Maya and Aztec

Ancient Mesoamerican civilizations

Cronica Mexicayotl by Hernando Alvarado Tezozomoc (excerpt) ||| The finding and Founding of Tenochtitlan

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The finding and Founding of Tenochtitlan

excerpt from the Cronica Mexicayotl by Hernando Alvarado Tezozomoc written in 1609


Here it is told, it is recounted

How the ancients who were called, who were named,

Teochichimeca, Azteca, Mexitin, Chicomoztoca, came, arrived,

When they came to seek,

When they came to gain possession of their land here,

In the great city of Mexico Tenochtitlan. . . .

In the middle of the water where the cactus stands,

Where the eagle raises itself up,

Where the eagle screeches,

Where the eagle spreads his wings,

Where the eagle feeds,

Where the serpent is torn apart,

Where the fish fly,

Where the blue waters and the yellow waters join,

Where the water blazes up,

Where feathers came to be known,

Among the rushes, among the reeds where the battle is joined,

Where the peoples from the four directions are awaited,

There they arrived, there they settled…

They called themselves Teochichimeca, Azteca, Mexitin.

They brought along the image of their god,

The idol that they worshipped.

The Aztecs heard him speak and they answered him;

They did not see how it was he spoke to them…


And after the Azteca, Mexitin sailed here from Aztlan,

They arrived in Culhuacan….

They went everywhere in Culhuacan,

In far-off Culhuacan, in Tona Ichuacan or Tonallan.

All of them journey far—

The people of Michoacan, kin of the Mexicans,

And the people of Malinalco—for all of them came.

And when the Aztecs abandoned the people of Michoacan,

The men and women were amusing themselves in the water at

A place called Patzcuaro.

They made off with the men’s capes and breechcloths

And they took the women’s skirts and huipiles.

The men no longer had breechcloths;

They went about with their bottoms bare,

Rather, they go about with their bottoms bare, uncovered.

The women gave up their blouses and the men became wearers

Of huipiles.

In this manner they abandoned the people of Michoacan.


And the reason Huitzilopochtli went off and abandoned his

Sister, named Malinalxoch, along the way,

That all his fathers abandoned her while she was sleeping,

Was because she was cruel,

She was very evil.

She was an eater of people’s hearts,

An eater of people’s limbs—it was her work—

A bewitcher of people,

An enchanter of people.

She put people to sleep,

She made people eat snakes,

She made people eat scorpions,

She spoke to all the centipedes and spiders

And transformed herself into a sorcerers.

She was a very evil woman;

This was why Huitzilopochtli did not like her,

This was why he did not bring his sister, Malinalxoch, with him,

That they abandoned her and her fathers while they were sleeping.

Then the priest, Huitzilopochtli spoke,

He addressed his fathers, called the `idol-bearers,’ … he said to them,

`O my fathers, the work that Malinalxoch does is not my work.

When I came forth, when I was sent here,

I was given arrows and a shield,

For battle is my work.

And with my belly, with my head,

I shall confront the cities everywhere.

I shall await the peoples from the four directions,

I shall join battle with them,

I shall provide people with drink,

I shall provide people with food!

Here I shall bring together the diverse peoples,

And not in vain, for I shall conquer them,

That I may see the house of jade, the house of gold, the house of

quetzal feathers;

The house of emeralds, the house of coral, the house of amethysts;

The sundry feathers—the lovely cotinga feathers, the roseate

Spoonbill feathers, the trogon feathers—

All the precious feathers;

And the cacao of variegated colors,

And the cotton of variegated colors!

I shall see all this,

For in truth, it is my work,

It was for this that I was sent here.

And now, O my fathers, ready the provisions. Let us go!

Off there we are going to find it!…”

And when the sister of Huitzilopochtli, called Malinalxoch,

Whom they had abandoned while sleeping,

Whom they had gone off and abandoned,

When Malinalxoch awakened, she wept.

She said to her fathers, “O my fathers, where shall we go?

My brother Huitzilopochtli, had abandoned us by trickery.

Where has the evil one gone?

Let us seek the land where we are to dwell….”

Then they saw the mountain called Texcaltepetl;

They established themselves upon it….

Along the way Malinalxoch became big with child,

And the child of Malinalxoch, a son named Copil, was born.

