580th anniversary of the death of the most powerful ruler of his time.
By: Miguel Angel Omaña Rojas
Thursday March 22, 2007
Tezozomoc was the ruler of the Tecpanec nation during the 12th century and early 13th. Its capital city was Atzcapotzalco, place of ants, located a couple of miles from Lake Tetzcoco. He was famous for living well over the one hundred years of age. Tezozomoc the Great did not created Atzcapotzalco, but it sure endowed it with monumental beauty and crowned her with overwhelming power. From being a mere participant in a Triple Alliance with with other two nations, Colhuacan and Coatlinchan, Tezozomoc led his nation over them, and created a model never seen before in Anahuac (wrongfully called Mesoamerica or Mexico). The Tezozomocan model, which mixed political wit and military muscle, had his pale imitation in the Mexica Tenuchca nation, also known as the Aztecs.
Tezozomoc of Tlalhuacpan was born according to Cuitlahuaca records in 10-Rabbit, which was the year 1294 in the Christian calendar. Colhuacan registers his birth in 13-Flint, 1286. Either way, all sources confirm the exceptional longevity of Tezozomoc. His longevity will prove crucial to his political manoeuvres, because we was present during the arrival of the last nations into the lake region, which he used into his advantage. His name became synonymous of the 14th and early 15th centuries.
His lineage was not Nahua, nor native to the lake region of Atzcapotzalco. His family came from the Toluca region in what is today western Estado de Mexico. His ethnicity was that of a probable mixture of Matlatzinca and Hñahñu (Otomi). He actually preferred to speak Nahuatl, since that language was also being established by Chichimec rulers as the lingua franca.
During his early life he witnessed important historical events that were preparing the stage for his future rulership. He saw the beginning of the conflict between Cuauhtitlan and Xaltocan, as well as the first fall of Culhuacan. He also saw how the great nation of Chalco grew as the last tribes integrated and created new cities. During those same times, his father Acolhua had political problems with Quinatzin Tlaltecatzin, ruler of Texcoco. While Quinatzin was focused in an internal civil war against Yacanex, Acolhua took some territories that belonged to Texcoco. Tezozomoc became prince and landlord of those newly acquired territories. But a peace accord between Texcoco and Atzcapotzalco obligated Tezozomoc to return those territories.
As the 14th century began, Tezozomoc became tecuhtli of Atzcapotzalco, and tlahtoani of the Tecpanecapan. He married Chalchiuhcozcatzin. He had numerous sons and daughters, which either he put as lords in every city, or married them to ancient ruling houses.
In 2-Reed, 1339, he declared war on Techichco, a border city at the limits of Chalco country. The battle at Techichco lasted many years as Tecpanec forces pushed very slowly the border to their advantage.
7-Flint, 1356, Tezozomoc orders to establish a Tecpanec city nearby Cuauhtitlan. This new semi-autonomous Tecpanec city was named Toltitlan, today Tultitlan. It was key to have this Tecpanec presence, because he wanted to control the north. While in the south, the Chalco War continued. The ancient nation of Cuauhtitlan became wary of Tultitlan.
10-House, 1385, Tlahtoani Tezozomoc uses for the first time a group of mercenaries called the Mexitin or Mexica, which would later became the famous Aztecs. These Mexica men and women got known for their ferocity in battle, especially in the Xochimilco War. Tezozomoc sent the Mexica to the Chalco War. Some princes from Cuauhtitlan, the only friendly nation to the Mexica, also went to that War probably embedded within Mexica forces.
Tezozomoc also began using the Mexica in his wars, because he noted that the Mexica were finally established after many years of wandering around Lake Texcoco. But most importantly, they already had a rulership, and therefore, it was the fastest growing village. Tezozomoc needed the Mexica under his command, not only to not have them as enemies, but also to use them in his conquest plans. After all, at that time the Atzcapotzalca army single-handedly would overrun the small Mexica contingent. What good would come if Tezozomoc would squash the Mexica in their tiny island? Instead he wisely used them to continue establishing his rule.
4-Flint, 1392, Tezozomoc plans and orders the assassination of Pichatzintecuhtli, tlahtoani of the island-nation of Cuitlahuac Tizic. Tezozomoc not only sent to kill the Cuitlahuaca ruler, but also Cuitlahuaca high officials. The noble ones killed by orders of Tezozomoc were Coyotliyacamiuh, Tzopallotzin, Hueiacatzin, Cuamamaztzin, Tlahuahuanqui, and Xiuhtlapoca. In the raid, Tezozomoc also ordered the assassination of Anahuacatl, ruler of Tecpan, who was present in Pichatzintecuhtli’s palace.
