanding of art. Claiming something as art often elevates the object in the viewer's mind, but then the object is only valued for its aesthetic purposes, and its historical and cultural importance is depleted. [33] The Sun Stone was not made as an art object it was a tool of the Aztec Empire used in ritual practices and as a political tool. By referring to it as a "sculpture" [33] and by displaying it vertically on the wall instead of placed horizontally how it was originally used, [20] the monument is defined within the Western perspective and therefore loses its cultural significance. The current display and discussion surrounding the Sun Stone is part of a greater debate on how to decolonize non-Western material culture.

There are several other known monuments and sculptures that bear similar inscriptions. Most of them were found underneath the center of Mexico City, while others are of unknown origin. Many fall under a category known as temalacatl, large stones built for ritual combat and sacrifice. Matos Moctezuma has proposed that the Aztec Sun Stone might also be one of these. [34]

Temalacatls Edit

The Stone of Tizoc's upward-facing side contains a calendrical depiction similar to that of the subject of this page. Many of the formal elements are the same, although the five glyphs at the corners and center are not present. The tips of the compass here extend to the edge of the sculpture. The Stone of Tizoc is currently located in the National Anthropology Museum in the same gallery as the Aztec Sun Stone.

The Stone of Motecuhzoma I is a massive object approximately 12 feet in diameter and 3 feet high with the 8 pointed compass iconography. The center depicts the sun deity Tonatiuh with the tongue sticking out. [35]

The Philadelphia Museum of Art has another,. [36] This one is much smaller, but still bears the calendar iconography and is listed in their catalog as "Calendar Stone". The side surface is split into two bands, the lower of which represents Venus with knives for eyes the upper band has two rows of citlallo star icons. [35]

A similar object is on display at the Yale University Art Gallery, on loan from the Peabody Museum of Natural History. [37] [38] The sculpture, officially known as Aztec Calendar Stone in the museum catalog but called Altar of the Five Cosmogonic Eras, [35] bears similar hieroglyphic inscriptions around the central compass motif but is distinct in that it is a rectangular prism instead of cylindrical shape, allowing the artists to add the symbols of the four previous suns at the corners. [35] It bears some similarities to the Coronation Stone of Moctezuma II, listed in the next section.

Calendar iconography in other objects Edit

los Coronation Stone of Moctezuma II (también conocido como el Stone of the Five Suns) is a sculpture measuring 55.9 x 66 x 22.9 cm (22 x 26 x 9 in [39] ), currently in the possession of the Art Institute of Chicago. It bears similar hieroglyphic inscriptions to the Aztec Sun Stone, with 4-Movement at the center surrounded by 4-Jaguar, 4-Wind, 4-Rain, and 4-Water, all of which represent one of the five suns, or "cosmic eras". The year sign 11-Reed in the lower middle places the creation of this sculpture in 1503, the year of Motecuhzoma II's coronation, while 1-Crocodile, the day in the upper middle, may indicate the day of the ceremony. [39] The date glyph 1-Rabbit on the back of the sculpture (not visible in the image to the right) orients Motecuhzoma II in the cosmic cycle because that date represents "the beginning of things in the distant mythological past." [39]

los Throne of Montezuma uses the same cardinal point iconography [40] as part of a larger whole. The monument is on display at the National Museum of Anthropology alongside the Aztec Sun Stone and the Stone of Tizoc. The monument was discovered in 1831 underneath the National Palace [41] in Mexico City and is approximately 1 meter square at the base and 1.23 meters tall. [40] It is carved in a temple shape, and the year at the top, 2-House, refers to the traditional founding of Tenochtitlan in 1325 CE. [40]

The compass motif with Ollin can be found in stone altars built for the New Fire ceremony. [35] Another object, the Ceremonial Seat of Fire which belongs to the Eusebio Davalos Hurtado Museum of Mexica Sculpture, [35] is visually similar but omits the central Ollin image in favor of the Sun.

