Finding Tenochtitlan

Eagle

This is the story of a wandering people that walked through a vast stretch of land of violently changing, harsh climate, unable to find a suitable place to claim as a home; men, women and children wandered with no clear destination or known direction searching for a sign described to them by their deities. Their previous home, Aztlán, the Place of the Herons, had been ravaged by drought. A witness to their suffering, their god Huitzilopochtli took pity on them when they were on the verge of death and spoke to their high priests. His command was: “You shall wander throughout the land until you find a majestic eagle devouring a serpent while standing atop a nopal (prickly pear cactus)”.

At first it sounded like a pretty simple task, for such two animals were abundant in this land but after a long time of fruitless searching they started losing hope. Many grew sceptical and decided to part ways with the rest, joining other tribes and becoming low-class workers, others decided to settle themselves in no man’s land and built their own civilisations from the ground up.

World-renowned historians have declared that the Aztecs’ pilgrimage started in the year 1299 A.D. and 26 years later, in 1325, they finally arrived at their own promised land. Those that never lost their faith in the words of Huitzilopochtli could see the prophecy become true before them. In a region rich with lakes and canals they found a giant nopal, on top of which was perched an eagle as bright as gold devouring a rattlesnake. This land was then christened as Tenochtitlan, which is believed to mean “The place of the clusters of nopal”.

Hernán Cortés arrived to Tenochtitlan in 1519, after sailing along the coasts of Yucatán and Tabasco; he entered the capital of the Aztec empire armed, armoured and accompanied by a full cavalry. He froze in wonder as soon as he stepped through the gates of the city, amazed and rendered speechless at the majesty of that “village on the water” as he described it himself but, in spite of his wonder at such power and riches, the only thing he knew to do with it was to destroy it. He crumbled the statues of our deities and demolished our sacred temples, leaving not one stone standing. He imposed Catholicism as the one and true religion and also took care to get rid of our mother language, forcing each and every Aztec to learn to speak Castilian (nowadays known as Spanish).

In spite of endless battles, bloodshed and the death of every single person who refused to bow to the will of Cortés, the story of a people that wandered without a home for over two decades was passed down from one generation to the next. Nowadays, we proudly display Huitzilopochtli’s prophecy in the centre of our flag and adopted it as our coat of arms as a way to let the world know our history.

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