Many historians argue that without the participation of the Tlaxcalans and other indigenous soldiers, Tenochtitlán might never have fallen to the Spanish.
They are also revising the accusation of treachery, arguing that Tlaxcalans and other city states were in fact fighting a war of liberation against the oppressive Mexica (as the Aztecs were known).
“It wasn’t 600 to 800 Spaniards who conquered [Tenochtitlán]. It was thousands and thousands of Tlaxcalans, Huejotzingas or other peoples, who were under the Mexica yoke and wanted to liberate themselves,” archaeologist Eduardo Matos Moctezuma told Radio Formula.
“Cortés had 30,000 to 40,000 Mesoamericans fighting with him,” said Aurelio López Corral, an archaeologist in Tlaxcala. “He couldn’t have done it on his own.”
The conquest is a singular event in Mexican history, seen both as a moment of national trauma and the founding act of the nation – and it remains deeply controversial.
Events to mark the anniversary have been met with tepid enthusiasm, as Mexico struggles with the coronavirus pandemic. A towering replica of the Templo Mayor – the Aztec civilization’s most sacred site – is being erected in Mexico City’s central Zócalo plaza.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has called on the Spanish Crown and the Vatican to apologize for their roles in the “so-called conquest”. Spain declined; Pope Francis apologized while visiting Bolivia in 2015.
Spain was right to decline. Francis is, well, Francis.
Jim Bennett emails: “The entry of allied Tlaxcalan and Spanish forces into Mexico CIty should be viewed in the same manner as the entry into Berlin of allied troops in 1945. A bloody death cult that had subjugated its neighbors and rounded up mass civilian prisoners for execution and ghastly butchery was overthrown by its victims with the help of technologically advanced allies from overseas. Its ideology that justified these grotesque deeds was banned and its propaganda destroyed. Sure Cortez had his rough edges, but so did Stalin.”
To be honest, I think comparing Cortez to Stalin is unfair — to Cortez. But I take the point.