The British Museum possesses a cuauhxicalli which may depict the tension between two opposites, the power of the sun (represented by the solar face) and the power of the moon (represented with lunar iconography on the rear of the object). This would be a parallel to the Templo Mayor with its depictions of Huitzilopochtli (as one of the two deities of the temple) and the large monument to Coyolxauhqui. [35]


Cortes Meets Montezuma

When the Aztec ambassadors brought to Tenochtitlan the news that Cortes, heedless of Montezuma's wishes, was already over the mountains, and moving across the plains to Mexico, the Emperor, beside himself with terror and anxiety, shut himself up and refused to eat, finally convinced that the Spaniards were indeed sent by the gods to overturn the might of his mountain empire, which had been so secure until these strange white beings had invaded his land.

Despondently Montezuma summoned his nobles in council. Cacama, the King of Tezcuco, not knowing how he was to hate the white men later, advised the Emperor to receive Cortes courteously as ambassador of a foreign prince. Cuitlahua, the Emperor's brother, urged him to gather his forces and drive back the white men before they set foot in the kingdom. Hopelessly Montezuma disregarded both suggestions.

"Of what avail is resistance when the gods have declared against us?" he answered, and prepared to send one more embassy to Cortes almost at his gates.

Cacama himself headed this embassy which was to invite Cortes to Tenochtitlan. He was a young fellow, only twenty-five, strong and straight. He traveled in a litter decorated with gold and gems and covered with green plumes.

Cacama found Cortes in the town of Ajotzinco on Lake Chalco, where the natives were entertaining the Spaniards most hospitably. He told Cortes that he came from Montezuma to bid him welcome to Tenochtitlan, and, as proof of Montezuma's friendship, Cacama gave Cortes three large pearls. Cortes in return gave the Indian prince a chain of cut glass, which was as valuable to him as were the pearls to the Spanish general. Then with many assurances of friendship, Cacama went back to Tenochtitlan and Cortes resumed his march.

The way lay along the southern shore of Lake Chalco, through beautiful woods, cultivated fields and orchards of fruit trees unknown to the white men. Finally they came to a great stone dyke five miles long, which separated the fresh water of Lake Chalco from an arm of the salt lake of Tezcuco. In its narrowest part, the dyke was only a lance's length in breadth, but in its widest, eight horsemen could ride abreast. The white men crossed it with eyes open for all the strange sights about them: the floating gardens, rising and falling with the swell of the lake the canoes filled with Indians, darting hither and thither like swallows the many small towns built out on piles far into the lake and looking, at a distance, "like companies of wild swans riding quietly on the waves." Halfway across the dyke, they found a good-sized town, with buildings which stirred great admiration in the Spaniards. They stopped for refreshment and here, so near to the imperial city, Cortes heard no more of Montezuma's cruelty and oppression, only of his power and riches.

After this brief rest, the white men went on. Their march was made difficult by the swarms of curious Indians who, finding the canoes too far away for a complete view of the strangers, climbed up on the causeway to gaze at them. Cortes had to clear a way through the crowd for his troops before they could leave the causeway and reach Iztapalapan, the city of Montezuma's brother, Cuitlahua, on the shores of Lake Tezcuco.

Cuitlahua had invited many neighboring caciques to help him receive Cortes with proper ceremony. The Spaniards were welcomed with gifts and then invited to a banquet in Cuitlahua's palace, before they were assigned their quarters.

Cortes greatly admired Cuitlahua's city, especially the prince's big garden. It was laid out regularly and watered in every corner by canals which connected it with Lake Tezcuco. The garden was filled with shrubs and vines and flowers delightful to smell and see. It had fruit trees, too in one corner was an aviary of brilliant song birds in another a huge stone reservoir stocked with fish. The reservoir was almost five thousand feet in circumference and the stone walk around it was broad enough for four persons to walk abreast.

