Trompe le Monde: A Round the World Tour Diary

An online travel diary so people can keep up to date with what I'm doing and where I'm going.

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Sunday, July 10, 2005

Mexico City part the first: Tenochtitlan and the Conquest

Seeing as I shall be in this gargantuan urban agglomeration known by Mexicans as "el D.F." (Districto Federal) or simply "Meheeco" (as they say it) I figure I shall be writing more than one post about it. So count this as the first of several.

Today I arrived in the biggest city I've ever been to (and the world's second biggest, according to http://www.citypopulation.de/World.html). I managed to get a cheap room by standards round here, though it's still more pricey than the rest of Mexico. Still, not long to go now...


I spent much of today wandering around some sort of large impromptu street market thing, doubtless occurring because it's Sunday. However, I did also do some things of note, namely looking at the ruins of the Templo Mayor of the old Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan (which Civilisation players will be familiar with), on top of which Mexico City is in fact built.

Tenochtitlan was one of the foremost cities in the world when the Spanish Conquistadors arrived, and the Aztec king Moctezuma II could quite easily have sent forces to crush the Europeans flat had he so chosen. And yet, despite the warlike nature of the Aztecs (not to mention the constant requirement their Gods had for human sacrifice), he instead welcomed the foreigners in, leading in the end to his doom. The naughty Spaniards starting taking all kinds of liberties, looting and pillaging, and a disgruntled population, driven mad by Moctezuma's refusal to keep the actions of the conquistadors in check, killed their own king and drove the invaders out. The night that they fled the Spics lost fully two thirds of their number, apparently mostly because the Aztecs took down the bridges (Tenochtitlan was built on swamp) and the greedy Europeans were literally drowned by the weight of the gold booty they were carrying. Mad.

Still, Hernan Cortez, the Spanish leader, wasn't beaten yet. He returned with his allies, most of the other tribes of the region, none of whom had enjoyed the Aztecs rule over them, and laid siege to Tenochtitlan, eventually prevailing, trashing most of the city, and (in true Conquistador style) using many of the stones from the old temples etc to build churches and catholicise the natives.

Why in the bleeding hell did Moctezuma permit Cortez to act like such an arsehole in his city rather than capturing him and burning his heart to the greater glory of pagan gods? The Aztecs had a myth: the God Quetzalcoatl had been drive from Tenochtitlan by an evil god in times past, and had fled to the east. It was prophesied that the light-skinned, bearded god would one day return from there to claim his kingdom. Cortez had a beard. Funny how things work out, isn't it?

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