Aztecs Ambush Conquistadors
by Jeff Provine
says: we're very pleased to present a new story from Jeff Provine's
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Day in Alternate History Please note that the opinions expressed in this
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On August 13th 1521,
death had surrounded the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan for two years since
the arrival of the Spanish under Hernan Cortes.
Initially, the foreigners had been greeted as welcome visitors (some even
said gods, avatars of the feathered-serpent, Quetzalcoatl). Tensions
increased as the Spanish were given tribute, allowed to steal more, then
refused to pay for what had been gifts of food, water, and lodging.
Montezuma had shown them the power of his empire and tried to learn what
weaknesses he could of the Spanish to defeat them.
On the Spanish end, Cortés plotted conquest to match Pizarro and the Inca.
He learned much of the Aztec way of life, specifically the system of
tribute and treaties that cobbled together the empire. The Crown and
Governor Velazquez had not granted him this power, and Velazquez had even
sent Narvaez with an army of a thousand men to return the rogue
conquistador. Cortés met with Narvaez under the guise of peace, kidnapped
him, and assumed command of the army, bribing them with promises of Aztec
"Pizarro is impossible without Cortez" - reader's
commentWhile Cortés was gone, the conquistadors in Tenochtitlan had
misunderstood the wild celebrations of the Aztecs as a potential war
gathering and massacred untold hundreds in preemptive self-defense. A
rebellion broke out to destroy the Spanish, but Cortés returned and joined
with Montezuma to quell them. Though they were allies for the moment, the
two quickly began to plot to eliminate the other.
The next year gave devastation to the Aztecs. A slave among Narvaez's men
carried smallpox, and the "huey ahuizotl" (great rash) broke out in the
city and countryside, killing upwards of forty percent of the population,
including the new king following Montezuma, Cuitláhuac. Famine approached
the next year as so many of the Aztecs were ill and could not work the
fields. In all of the chaos, Cortés plotted and gathered supplies.
In May of 1521, Cortés and his allies began their siege of Tenochtitlan.
He used ships that had been scuttled at the end of the voyage from the
Caribbean and newly built ones to cross the lake and canals of the city.
Cuauhtémoc, the new king, fought back, stopping the invasion and beginning
a stalemate in naval combat across the canals. Traps of spear-filled pits,
battles over causeways, and ambushes traded small victories, but the
Aztecs were running out of food, and the Spanish crept closer.
At last, the Cuauhtémoc decided to use a new strategy he had learned from
the Spanish: outright lying. On August 13, he feigned surrender and threw
open the last bastions of his city. The conquistadors and their allies
marched in, parading under the view of the citizens of Tenochtitlan on
rooftops. Just as Cortés approached the king, Tlapaltecatl Opochtzin
leaped out dressed in ceremonial owl warrior garb and plunged a dart deep
under the helmet of the conquistador. The Aztec warriors began assaults
from the buildings all around the invaders, who were caught almost
defenseless. Panic struck the Spanish, and their allies deserted them.
The slaughter continued until nightfall when the last few Spanish
surrendered and were executed by stoning. A small force Cortés had left
behind were able to slip back to Vera Cruz, escaping into the open sea and
returning to Spanish colonies. Over the rest of the summer, Cuauhtémoc
punished the allies of the conquistadors and affirmed his rule.
"Montezuma, who was a true believer in the native
legend of bearded gods from the east" - reader's commentWith the
Aztecs affirmed, the Spanish moved their colonial domain southward, giving
more attention to Andes mines and attempting to maintain peace with the
powerful Aztec in the north. Over the course of the next centuries, the
Aztec would distrust outsiders but still trade with them, gaining black
powder weapons from Dutch, French, and English who wished to keep the
Spanish Empire from expanding. Careful laws kept the loyal Aztec army
armed and the slave city-states suppressed while destroying any European
force that threatened Aztec borders. Later, in the 1700s, Aztecs began
imperial expansion of their own northward, massacring great numbers of
Pueblo and Plains Indians while establishing colonies.
In the early 1800s, the Aztec ran into another expansionist force: the
United States of America. In the 1830s, American settlers encroached on
Aztec lands west of the Mississippi, and war broke out, lasting from 1836
to 1848. After the Aztec War, Americans had gained great swaths of the
southwest in the state of Jefferson (north of the Grand River), Montezuma
Territory, and Polk (where gold was discovered in 1849, leading to rapid
settlement). The Aztec Empire collapsed after the taking of Tenochtitlan
by US Marines, giving way to fractured small city-states.
The small countries met with mixed fortunes: some prospering on their own,
others succumbing to European colonialism (many seized by France under the
rule of Napoleon III), and a few even going on to join the United States
in later years. Today Meso-America, as the former Aztec nations and
various former colonies north of Columbia are called, stands as a
developing region continuing in mixed fortunes of tourism, industry, drug
cartels, and warfare.
says in reality, Cortés had defeated the Aztec king with his political
maneuvers and hundreds of thousands of allies. Upon the surrender of
Cuauhtémoc, he was taken hostage and later executed by the conquistadors.
Looting and killing surrounded the city for days afterward, but eventually
the havoc would settle, and Mexico would remain unified as an important
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