"In the city of Iztapalapan, Cortes took up his quarters for the night. We may imagine what a crowd of ideas must have pressed on the mind of the conqueror, as, surrounded by these evidences of civilization, he prepared with his handful of followers to enter the capital of a monarch, who, as he had abundant reason to know, regarded him with distrust and aversion. This capital was now but a few miles distant, distinctly visible from Iztapalapan. And as its long lines of glittering edifices, struck by the rays of the evening sun, trembled on the dark-blue waters of the lake, it looked like a thing of fairy creation, rather than the work of mortal hands. Into this city of enchantment Cortes prepared to make his entry on the following morning." [Prescott's Conquest of Mexico ]

It was on the 8th day of November, 1519, that Cortes started on the march that was to take him into the City of Mexico. The general with his cavalry was in the van behind him came his few hundreds of infantry—weather-beaten and disciplined by the summer's campaign next, was the baggage while the six thousand Tlascalans closed the rear. The little army marched back along the southern shore of Lake Tezcuco until it reached the great causeway of Iztapalapan, which ran across the lake straight north to the very heart of the City of Mexico. The dyke was broad enough for ten horsemen to ride abreast Cortes and his army, as they advanced, still wondered at the strange, beautiful sights about them. Less than two miles from the capital the dyke was cut by a shorter dyke running in from the southwest, and at the point where this dyke joined the main causeway of Iztapalapan there was built across the causeway a stone fortification twelve feet high, which could be entered only by a battlemented gateway. It was called the Fort of Xoloc.

At Xoloc Cortes was met by a body of Aztec nobles who, in their holiday dress, came to welcome him. As each noble separately had to greet Cortes, and as there were several hundred of them, the troops had time to get acquainted with the Fort of Xoloc. Later they grew to know it even better.

After the ceremony was over, the army went on along the dyke of Iztapalapan, and presently came to a canal cut through the causeway and spanned by a wooden drawbridge. To Cortes, as he walked over it, must have come the question whether getting out of Mexico would be as easy as getting in.

There was not much time to wonder about the future, however, for now Montezuma, the great Emperor, lord of Anahuac, was coming forth to meet Cortes. In the midst of a throng of great men, preceded by three officers of state bearing golden wands, came Montezuma's royal litter shining with gold, shaded by a canopy of brilliant feather work, adorned with jewels and fringed with silver, and borne on the shoulders of his nobles who, barefooted, walked with humble, downcast eyes.

The royal train halted and Montezuma descended. His attendants spread down a cotton carpet, that his royal feet might not touch the earth, and over this, supported on one side by Cuitlahua and on the other by Cacama, Montezuma came to greet Cortes.

He was about forty years old—six years older than Cortes. His dark, melancholy eyes gave a serious expression to his copper-colored face, with its straight hair and thin beard. He moved with the dignity of a great prince, and as he passed through the lines of his own subjects, they cast their eyes to the ground in humility.

As Montezuma approached, Cortes threw his reins to a page and dismounted, and with a few of his chief men went forward to meet the Emperor. The two great men looked at each other with a keen interest.

Montezuma very graciously welcomed Cortes to his city, and Cortes answered with great respect, adding many thanks for all the Mexican's gifts. He hung on Montezuma's neck a cut glass chain and, except for the interference of two shocked nobles, he would have embraced him.

Montezuma appointed Cuitlahua to escort the Spaniards to their quarters in the city, while he himself entered his litter and was carried back to his palace, followed by the Spaniards with colors flying and music playing. Thus Cortes triumphantly entered Tenochtitlan.

The Spaniards looked around them with the keen interest of people in a place of which they have heard much and see now for the first time. As they had entered by the southern causeway, they were marching through the broad avenue which led from the Iztapalapan dyke straight to the great temple in the center of the city. The houses on this street belonged to the nobles and were built of red stone with broad, flat roofs defended by the parapet which turned every housetop into a fort. Wonderful gardens surrounded the houses and sometimes were laid out on the roofs.

The streets were crowded with people, as eager to see the Christians as the Christians were to see them. The Indians were awed by the white faces and the glittering armor and the horses, but they had only anger for the Tlascalans. The white men might be gods, but the Tlascalans were the Aztecs' bitterest enemies, and it was not pleasant to Aztec eyes to see their foes walking confidently through the Mexican city.