His father’s name was Chimalquauhtli;

He was king of Malinalco….


The others settled at Coatepec….

The Mexicans erected their temple, the house of Huitzilopochtli…

And they laid down Huitzilopochtli’s ball court

And constructed his skull rack.

Then they blocked the ravine, the gorge.

And the water collected, it filled up.

This was done at the word of Huitzilopochtli.

Then he said to his fathers, the Mexicans,

“O my fathers, the water has collected.

Plant, sow, willows, bald cypresses, reeds, rushes and water-lilies!

And the fish, frogs, ajolotes, crayfish, dragonfly larvae,

Ahuihuitlame, ephydrids, and the salamanders multiplied,

And also Izcahuitli,

And the birds, ducks, American coots, and the “red-shouldered” and “yellow-throated” grackles.

And Huitzilopochtli said,

“The Izcahuitli are my flesh, my blood, my substance.”

Then he sang his song,

They all sang and danced;

The song was called Tlaxotecayotl and also Tecuilhuicuicatl;

He composed it there.

Then his fathers, the Centzonhuitznahua, spoke, they said to Huitzilopochtli,

“O priest, the work for which you came shall be done here.

You shall await the people,

You shall meet in battle the people from the four directions,

You shall arouse the cities.

With your belly, with your head,

And your heart, your blood, your substance,

You shall capture them,

That you may see what you promised us—

The many jades, the precious stones, the gold,

The quetzal feathers and sundry precious feathers,

The cacao of variegated colors,

The cotton of variegated colors,

The diverse flowers, the diverse fruits, the diverse riches.

For, in truth, you have founded,

You have become the ruler of your city, here in Coatepec.

Let your fathers, your vassals, the Aztecs, the Mexicans, gather

Here!” The Centzonhuitznahua beseeched him.

Huitzilopochtli became enraged,

“What are you saying?” he said.

“Do you know?

Is it your work?

Are you better than I?

I know what I must do!”

Then, atop the temple, his house, Huitzilopochtli began to array himself.

When he had arrayed himself,

When he had arrayed himself for battle,

He painted his face the color of a child’s excrement,

He made circles around his eyes,

And he took up his shield….

The he went off;

He went to destroy, he went to slay his uncles, the Centzonhuitznahua.

On the sacred ball court he devoured his uncles;

And his mother, she whom he took as his mother, called Coyolxauhcihuatl….

He cut her off head there and devoured her heart,

Huitzilopochtli devoured it….

The Mexicans were frightened.

The Centzonhuitznahua had thought that the city was to be there in Coatepec,

That Mexico was to be there,

But Huitzilopochtli did not want it so.

He made a hole in the dam where the water had been,

And the water broke the dam.

All the bald cypresses, willows, reeds, rushes and water lilies withered.

All the fish, frogs, ajolotes, ephydrids and insects,

And the crayfish and dragonfly larvae that lived in the water


And all the birds perished.


Then Huitzilopochtli set out,

He went off with his fathers, his vassals, the Mexicans….

They came, they settled behind Chapultepec in a place called Techcatitlan….

Then Huitzilopochtli gave orders to the Mexicans….

He said to the idol-bearers,

“O my fathers, wait, for you shall see, wait, for I know what is to happen.

Gird yourselves, be courageous.

Gird yourselves, prepare yourselves.

We shall not dwell here,

We shall find the place off there,

There is where we shall posses it.

Let us await those who shall come to destroy us!…


The son of Malinalxoch, sister of Huitzilopochtli, whose name was Copil,

Spoke, he said to her,

“O my mother, well I know that your brother is off there.”

“Yes, your uncle, named Huitzilopochtli, is yonder,” she said.

“He abandoned me,

He abandoned me by trickery along the way.

Then we settled here in Texcaltepeticpac.”

“Very well, O my mother,” said Copil.

“I know that I must look for him in the place he has found contentment,

In the place he has settled.

I shall destroy him,

I shall devour him,

And I shall destroy, I shall vanquish his fathers

And the vassals that he took with him.

Well I know all the gifts that are marked for him who is to see,

Who is to behold the manifold riches.

And it shall be I.

