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In Honor of Cuauhtemoctzin (February 23, 1502 – February 28, 1525)

The Story of Resistance and Memory

Cuauhtemoc, which means “One that descends like an eagle,” was 18 years old when he became Tlatoani of Tenochtitlan in 1520. Captured on August 13, 1521, he was held captive three and a half years before being executed on February 28, 1525 by Hernán Cortés.

Concerned with insurrection, Cortés traveled with Cuauhtemoc and other leaders on expeditions throughout what is now Guatemala and Honduras. Based on historical accounts, Cortés ordered Cuauhtemoc’s executed for allegedly plotting to kill him and other Spaniards.

Resistance to the Spanish Invasion was complicated by a smallpox epidemic that decimated 40% of the city’s population.

According to oral tradition, Cuauhtemoc’s remains were taken to Ixcatopean, Guerrero, the place of his birth soon after his execution. As stated in this account, his remains were buried underneath a Catholic Church (shown above) built atop an Indigenous temple and ceremonial site in Ixcateopan. Spanish records corroborate these accounts.

In 1949, Ixcateopan’s town doctor, Salvador Rodríguez Juárez, presented documents to Church elders detailing the exact location of Cuauhtemoc’s burial site. These documents were said to have been passed down in Dr. Rodríguez’s family for over 400 years. Soon after, Mexico’s anthropological bureau, INAH, travelled to confirm the authenticity of his claims. The discovery of Cuauhtemoc’s tomb was officially announced on September 26, 1949.

There are some scholars and historians who have discredited this story as the government’s attempt to promote Mexican nationalism.

The Ixcateopan Church, which was originally a temple, is now a monument to Cuauhtemoc. It attracts thousands of visitors every year. Hundreds of Aztec Dancers travel to there every year to commemorate his birthday.

Read More About Cuauhtemoc

This is an updated version of a previous post. Read it here.

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