The procession, crossing many bridges where the canals cut the avenue at various places, came at length to the heart of the City of Mexico, the great square, from which ran the four broad avenues. North, south and west these avenues ran to the three causeways that joined the city to the neighboring mainland. The avenue running east stopped at the lake front. In the center of the square stood the great temple in its courtyard surrounded by a high wall cut by a gate opposite each avenue. The temple itself was, excepting the sacred temple of Cholula, the largest and most important of the land.

Opposite the temple, on the southwest corner of the great square, was the royal palace which Montezuma had erected. On the west side was the old royal palace built fifty years before by Montezuma's father, Axayacatl. This palace was given to the Spanish army for their quarters.

Montezuma was in the courtyard of the palace of Axayacatl waiting to receive Cortes and his train. He took from a vase of flowers a chain made of shells ornamented with gold and joined by links of gold, and as he threw it over Cortes' head, he said, "This palace belongs to you, Malinche, and to your brethren. Rest after your fatigue, for you have much need to do so, and in a little while I will visit you again."'

Then he and his followers withdrew, and the white men were left with their allies in their palace in Tenochtitlan. Through much danger and untold hardships, in the face of Montezuma's commands, they had reached his city, and he had housed them in a royal palace. The Spaniards must have wondered that night if the thing were real or if they were in a dream.


Aztec Emperor Montezuma II

One of the most well known Aztec rulers in history, Montezuma II met his end in 1520 during the Spanish conquest of Tenochitlan.

Originally a priest in the temple of the war god Huitzilopochtli, Montezuma II rose to power only to lose his capital, Tenochitlan, to the Spanish conquistadors and then be killed in Spanish custody.

Montezuma II’s Early Years

Montezuma was born in Tenochitlan (now Mexico City) in 1480. He spent much of his formative years studying science, art and more than anything else religion as his training to become a priest in the temple of Huitzilopochtli, the god of war. Also trained in warfare, Montezuma played an integral part in the numerous Aztec wars.

Aztec Emperor Montezuma II

Montezuma rose to power in 1502, succeeding his uncle Ahuitzotl to the throne. Several sources describe Montezuma as a proud ruler who instead of focusing on reality, gave into the power of omens and prophecies. When Montezuma assumed control of the Aztec Empire it was at its largest, stretching from modern Honduras to Nicaragua, but during his reign it was weakened but the resentment of subject tribes because of his need for more tribute and more human sacrifices. He increased taxes on merchants trading withing his boundaries and had all the plebeians removed from his court. Because of his actions as Emperor, revolts and wars broke out between several different tribes and the Aztec capital of Tenochitlan.

The Conquest of Tenochitlan

Being a priest, Montezuma believed that Quetzalcoatl, the white, bearded god of civilization was about to return to the Aztecs and rule over them. In 1519, Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortez (a white man with a thick beard) arrived on the shores of Mexico and Montezuma and the Aztecs instantly assumed that Cortez was Quetzalcoatl. Montezuma sent a group of nobles to meet the Spanish and offer them gifts. But on his way to the city Cortez had met and sided with the Tlaxcala who had been one of the tribes who had led revolts against the Aztecs.

Unaware of the alliance, Montezuma welcomed Cortez into the city and allowed him and his men to live in his palace for several months. During this time the Spanish captured Montezuma, holding him prisoner in his own palace and forcing him to be their political puppet. They made him summon all his chiefs and order them to obey the Spaniards and to begin collecting tribute of gold for the Spanish King. Cortez didn’t remain in Tenochitlan for long as he heard that a group of men from Spain was coming to limit his power. So Cortez left Tenochitlan to try to convince this new group to join him, leaving one of his lieutenants in charge of the city when he was gone.

Montezuma took advantage of his departure, leading an uprising against the remaining Spaniards and barricaded them inside the palace with no food. When Cortez returned, his men were starving and he ordered Montezuma to get them supplies, but he refused so Cortez released one of the Aztec chiefs named Cuitlahuac to do it instead. Cuitlahuac used this freedom to take control of the Aztec revolt and a riot broke out in the city. Cortez, in an attempt to quell the fighting, eventually convinced Montezuma to address his people and tell them to obey the Spanish.