Mine shall be the knowledge of all the sundry jade and gold,

Of the quetzal feathers and the other feathers,

Of the cacao of variegated colors,

Of the cotton of variegated colors,

Of the diverse flowers and diverse fruits.

O my mother, be not sad.

I go now to seek out the evil one, my uncle….”

Then he came.

He arrayed himself, he adorned himself, he who was called Copil.

He was very evil,

He was a greater sorcerer than his mother, Malinalxoch;

Copil was a very evil man.

He came in the year 1-House, 1285

And in the place called Zoquitzinco he transformed himself.

Once more he came, and in the place called Atlapalco he transformed himself.

He came once again and in the place called Itztapaltemoc he transformed himself,

And because Copil transformed himself, because he turned himself into a flagstone,

It is now called, all of us call it, Itztapaltetitlan.

And after the transformation of Copil,

After Copil had transformed himself into a flagstone,

Once again he returned to his home called Texcaltepeticpac;

(they now call it Malinalco because Malinalxoch dwelt there….)

Once more Copil came…

And in the place called Tecpantzinco he transformed himself.

But Huitzilopochtli knew him at once,

He recognized his nephew, now grown, called Copil.

The he said to his fathers,

“O my fathers, array yourselves, adorn yourselves,

Me nephew, the evil one, is coming.

I am off.

I shall destroy him, I shall slay him!”

He encountered him at the place called Tepetzinco,

And when he saw him, he said,

“Who are you? Where are you from?”

“It is I,” he replied,

Again he spoke to him.

“Where is your home?”

“In Texcaltepeticpac,” he answered.

Then Huitzilopochtli said, “Good. Are you not he whom my sister,

Malinalxoch, brought into the world?”

“Yes, I am he,” Copil said,

“And I shall capture you, I shall destroy you!

Why did you abandon my mother while she was sleeping?

Why did you abandon her by trickery?

I shall slay you!”

“Very well,” Huitzilopochtli said, “Come ahead.”

They pursued each other with cunning,

And they captured Copil in Tepetzinco.

When he was dead Huitzilopochtli cut off his head and slashed open his chest,

And when he had slashed open his chest, he tore out his heart.

Then he placed his head on top of Tepetzintli, which is now called Acopilco,

And there the head of Copil died.

And after Huitzilopochtli slew him,

He ran off with Copil’s heart.

And the idol-bearer, called Quauhtlequetzqui came upon Huitzilopochtli.

When he encountered him, he said,

“You have wearied yourself, O priest.”

“Come, O Quauhtlequetzqui,” he said.

“Here is the heart of the evil one, Copil.

I have slain him.

Run with it into the rushes, into the reeds.

There you shall see the mat of stone

On which Quetzalcoatl rested when he went away,

And his seats, one red and one black.

There you shall halt

And you shall cast away the heart of Copil.”

Then Quauhtlequetzqui went off to cast away the heart.

When he came to the place he had described to him,

He saw the Mat of stone,

And he halted there and cast away the heart;

It fell in among the rushes, in among the reeds….

The place where Quauhcoatl stopped and cast away the heart,

We now call Tlalcocomoco….


Then the Mexicans went to Acuezcomac,

They passed through Huehuetlan, Atlixcan,

Teoculhuacan, Tepetocan, Huitzilac, Culhuacan,

Huixachtla, Cahualtepec, Tetlacuixomac.

They settled in Tlapitzahuayan in the year 2-Rabbit, 1286…

In the year 11-Reed, 1295… the Mexicans passed through Zacatla….

The people of Chalco drove them out,

They stoned them.

Once again they went to Chapultepec….

Behind Chapultepec all the Tepanecas, Azcapotzalcas and Culhuacans,

The Xochimilcas, Cuitlahuacas and Chalcas besieged the Mexicans….

The Mexicans were besieged in Chapultepec in 2-Reed, 1299.

Then the Mexicans moved to Acuezcomac….

Then they came, they settled in Mazatlan,

And all the Mexicans gathered in Tepetocan.


Then from there they went to Culhuacan.

Coxcoxtli was the king of Culhuacan….

Then Huitzilopochtli said to the Mexicans,

“My fathers, say to Coxcoxtli, `where shall we live?'”

They addressed Coxcoxtli, they said to him,

“O lord, O king, we are beseeching you.

Where shall we go?

We have known this to be your city.

