Imagining Mexico

Selected Pages from the Tlaxcallan Codex

Tenochtitlan scene. Lienzo de Tlaxcala [Tlaxcala Codex], Lithograph c. 1892 (Genaro Lopéz, active 1890s)


Hernán Cortés’s most important allies were the Tlaxcalans, whose kingdom was entirely surrounded by Moctezuma II’s territories. The Lienzo de Tlaxcala, painted about 1550, tells the story of the Conquest from the point of view of the Tlaxcalans. In this scene, Cortés and Doña Marina speak with Moctezuma II, who visited the Spanish quarters in the capital of Tenochtitlan. Gifts of food were brought by the Aztec emperor and his lords.
Homenaje á Cristóbal Colón. (Antigüedades mexicanas); publicadas por la Junta colombina de México en el cuarto centenario del descubrimiento de América. Mexico City: Oficina tipográfica de la Secretaría de fomento, 1892. Fray Angélico Chávez History Library NMHM, John Bourne Collection 972 MexH – Image 11

Tlaxcala scene. Lienzo de Tlaxcala [Tlaxcala Codex], Lithograph c. 1892 (Genaro Lopéz, active 1890s)


As guests in Tenochtitlan, the Spanish forces under Pedro de Alvarado slaughtered a group of noble Aztec dancers. The city revolted, and Moctezuma II died under mysterious circumstances. Cortés evacuated the city on June 30 1520, during the Noche Triste (Sad Night). Some 600 Spaniards (about half of Cortés’s army) and 4,000 native allies were killed while trying to flee down the shortest causeway to the mainland. This image shows King Xicotencatl the Elder receiving Cortés at Tlaxcala, where the battered army fled. The sun shield standard between them symbolizes Cortés’s and his allies’ planning of their final siege of Tenochtitlan.
Homenaje á Cristóbal Colón. (Antigüedades mexicanas); publicadas por la Junta colombina de México en el cuarto centenario del descubrimiento de América. Mexico City: Oficina tipográfica de la Secretaría de fomento, 1892. Fray Angélico Chávez History Library NMHM, John Bourne Collection 972 MexH – Image 29

Tlaxcala scene. Lienzo de Tlaxcala [Tlaxcala Codex], Lithograph c. 1892 (Genaro Lopéz, active 1890s)


The Aztecs surrendered Tenochtitlan in August 1521, after a three-month siege, during which the Spanish cut water and food supplies and demolished the city, until they reached the Great Temple. This scene shows Cortés and his native allies conquering the lakeside towns of Tecpatepec, Xochimilco, Tlacopan, Coyoacan before commencing on Tenochtitlan, defended by Aztec warriors in canoes.
Homenaje á Cristóbal Colón. (Antigüedades mexicanas); publicadas por la Junta colombina de México en el cuarto centenario del descubrimiento de América. Mexico City: Oficina tipográfica de la Secretaría de fomento, 1892. Fray Angélico Chávez History Library NMHM, John Bourne Collection 972 MexH – Image 42