Cortez believed that if had control of Montezuma that he could control the Indians as well, but instead of listening to what Montezuma had to say, the Aztecs threw stones and shot arrows at him. Three days later on June 30, 1520, Montezuma died, although no one knows whether it was from injuries sustained while giving his address or by the hands of the Spanish who didn’t need him anymore.


The Aztec Empire

Civilization in the Valley of Mexico has always centered around despotism, a system of government in which power is entirely in the hands of one person — which, in Aztec times, was a king.

Independent cities peppered the land, and they interacted with one another for the purposes of trade, religion, war, and so on. Despots frequently fought with one another, and used their nobility — usually family members — to try and exercise control over other cities. War was constant, and power was highly decentralized and constantly shifting.

Political control by one city over another was exercised through tribute and trade, and enforced by conflict. Individual citizens had little social mobility and were often at the mercy of the elite class that claimed rulership over the lands on which they lived. They were required to pay taxes and also volunteer themselves or their children for military service as called upon by their king.

As a city grew, its resource needs grew as well, and in order to meet these needs kings needed to secure the influx of more goods, which meant opening new trade routes and getting weaker cities to pay tribute — aka pay money (or, in the ancient world, goods) in exchange for protection and peace.

Of course, many of these cities would have already been paying tribute to another more powerful entity, meaning an ascending city would, by default, be a threat to the power of an existing hegemon.

All of this meant that, as the Aztec capital grew in the century after its founding, its neighbors became increasingly threatened by its prosperity and power. Their feeling of vulnerability often turned into hostility, and this turned Aztec life into one of near-perpetual war and constant fear.
However, the aggression of their neighbors, who picked fights with more than just the Mexica, wound up presenting them with an opportunity to seize more power for themselves and improve their standing in the Valley of Mexico.

This was because — fortunately for the Aztecs — the city most interested in seeing their demise was also the enemy of several other powerful cities in the region, setting the stage for a productive alliance that would allow the Mexica to transform Tenochtitlan from a growing, prosperous city into the capital of a vast and wealthy empire.

The Triple Alliance

In 1426 (a date known by deciphering the Aztec calendar), war threatened the people of Tenochtitlan. The Tepanecs — an ethnic group that had settled mostly on the western shores of Lake Texcoco — had been the dominant group in the region for the previous two centuries, although their grip on power did not create anything that resembled an empire. This was because power remained very decentralized, and the Tepanecs’ ability to exact tribute was nearly always contested — making payments difficult to enforce.

Still, they saw themselves as the leaders, and were therefore threatened by the ascendancy of Tenochtitlan. So, they placed a blockade on the city to slow the flow of goods on and off the island, a power move that would put the Aztecs in a difficult position (Carrasco, 1994).

Unwilling to submit to the tributary demands, the Aztecs sought to fight, but the Tepanecs were powerful at the time, meaning they could not be defeated unless the Mexica had the help of other cities.

Under the leadership of Itzcoatl, the king of Tenochtitlan, the Aztecs reached out to the Acolhua people of the nearby city Texcoco, as well as the people of Tlacopan — another powerful city in the region that was also struggling to fight off the Tepanecs and their demands, and who were ripe for a rebellion against the region’s current hegemon.

The deal was struck in 1428, and the three cities waged war against the Tepanecs. The combined strength of them led to a quick victory that removed their enemy as the dominant force in the region, opening the door for a new power to emerge (1994).

The Beginning of an Empire

The creation of the Triple Alliance in 1428 marks the beginning of what we now understand as the Aztec Empire. It was formed on the basis of military cooperation, but the three parties also intended to help one another grow economically. From sources, detailed by Carrasco (1994), we learn that the Triple Alliance had a few key provisions, such as:

  • No member was to wage war against another member.
  • All members would support one another in wars of conquest and expansion.
  • Taxes and tributes would be shared.
  • The capital city of the alliance was to be Tenochtitlan.
  • Nobles and dignitaries from all three cities would work together to choose a leader.

