The Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire was one of the most significant events in the Spanish colonization of the Americas. Many of those on the Cortés expedition of 1519 had never seen combat before, in fact, Cortés had never commanded men in battle before. However, there was a generation of Spaniards who participated in expeditions in the Caribbean and Tierra Firme, learning strategy. The Spanish conquest of Mexico had antecedents with established practices, in their advance, the allies were tricked and ambushed several times by the people they encountered. When Cortés left Tenochtitlan to return to the coast and deal with the expedition of Pánfilo de Narváez, Alvarado allowed a significant Aztec feast to be celebrated in Tenochtitlan and on the pattern of the earlier massacre in Cholula, closed off the square and massacred the celebrating Aztec noblemen. The biography of Cortés by Francisco López de Gómara contains a description of the massacre, the Alvarado massacre at the Main Temple of Tenochtitlan precipitated rebellion by the population of the city. When the captured emperor Motecuhzoma II, now seen as a puppet of the invading Spaniards, attempted to calm the outraged populace. Cortés had returned to Tenochtitlan and his men fled the city during the Noche Triste in June,1520. The Spanish, Tlaxcalans and reinforcements returned a year later on August 13,1521 to a civilization that had wiped out by famine. This made it easier to conquer the remaining Aztecs, the fall of the Aztec Empire was the key event in the formation of the Spanish overseas empire, with New Spain, which later became Mexico, a major component. The Spanish conquerors could and did write accounts that narrated the conquest from the first landfalls in Mexico to the victory over the Mexica in Tenochtitlan on August 13,1521. Indigenous accounts are from particular native viewpoints and as the events had a impact on their polity. All accounts of the conquest, Spanish and indigenous alike, have biases, in general, Spanish accounts do not credit their indigenous allies support. Individual conquerors accounts exaggerate that individuals contribution to the conquest, downplaying other conquerors, indigenous allies accounts stress their loyalty to the Spanish and their particular aid as being key to the Spanish victory. Their accounts are similar to Spanish conquerors accounts contained in petitions for rewards and these were almost immediately published in Spain and later in other parts of Europe. Interestingly, Cortéss right-hand man, Pedro de Alvarado did not write at any length about his actions in the New World, two letters to Cortés about Alvarados campaigns in Guatemala are published in The Conquistadors. Rather than it being a petition for rewards for services, as many Spanish accounts were, the account was used by eighteenth-century Jesuit Francisco Javier Clavijero in his descriptions of the history of Mexico. On the indigenous side, the allies of Cortés, particularly the Tlaxcalans, wrote extensively about their services to the Spanish Crown in the conquest, the most important of these are the pictorial Lienzo de Tlaxcala and the Historia de Tlaxcala by Diego Muñoz Camargo
Image: The Conquest of Tenochtitlan
Coat of arms of Villa Rica, Veracruz; the first town council founded by the Spanish. The tile mosaic is located in Mexico City.
Cortés scuttling fleet off Veracruz coast
Palacio de Gobierno, Tlaxcala city: Murals – Discussions between Tlaxcalans and Hernán Cortés