5-House, 1393, Cuitlahuac could not recover from Tezozomoc’s “shock and awe”, when he quickly put Tepolitzmaitl as ruler in Cuitlahuac Tizic. Tepolitzmaitl was close to him, and supported the Tecpaneca cause. Cuitlahuac Tizic became politically adhered to Atzcapotzalco, under the high rulership of Tezozomoc.
Hiutzilihuitl II, ruler of Mexico Tenochtitlan, married with Tecpaneca princess Ayauhcihuatl, daughter of his high ruler, Tezozomoc. They begot a boy named Chimalpopoca. Tezozomoc cherished his newborn grandson. Even when he was half Mexica, he was very much fascinated with Chimalpopoca. Many say it was because he was physically handsome, and quite charismatic. Other believe that it may be because all his sons and grandsons were all grownups. This overwhelming love for Chimalpopoca led Tezozomoc to soften taxes and political pressures over Mexico Tenochtitlan. He very much enjoyed his presence, and passionately used any time available to see Chimalpopoca.
The Atzcapotzalco high council somewhat tolerated Tezozomoc’s love for Chimalpopoca. But many grew envy around the ever increasing intrusion of the Mexica into Tecpaneca politics. A group of anti-Mexica, led by Tezozomoc’s, Maxtla, was against softening their voice with the Mexica. Maxtla argued that after all the Mexica remained their vassals. Tezozomoc waged such criticism, and kept doing many things for Chimalpopoca, and his family, including Huitzilihuitl. This less pressure over Mexico led the Mexica to grow more freely, economically and politically.
In later years, Huitzilihuitl died. The Mexica elected Chimalpopoca given the great love Tezozomoc had for him. Maxtla and his anti-Mexica group saw it as cheap political opportunism. Tezozomoc again dismissed criticism, and accepted not only Chimalpopoca’s rulership (all elections in Mexico were pre-approved in Atzcapotzalco), but also a privileged place in his government in the high capital. At this point, Maxtla, ruler of the princedom of Coyohuacan, called for the execution of Chimalpopoca. He argued that Mexica blood should never enter into Atzcapotzalco. Tezozomoc managed to thwart assassination plots against Chimalpopoca, but his worries began creating a toll in his health.
7-Flint, 1408, Tezozomoc creates an elaborate plan to overthrow the government of Cuauhtitlan. He ordered a party in the countryside to be prepared, with important guests as assistants. Xaltemoctzin the Great, ruler of Cuauhtitlan, was especially invited to this party. This was during Cuauhtitlan’s golden era. Xaltemoctzin was their most important ruler, and could politically eclipse Tezozomoc at some point. Not to mention the danger implied of a war against him, because Cuauhtitlan and Mexico Tenochtitlan were great allies. So, during this party, once the people were gathered, Xaltemoctzin arrived. But he never found out that it was staged, because Tezozomoc immediately ordered to hang him in the spot. This was a message to the known world of things to come. Cuauhtitlan was scared of such act, that they did not dare to elect a ruler for the next nine years. With a military government in Cuauhtitlan, Tezozomoc psychologically adhered and controlled that nation. Only one casualty was needed for Tezozomoc to control the northern Cuauhtitlancalque lands.
After the death of Xaltemoctzin, Tezozomoc ordered Tultitlan to begin a coordinated set of skirmishes against Cuauhtitlan’s interests. For that, he installs rulers in Tultitlan, elevating the status of that city.
Once Cuauhtitlan remains in “darkness”, Tezozomoc enters into the northern territories, and invades Tepotzotlan and Mazahuacan.
12-House, 1413, Tezozomoc orders the assassination of Nauhyotzin, tlahtoani of the ancient Toltec city of Culhuacan. With this act, he breaks the Triple Alliance Atzcapotzalco had with Culhuacan and Coatlinchan. Culhuacan, again, without being able to respond to the Tezozomocan “shock and awe”, is annexed to Atzcapotzalco. Tezozomoc orders Acoltzin to be the new ruler of Culhuacan.
At this point the Triple Alliance of Atzcapotzalco – Culhuacan - Coatlinchan/Texcoco ceases to exist. Not only Nauhyotzin was killed, but war declarations between Atzcapotzalco and Texcoco were now unstoppable. For many years Tezozomoc waited for his trophy, Texcoco. But he could not do any move, because Techotlalla was ruling in Texcoco. He did not wanted to break the Alliance with Texcoco under Techotlalla. So he patiently waited for Techotlalla’s natural death. Techotlalla’s son, Ixtlilxochitl Ometochtli became the new ruler of Texcoco, and Netzahualcoyotl the heir.