Based on this, it’s natural to think that we’ve been seeing things wrong all along. It wasn’t an “Aztec” Empire, but rather a “Texcoco, Tlacopan, and Tenochtitlan” Empire.

This is true, to an extent. The Mexica relied on the power of their allies in the initial stages of the alliance, but Tenochtitlan was by far the most powerful city of the three. By choosing it to be the capital of the newly-formed political entity, the tlatoani — the leader or king “the one who speaks” — of Mexico-Tenochtitlan was particularly powerful.

Izcoatl, the king of Tenochtitlan during the war with the Tepanecs, was chosen by the nobles of the three cities involved in the alliance to be the first tlatoque — the leader of the Triple Alliance and the de facto ruler of the Aztec Empire.

However, the real architect of the Alliance was a man named Tlacaelel, the son of Huitzilihuiti, Izcoatl’s half-brother (Schroder, 2016).

He was an important advisor to the rulers of Tenochtitlan and the man behind many of the things that led to the eventual formation of the Aztec Empire. Due to his contributions, he was offered the kingship multiple times, but always refused, famously quoted as saying “What greater dominion can I have than what I hold and have already held?” (Davies, 1987)

Over time, the alliance would become much less prominent and the leaders of Tenochtitlan would assume more control over the affairs of the empire — a transition that began early, during the reign of Izcoatl, the first emperor.
Eventually, Tlacopan and Texcoco’s prominence in the Alliance waned, and for that reason, the Empire of the Triple Alliance is now remembered mainly as the Aztec Empire.


Ensured a Food and Water Supply

The Valley of Mexico where the Aztecs ruled contained about one million people during Montezuma's reign. "This Aztec heartland included not only Tenochtitlan, but at least nine provincial centers and a large number of smaller settlements, the largest and densest population concentration in the entire history of pre-Hispanic American. The only way to feed everyone was by efficient, government-controlled agriculture," explained Brian Fagan in Los aztecas. Montezuma employed inspectors to make sure that every bit of land was planted and that extra food was sent to the capital.

In 1449 Lake Texcoco flooded the city of Tenochtitlan. Rain and hail ruined the harvests and famine struck the Valley of Mexico. Montezuma asked his cousin Nezahualcoyotl, ruler of Texcoco, for help. Nezahualcoyotl directed the construction of a nine-mile-long dike that would help control the water level and also lessen the saltiness of the water so it could be used for farming. The immense project took almost ten years and tens of thousands of workers to complete. After the dike was finished, Montezuma requested that Nezahualcoyotl direct the construction of a three-mile-long aqueduct to bring more drinking water to the city.

In the first half of the 1450s many disasters struck the Aztecs. Grasshoppers and frost destroyed two harvests. Snow and rain caused terrible flooding one year and the next two years saw an extended drought. People had no food, and some even sold their children to distant tribes for corn. Famine led to rebelliousness among the tribes paying tribute to the Aztecs. Montezuma and Tlacaelel met with the provincial puppet rulers of these tribes and arranged for phony wars, called "Flower Wars," in which the chieftains told the Aztecs the size and location of their armies, guaranteeing an Aztec win.

In 1455 the Aztec calendar's 52-year cycle ended and the calendar began again, an occasion marked by fasting and making new fire. Also at this time, the famine ended because of abundant harvests. Worried about future famines, Montezuma decided to ensure a reliable food supply by conquest and the collection of tribute. In 1458 he and his army attacked and conquered the province of Panuco, thus extending the Aztec empire to the sea. In 1461 the army conquered the lands of the Totonacs to the south, along with the people of Coatzocoalcos, and four years later Montezuma defeated the Chalca. His last war, against the Tepeaca in 1466, solidified a course of military expansion that determined Aztec policies until the Spanish arrived in 1519.

