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The Americas

Central American Native Kingdoms




Azcapotzalco (Chichimec) (Mesoamerica)

The Aztec people were formed of several ethnic groups that occupied central Mexico. Predominantly this included groups that spoke the Nahuatl language and it was they who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica from the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries AD. The name itself, 'aztec', means 'people from Aztlan', a mythological location for the region's Nahuatl-speaking culture, but it was this that was later adopted to define the Mexica people. From the thirteenth century, the Valley of Mexico was at the heart of Aztec civilization, and it was here that the powerful city of Tenochtitlan was constructed upon raised islets in Lake Texcoco.

Azcapotzalco was a pre-Columbian state in the Valley of Mexico, on the western shores of Lake Texcoco. Reputedly founded in AD 995, by the Chichimecs, the name means 'at the anthill'. These semi-nomadic people were generally viewed as barbarians by the later Aztecs and Spanish, and the Aztecs themselves displaced the original native inhabitants when the Tepanecs first arrived both here and in their sister city of Tepanecin the thirteenth century. The name is a lumping together of various tribal groups, such as the otherwise unknown Caxcanes, Guachichiles, Guamares, Tecuexes, and Zacatecos, the now-extinct Opata, and the surviving Chichimeca Jonaz, Coras, Huicholes, Mayos, O'odham, Otomies, Pames, Tepehuanes, and Yaquis.

Following its conquest by the Spanish, the city gradually became incorporated within the ever-expanding boundaries of the modern Mexico City. Located at the north-eastern edge of the city, Azcapotzalco has supplied its name to the local administrative borough.

(Additional information from Codex Chimalpahin: Society and Politics in Mexico Tenochtitlan, Tlatelolco, Texcoco, Culhuacan and Other Nahua Altepetl in Central Mexico, concerning the writings of seventeenth century Nahua historian Chimalpahin Cuauhtlehuanitzin, otherwise known as Don Domingo Francisco de Antón Muñón, (Ed) Arthur J O Anderson & Susan Schroeder, and from External Link: The political collapse of Chichén Itzá in climatic and cultural context (Science Direct).)


According to Chimalpahin, the city of Azcapotzalco is founded by Chichimec groups, although modern archaeological evidence suggests some form of occupation from around AD 600. At some point between this date and the city's colonisation by Aztecs, it appears to be dominated by the Toltec empire.


Around this time the Toltec empire undergoes a sudden and violent collapse. This is possibly due to a long period of drought which induces large population movements, most notably by Chichimec groups, bringing disruption to the region. Researchers have noticed a slump in construction at numerous sites across the northern territory of the Mayans in the Yucatan which takes place against a backdrop of severe drought. But the drought here is far more severe than usual - the worst drought that the region has seen for fully two thousand years - a so-called megadrought.

It is entirely possible that the more northerly regions of Mesoamerica are similarly affected, triggering migrations which could include the Chichimec, Mixtec, and early Aztecs, and causing the sudden crash of an establishing farming-based society like that of the Toltecs. Pressure from arriving Aztecs could also serve as a further trigger point for Chichimec movement, since the Aztec are clearly superior in warfare and perhaps more numerous too.

Azcapotzalco (Aztecs) (Mesoamerica)

The Tepanec tribe of Aztec/Nahua migrants arrived in the region in the thirteenth century, and took over cities such as Azcapotzalco from the native inhabitants. It took about two centuries for these Aztecs newcomers to turn the city into one of the most powerful in the region, during the reign of Tezozomoctli, to the point that it dominated the eventual seat of the Aztec emperors, Tenochtitlan. However, Tezozomoctli's successors were less fortunate, and Azcapotzalco quickly became subject first to the overlordship of Tepanec in the fifteenth century and then to the Aztec empire.

The seventeenth century chronicler of Central American history, Chimalpahin, provides dates for some rulers. Some modern scholars have suggested revisions, especially for the succession of Tezozomoctli to 1371, but in general the original dates are reliable enough.

(Additional information from Codex Chimalpahin: Society and Politics in Mexico Tenochtitlan, Tlatelolco, Texcoco, Culhuacan and Other Nahua Altepetl in Central Mexico, concerning the writings of seventeenth century Nahua historian Chimalpahin Cuauhtlehuanitzin, otherwise known as Don Domingo Francisco de Antón Muñón, (Ed) Arthur J O Anderson & Susan Schroeder, from Tetzotzomoc, James Grant Wilson & John Fiske (Eds), 1889, and from Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography Vol 1.)

Maxtlacozcatl / Matlacohuatl

Aztec/Nahua Tepanec arrival who took over Azcapotzalco?


