Water wars (precedent #44)
Tenochtitlan, the center of the Aztec empire, was all water. Hernán Cortés demolished the city, stone by stone, and used the rubble to block the canals through which 200,000 canoes used to move. This was the first water war in America. Today, Tenochtitlan is called Mexico City. And where water once flowed, now automobiles throng.
– Eduardo Galeano
According to the myth of the foundation of Tenochtitlan, the god Huitzilopochtli told his people to settle at the spot where they found an eagle holding a serpent in its beak and perched on a stone. Its name comes from Nahuatl tetl (“rock”) and nochtli = (“prickly pear”) and means “Among the prickly pears [growing among] rocks”.
This image from a 16th century Hispanic codex (Codex Durán) , shows this event, although probable historical data indicate that when the Mexicas arrived at Lake Texcoco, there were already settled cultures here. One of them was the Tepanecs of the domain of Azcapotzalco. As foreigners, the Mexicas were forced to live on an islet where they would come to found their city, and they were forced to pay tribute to this empire, until they won their independence around the year 1428 A.D. under the leadership of Itzcoatl. After this event, the Mexicas joined with the cities of Tlacopan and Texcoco to form the “Triple Alliance,” with which the territorial expansion of the Mexicas gained force.
Back to the story of Cortés…
In April 1519 Hernán Cortés, who was the Chief Magistrate of Santiago, Cuba, came upon the coast of Mexico at a point he called Vera Cruz with 508 soldiers, 100 sailors and 14 small cannon. Velazquez called for Cortés to lead an expedition into Mexico after reports from a few previous expeditions to Yucatán caught the interest of the Spanish in Cuba. Velázquez then revoked Cortés’ right to lead the expedition and soon after sent an army led by Pánfilo de Narvaez to take Cortés into custody. Cortés lacked the authority to execute his plan, a fact that would return to harass him when he came back to Spain.
As he moved inland, Cortés soon came into contact with a number of tribes who resented Aztec rule; Cortés skirmished with some of these natives such as the Totonacs and Tlaxcalans who surrounded his army onto a hilltop—which was protected by the impressing artillery fire from his cannons for two agonizing weeks. Bernal Diaz del Castillo wrote that his numerically inferior armed force probably would not have survived if it were not for Xicotencatl the Elder and his wish to form an allegiance with the Spaniards against the Aztecs.
It once was widely believed that the Aztecs initially thought Cortés was Quetzalcoatl, a mythical god prophesied to return to Mexico the same year Cortés landed, and to come from the same direction he came. This is presently believed to be a conquest invention, and scholars agree that the Aztecs were aware that Cortés was not a god.
Moctezuma sent a group of noblemen and other agents of his to meet Cortés at Quauhtechcac. These emissaries brought golden jewelry as a gift, which greatly pleased the Spaniards. According to the Florentine Codex, Lib. 12, f.6r., Moctezuma also ordered that his messengers carry the highly symbolic penacho (headdress) of Quetzalcoatl de Tula to Cortés and place it on his person. As news about the strangers reached the capital city, Moctezuma became increasingly fearful and considered fleeing the city but resigned himself to what he considered to be the fate of his people.
(freshly scraped from wikipedia)