General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 19 Oct 2020/3 Rain
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Screen mural of the meeting between Moctezuma and Cortés in 1519

Encounters* Countdown (3): our guide to the quincentennial of the Spanish invasion of Mexico...

This is the third part of our month-by-month itinerary commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Spanish-Aztec War, in partnership with Professor Matthew Restall (on our Panel of Experts), closely following the timeline published in his highly recommended book When Montezuma Met Cortés: The True Story of the Meeting that Changed History (Harper Collins, 2018). We’re sincerely grateful to Professor Restall for providing this scholarly and timely running commentary... *Why ‘Encounters’? As Restall says, ‘History IS encounter... the sum of all the narratives of encounters that have brought people together.’
(Detail from screen mural by Roberto Cueva del Río, photo: Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Smallpox epidemic, Florentine Codex Book XII
Smallpox epidemic, Florentine Codex Book XII (Click on image to enlarge)

October. With Tenochtitlan’s grip on the eastern portions of the empire loosened, Tlaxcala consolidated its control over its surrounding valleys and plains; it was now firmly at the head of an eastern triple alliance, dominating the two other major city-states of the region, Huexotzinco and Cholollan. However, the alliance’s bright future was clouded by the persistent presence, and growing numbers, of demanding and disrespectful Spanish men; and by the gradually worsening impact of new diseases. Meanwhile, around the middle of the month, waves of epidemic disease that started earlier in the year appeared to worsen considerably in Tenochtitlan. It seems probable that the sudden increase in the mortality rate in the lacustrine city was due to the arrival of smallpox. According to later claims, smallpox killed as much as half the population of Tenochtitlan during the war. It is more likely that the slaughter of the coming siege, combined with epidemic outbreaks during and for many years after the war, caused such losses. Nonetheless, witnessing family members suffer painful deaths made this a harrowing month - a harrowing autumn - for the Mexica.

This article was uploaded to the Mexicolore website on Oct 16th 2020