The placement after Maxtlacozcatl of Acosta Acolhua is problematical, as he clashes with the (apparently) ruling ancestors of Acolnahuacatl and his son, Tezozomoctli. Even Acosta's existence is doubtful, considering the fact that it is given by the dubious Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography Vol 1 (which contains several faked biographies). The Acolhua peoples found the city states of Tetzcoco and Tanayucan around this time in history - the late twelfth century - so perhaps Acosta (if he is real) is linked to these events. Xólotl is claimed as the first ruler of Tetzcoco and Tanayucan, which makes Acosta's placement there unlikely.

Pre-Columbian Lake Texcoco
Lake Texcoco in the Valley of Mexico formed the heartland of later Aztec power, but it was also home to several powerful city states which predated the rise of the Aztecs, and this included the city of Azcapotzalco

1168 - late 12th C

Acosta Acolhua

Of the Acolhua? Placement here & existence uncertain.


Son of Maxtlacozcatl?






Another dubious entry in Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography Vol 1 - actually the very same entry as for Acosta Acolhua, above - mentions that Tetzotzoaloc begins to rule Azcapotzalco in 1239. Again, this raises a conflict with the ancestors of Acolnahuacatl and Tezozomoctli, so Tetzotzoaloc's existence is uncertain.

1239 - c.1250


Merged with Acosta Acolhua's dubious Appleton entry.


Son of Tehuehuactzin?

1283 - 1414

The Tepanec people expand, taking Cuauhnahuac, Cuitlahuac, and Culhuacan to the east, and many other cities besides. However, while their cities of Azcapotzalco and Tepanec originally seem to be part of a unified state, by the mid-fourteenth century at the latest they appear to become independent of one another, possibly following the reign of Acolnahuacatl.

fl c.1280s?

Tezozomoctli / Tezozomoc (I)

Placement here and relationship to the others uncertain.

fl c.1290s?


Son of Micacalcatl?

1302 - 1367




Acolnahuacatl (otherwise known as Aculnahuacatl or Acolnahuacatzin) had married Cuetlaxochitzin, daughter of king Xolotl of Tenayuca. His death means that the couple's son succeeds him (and also seems to be the point at which Tepanec is ruled by a separate dynasty for around a century). The reign of Tezozomoctli propels the city to new heights of power. An aggressive and proud leader, he grows to a great age, and creates dynastic matches with many other cities.

1367 - 1426

Tezozomoctli / Tezozomoc (II)

Son. Military genius and strong political leader.


Tezozomoctli's son, Cuacuapitzahuac, is offered the throne of Tlatelolco. Tezozomoctli Yacateteltetl himself is one of the region's most powerful rulers, and he manages to secure Tenochtitlan and Tetzcoco as tributary states. He also marries one of his daughters to Huitzilihuitl, ruler of Tenochtitlan, and later installs a son as ruler of a new city or settlement by the name of Atlacuihuayan.


Relations between Ixtlilxochitl of Tetzcoco and Tezozomoctli have been deteriorating for some time, and now open hostilities break out. Tezozomoctli is supported by his son-in-law, Huitzilihuitl of Tenochtitlan, and together they conquer and sack many Aztec cities, including Acolman, Chalco, Cuauhtitlan, Otompa, Tetzcoco, Tollantzingo, Tultitlan, and Xaltocan.


Tayatzin / Tayauh

Son. Throne usurped by Tepanec, and later killed.

1427 - 1520

Following Tezozomoctli's long reign and death, he is succeeded by his son, Tayatzin. However, Maxtla of Tepanec, the older half-brother of Tayatzin, soon incites a rebellion among Azcapotzalco's nobles and usurps the throne. Chimalpopoca of Tenochtitlan allies himself with Tayatzin, and the two conspire to retake the throne and kill Maxtla. In the end, Tayatzin is killed and Maxtla secures his hold over Azcapotzalco. This means that he is also Atlacuihuayan's new overlord, although Tlatelolco seems to escape this fate.

The Azcapotzalco title, Tepaneca tecuhtli, 'Lord of the Tepanecs', is inherited by Totoquilhuaztli of Tlacopan. With the defeat of Maxtla the following year by the Triple Alliance under the new ruler of Tenochtitlan, Itzcoatl, Azcapotzalco is incorporated within the Aztec empire. The fate of Atlacuihuayan is not known but it has to be assumed that it too is incorporated into the empire.

Seventeenth century glyph
This illustration is of a seventeenth century glyph that denotes the Aztec city state of Azcapotzalco, although by this date the Aztecs were firmly under Spanish domination


Azcapotzalco is conquered by the foreign invaders and, after a period of Spanish governance from Tenochtitlan, is soon incorporated into the colonial administrative region of New Spain.