With several political tricks, he worn Ixtlilxochitl’s patience. It was not the intention of Tezozomoc to engage in a frontal war against Texcoco. The Texcocan army was more prepared and disciplined. To complicate things, the Texcocan tlaccatecatl (general) was his grandson the charismatic Cihuacuecuenotzin. And even when Tezozomoc’s followers perceived Cihuacuecuenotzin as a traitor, he preferred to wait for the perfect moment.
That moment arrived when Tezozomoc pretended to be naïve by sending cotton merchandise to Texcoco. The pochteca who arrived to Texcoco ordered Ixtlilxochitl to manufacture the cotton and then return it to Tezozomoc in the form of beautiful blankets and clothing. Ixtlilxochitl wanted peace at all cost, even when such insult continued several times. In those times, to outsource your manufacturing into other countries was seeing as a sign of power to those orders it, and submission to those that do the job. Ixtlilxochit could not tolerate the situation, and declared war on Atzcapotzalco for such insults. But before sending his army against Atzcapotzalco, in Huexotla Ixtlilxochitl declared his son Netzahualcoyotl as ruler in case of his death. This ceremony in which Netzahualcoyotl was declared ruler in the eyes of Tezcatlipoca, would become the biggest problem for Tezozomoc until his death.
Ixtlilxochitl succeded invading Atzcapotzalco, but after a long siege, Tezozomoc surrendered and pleaded submission. Everyone in Texcoco, including his general Cihuacuecuenotzin, advised him that this was probably another tricky move by Tezozomoc.
5-Reed, 1419, And indeed it was. After Ixtlilxochitl returned his troops to their towns and villages, Tezozomoc released a full-scale conquest of Texcoco. Tezozomoc order his best warriors to follow and assassinate Ixtlilxochitl and Netzahualcoyotl. While fleeing, Nezahualcoyotl was hidden in a tree-top, while Ixtlilxochitl was killed. Texcoco, capital of Acolhuacan, fell to the Atzcapotzalca.
For the next years he puts some of his sons as lords and rulers in the most important cities of Acolhuacan, leaving Texcoco as a lame-duck, for the new high capital for them was Atzcapotzalco. Tezozomoc gave orders to be passed in all cities to capture and kill Netzahualcoyotl. Which many followed, if it wasn’t that Nezahualcoyotl also possessed the same intelligence as Tezozomoc.
11-House, 1425, Tezozomoc orders a remapping of taxation to benefit his grandson city, Mexico Tenochtitlan, and Mexico Tlatelolco. For the first time Mexica enjoys taxing others.
After knowing that Netzahualcoyotl survived the war, Tezozomoc orders Coyohua (Netzahualcoyotl’s aide) and his sons (including Maxtla) to assassinate Netzahualcoyotl. It was not accomplished. Coyohua was faithful to his lord, and his sons missed to locate him accurately.
Tezozomoc at some point receives a captured prisoner from the Chalco War from Nezahualcoyotl as a present. The now weak Tezozomoc began having nightmares that were later interpreted by priests as a warning that Netzahualcoyotl was a danger for his nation should he die. Tezozomoc needed Nezahualcoyotl dead, or else Atzcapotzalco could face his wrath of vengeance. The only loose-end Tezozomoc left was worrying him until his final days. So Tezozomoc made a will, in which he says that any of his sons that murders Nezahualcoyotl would become the high ruler of Atzcapotzalco. Since no one could accomplish it, he named Quetzalayatzin as his heir and successor. But he still ordered that when death came to him, Netzahualcoyotl should be killed during his funerary ceremony, because of his political knowledge he knew the young Netzahualcoyotl would be present.
Tezozomoc also green-lights a Mexica project to build an aqueduct in order to bring water from Chapultepec to Mexico Tenochtitlan. At this point, opposition against the Mexica becomes unstoppable by Tezozomoc. Which fall ill because of it.
13-Reed, 1427, Tezozomoc dies in his palace of Atzcapotzalco. During his funerary ceremony, Netzahualcoyotl did assisted.
What followed was the result of the power vacuum left by Tezozomoc the Great. No one could fill his place in the tlahtoicpalli of Atzcapotzalco. A World War exploded after the coup d’etat of Maxtla, known as the Tecpanec War. The political machinery and astute policies were left only for the new Triple Alliance to appropriate. Until the holocaust of the Spanish Conquest, the Mexica used this same machinery inherited by Tezozomoc to go out and conquer.8-Reed, 2007, 580th anniversary of the death of Tezozomoc.