Have mercy on us with a small piece of your land on which we may live!”

Coxcoxtli replied, he said, “Very well.”

He summoned his Culhuacan Chiefs, he said to them,

“Where shall they live?”

“O lord, O King, let them go there,” his chiefs said.

“Let the Mexicans live beside the mountain, here in Tizaapan.”

Then they took them, they established them in Tizaapan.

They advised Coxcoxtli, the king, they said,

“O lord, O king, we have taken the Mexicans to Tizaapan.”

“Good,” Coxcoxtli said, “They are monstrous, they are evil.

Perhaps they will meet their end there,

Perhaps they will be devoured by the snakes,

For it is the dwelling place of many snakes.”

But the Mexicans were overjoyed when they saw the snakes.

They cooked them,

They roasted them over the fire, and they ate them….


In the year 13-Reed, 1323,

The Mexicans had passed, had spent twenty-five years in Tizapan Culhuacan.

Then Huitzilopochtli spoke to his fathers, he said to them,

“O my fathers, another person shall appear whose name is Yaocihuatl.

She is my grandmother and we shall have her.

And hear this, O my chiefs, we are not to remain here.

We shall find the place off there.

There is where we shall possess it….

And now gird yourselves, make yourselves ready,

Foy you have heard the Yaocihuatl, my grandmother, will manifest herself there.

I command that you go,

That you ask Achitometl for his child, his daughter.

You are to ask him for his precious child,

For I know he shall give her to you.”

And then the Mexicans went off,

They went to ask Achitometl for his daughter.

The Mexicans spoke to him, they said,

“O my prince, O lord, O king, we your grandfathers, we your vassals, and all the Mexicans,

Pray that you grant, that you give us, your jewel, your quetzal feather,

Your daughter, our granddaughter, the princess.

There, beside the mountain in Tizaapan she will keep guard.”

Achitometl said, “Very well, O Mexicans, you may take her with you.”

He gave her to the Mexicans.

They went off with the daughter of Achitometl,

They brought her,

They settled her in Tizaapan.

Then Huitzilopochtli spoke… he said to them,

“O my fathers, I order you to slay the daughter of Achitometl

And to flay her.

When you have flayed her, you are to dress a priest in her skin.”

They then slew the princess and they flayed her,

And after they flayed her, they dressed a priest in her skin.

Huitzilopochtli then said,

“O my chiefs, go and summon Achitometl.”

The Mexicans went off, they went to summon him.

They said, “O our lord, O my grandson, O lord, O king…

Your grandfathers, the Mexicans beseech you, they say,

`May he come to see, may he come to greet the goddess.

We invite him.'”

Achitometl said, “Very well. Let us go.”

He said to his lords, “Let us go to Tizaapan,

The Mexicans have invited us….”

They took along rubber, copal, papers, flowers, and tabacco,

And also what is called the “lord’s food” to set down in offering

before the goddess….

And when Achitometl arrived in Tizaapan, the Mexicans said,

As they received him,

“You have wearied yourself, O my grandson, O lord, O king.

We, your grandfathers, we, your vassals, shall cause you to become ill.

May you see, ma you greet your goddess.”

“Very good, O my grandfathers,” he said.

He took the rubber, the copal, the flowers, the tabacco, and the food offering,

And he offered them to her,

He set them down before the false goddess whom they had flayed.

Then Achitometl tore off the heads of quail before his goddess;

He still did not see the person before whom he was decapitating the quail.

Then he made an offering of incense and the incense-burner

Blazed up,

And Achitometl saw a man in his daughter’s skin.

He was horror-struck.

He cried out, he shouted to his lords and to his vassals.

He said, “Who are they, eh, O Culhuacans?

Have you not seen?

They have flayed my daughter!

They shall not remain here, the fiends!

We shall slay them, we shall massacre them!

The evil ones shall be annihilated here!”

They began to fight….

The Culhuacan pursued them, they pursued the Mexicans,

They drove them into the water….

The Culhuacans thought that they had perished in the water,

But they crossed the water on their shields,

They crossed on their arrows and shields.

They bound together the arrows, called Tlacochtli,

And those called Tlatzontectli,

And, sitting upon them, they crossed the water….

And sitting upon the shields they crossed the water

When the Culhuacans pursued them.