During Montezuma's rule, an old garden in Huaxtepec was rediscovered. Montezuma hired an overseer named Pinotetl to renovate the garden's stone fountains, as well as the area's irrigation system. While Pinotetl worked, Montezuma sent requests to the Lord of Cuetlaxtla for vanilla orchids, cacao trees, and other valuable plants, as well as for gardeners who would know how to replant and care for them. The replantings were successful, giving Montezuma great joy, for which he thanked the gods.


Throne of Montezuma - History

OUR STORY

We’ve Been Bringing the Taste of Mexico to Australia for Almost Forty Years.

We’re proud of our heritage at Montezuma’s. From our birth in sunny Burleigh Heads in 1978, we’ve grown into a thriving network of restaurants. Word-of-mouth from satisfied customers has played an important part. Australia knows that Montezuma’s does justice to the magnificent cuisine of Mexico.

Part of our success is we use only the freshest, locally sourced ingredients. Our meals are made fresh to order and we follow Montezuma’s secret recipes to create authentic, Sonora-style recipes.

We pride ourselves on providing customers with excellent value and delicious food delivered in a festive, friendly atmosphere. Life should be enjoyed and we’re here to help you do that.

Our goal is to ensure every dine-in or take-away order at a Montezuma’s Restaurant, you have a satisfying and enjoyable dining experience. We want the memory of Montezuma’s to stay with you.


Massacre of Toxcatl and Return of Cortes

In May of 1520, Cortes had to go to the coast with as many soldiers as he could spare to deal with an army led by Panfilo de Narvaez. Unbeknownst to Cortes, Montezuma had entered into a secret correspondence with Narvez and had ordered his coastal vassals to support him. When Cortes found out, he was furious, greatly straining his relationship with Montezuma.

Cortes left his lieutenant Pedro de Alvarado in charge of Montezuma, other royal captives, and the city of Tenochtitlan. Once Cortes was gone, the people of Tenochtitlan became restless, and Alvarado heard of a plot to murder the Spanish. He ordered his men to attack during the festival of Toxcatl on May 20, 1520. Thousands of unarmed Mexica, most of the members of the nobility, were slaughtered. Alvarado also ordered the murder of several important lords held in captivity, including Cacama. The people of Tenochtitlan were furious and attacked the Spaniards, forcing them to barricade themselves inside the Palace of Axayácatl.

Cortes defeated Narvaez in battle and added his men to his own. On June 24, this larger army returned to Tenochtitlan and was able to reinforce Alvarado and his embattled men.


Conquest of Tenochtitlán

Many Indians welcomed Cortés as a deliverer from Aztec control. Montezuma himself refused to fight Quetzalcoatl emissaries and invited Cortés into the capital. Fearful that the Aztecs might rebel against the Spanish presence, Cortés seized Montezuma, thus becoming the master of the Aztec empire without a struggle. Using Montezuma as his mouthpiece, he governed from behind the throne. Montezuma summoned all his caciques (chiefs), ordering them to obey the Spaniards and to collect tribute and gold for the Spanish monarch.

Cortés and his men remained in Tenochtitlán for several months. By then a new Spanish expedition from Cuba had reached the Mexican shores with orders to limit Cortés's power. Leaving one of his lieutenants in command, Cortés marched to the coast and persuaded his compatriots to join him.

In the meantime an Indian uprising occurred in Tenochtitlán as a result of the ruthless policies followed by Cortés's lieutenants. Cortés hastened back only to find his men barricaded in the palace and threatened by starvation. He ordered Montezuma to arrange for supplies, but the Emperor refused. Cortés then released one of the Aztec chiefs, Cuitlahuac, with orders to open the markets and bring back food. Instead, Cuitlahuac assumed the leadership of the revolt. There was furious fighting in the capital.

Cortés finally convinced Montezuma to address his people and to order them to obey the Spaniards. The angry Indians, however, refused to listen to their captive emperor and showered him with stones. Montezuma died several days later, in June 1520, either from wounds inflicted by the mob or at the hands of the Spaniards.


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