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What Really Happened To The Aztecs?

Culture & Community By O. DELGADO
What Really Happened To The Aztecs?

Superior Spanish military forces didn't take down the Aztecs

We all think we know what happened to the Aztec empire...

When Hernán Cortés arrived, the Aztec empire was at the height of its power, controlling much of Mexico and Central America.  Its palaces and pyramids rivaled those in Europe and Egypt.  But, in just two years, it all lay in ruins, laid to waste by Hernán Cortés and the Spanish forces with their superior weaponry.


What really happened...

Or was it?  Yes, Cortés did attack Tenochtitlán, but he wasn't alone.  Cortés had just 1,000 Spanish soldiers, but he joined forces with 100,000 natives, mainly Tlaxcalans, tribal enemies of the Aztecs.

Together, they successfully attacked Tenochtitlán and killed Moctezuma.  But, it didn't end there.  Moctezuma was succeeded by his brother and nephew, who mounted a counterattack that decimated the Spanish forces and sent Cortés running back to Cuba.

Unfortunately, at that point, the real damage had been done. Disease introduced by the Spanish was rampant throughout the empire, wiping out 80% of the population, including the Aztec's native enemies.

According to the The Guardian, the disease, which the Aztecs called cocoliztli or "pestilence," wasn't smallpox, but an "enteric fever."  It killed upwards of 15 million people and is the second deadliest epidemic in history, surpassed only by the Bubonic plague.

The remaining Aztecs were assimilated into the Spanish empire and their pure-blooded and mestizo descendants live on in Mexico and Central America today.

Not only do full-blooded Nahua (Aztec) people still live in Central America, Mexico, and the U.S., many Mexicans and Central Americans are descended from them, carrying anywhere from 30 to 70% native DNA.

The Nahua language is still spoken today, and not only by the Nahua people.  Whenever anyone pronounces the name "Mexico," they are speaking Nahua, "Land of the War God."