And they came into the rushes, into the reeds at Mexicatzinco….

There they dried their battle gear which had become wet,

Their insignias, their shields—all their gear.

And their women and children began to weep.

They said, “Where shall we go? Let us remain here in the reeds….”


And then the old Mexicans, Quauhtlequtzqui, or Quauhcoatl,

And also the one called Axolohua went off,

They went into the rushes, into the reeds

At the place that is now called Toltzalan, Acatzalan;

The two of them went to look for the place they were to settle.

And when they came upon it,

They saw the many wondrous things there in the reeds.

This was the reason Huitzilopochtli had given his orders to the idol-bearers, his fathers,

Quauhtlequetzqui, or Quauhcoatl, and Axolohua, the priest.

For he had sent them off,

He had told them all that there was in the rushes, in the reeds,

And that there he, Huitzilopochtli, was to stand,

That there he was to keep guard.

He told them with his own lips,

Thus he sent off the Mexicans.

And then they saw the white bald cypresses, the white willows,

And the white reeds and the white rushes;

And also the white frogs, the white fish, and the white snakes

That lived there in the water.

And they saw the springs that joined;

The first spring faced east and was called Tleatl and Atlatlayan,

The second spring faced north and was called Matlalatl and also Tozpalatl.

And when they saw this the old men wept.

They said, “Perhaps it is to be here.

We have seen what the priest, Huitzilopochtli, described to us

When he sent us off.

He said, `In the rushes, in the reeds, you shall see many things.’

And now we have seen them, we have beheld them!

It has come true, his words when he sent us off have come true!”

Then they said,

“O Mexicans, let us go, for we have beheld them.

Let us await the word of the priest;

He knows how it shall be done.”

Then they came, they sojourned in Temazcaltitlan.

And during the night he saw him,

Huitzilopochtli appeared to the idol-bearer, called

Quauhtlequetzqui, or Quauhcoatl.

He said to him, “O Quauhcoatl, you have seen all there is in among the reeds,

In among the rushes,

You have beheld it.

But hear this:

There is something you still have not seen.

Go, go and look at the cactus,

And on it, standing on it, you shall see an eagle.

It is eating, it is warming itself in the sun,

And your heart will rejoice,

For it is the heart of Copil that you cast away

Where you halted in Tlalcocomoco.

There it fell, where you looked, at the edge of the spring,

Among the rushes, among the reeds.

And from Copil’s heart sprouted what is now called Tenochtli.

There we shall be, we shall keep guard,

We shall await, we shall meet the diverse peoples in battle.

With our bellies, with our heads,

With our arrows, with our shields,

We shall confront all who surround us

And we shall vanquish them all,

We shall make them captives,

And thus our city shall be established.

Mexico Tenochtitlan:

Where the Eagle Screeches

Where he spreads his wings,

Where the Eagle feeds,

Where the fish fly,

And where the Serpent is torn apart.

Mexico Tenochtitlan!

And many things shall come to pass.”

Then Quauhcoatl said to him, “Very well, Oh priest. Your heart has granted it.

Let all the old men, your fathers, hear.”

Then Quauhcoatl gathered the Mexicans together,

He had them hear the words of Huitzilopochtli;

The Mexicans listened.

And then, once more, they went in among the rushes, in among the reeds,

To the edge of the spring.

And when they came out into the reeds,

There at the edge of the spring, was the Tenochtli,

And they saw and Eagle on the Tenochtli, perched on it, standing on it.

It was eating something, it was feeding,

It was pecking at what it was eating.

And when the Eagle saw the Mexicans, he bowed his head low.

(They had only seen the Eagle from afar).

Its nest, its pallet, was of every kind of precious feather —

Of lovely cotinga feathers, roseate spoonbill feathers, quetzal feathers.

And they also saw strewn about the heads of sundry birds,

The head of precious birds strung together,

And some bird’s feet and bones.

And the god called out to them, he said to them,

“O Mexicans, it shall be here!”

(But the Mexicans did not see who spoke).

It is for this reason they call it Tenochtitlan.

And then the Mexicans wept, they said,

“O happy, O blessed are we!

We have beheld the city that shall be ours!

Let us go, now, let us rest….”

This was in the year 2-House, 1325

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