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On This Day… The Capture Of The Last Aztec Emperor

Written by: George Chittenden : 26 May 2019

It was on this day, 13th August, back in 1521 when the last Aztec Emperor, Cuauhtémoc, was captured by the Spanish signalling the end of the Aztec Empire. Cuauhtémoc ascended to the throne at the age of 25, only because the Spanish had already arrived in South America and with them they’d brought deadly smallpox, which devastated the New World and the poor Aztecs. Cuauhtémoc became ruler to replace Cuitlahuac who had died from smallpox.

So why Cuauhtémoc? Well interestingly leadership didn’t pass from father to son, like medieval England for example. In Aztec culture, the most able candidates among the high noblemen were selected and to qualify you needed to be a warrior who had captured enemies for sacrifice. The final candidate was then selected by vote by the highest noblemen. Cuauhtémoc had only been ruler for one year before his capture.

Cuauhtémoc was captured following the Spanish siege of the capital of the Aztec Empire, Tenochtitlan. Cuauhtémoc surrendered to Spanish Conquistador Hernán Cortés and asked the Conquistador to end his life. Cortés refused because Cuauhtémoc had defended his city and deserved respect. It was several years later in 1522 when Cortés had Cuauhtémoc executed for allegedly conspiring to kill him and other Spaniards, finally delivering the final blow to the Aztec Empire and ending an era.

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