History Files


The Americas

Central American Native Kingdoms




Cuauhnahuac (Tlahuica / Aztecs) (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 civilisation, and it was here that the powerful city of Tenochtitlan was constructed upon raised islets in Lake Texcoco.

The Tlahuica were the first major culture to inhabit this region of Mexico. It was they who founded Cuauhnahuac in a fertile region with a stable all-year-round temperature. The name meant 'place for trees'. Later conquered or assimilated by the Aztec/Mexica, the city was located approximately eighty-five kilometres (fifty-three miles) south of Tenochtitlan. Like the Valley of Mexico, this region just over the Ajusco Mountains enjoyed abundant rainfall and a semi-tropical climate. It quickly became the home of a dense Aztec population organised into city states and was reliant upon intense agricultural practices.

The lands around the city were always fertile, and by the time of the Spanish conquest, the city was densely populated and wealthy thanks to its part in maintaining the glory of the Aztec empire. It made a prime target for the Conquistadors, and an important settlement area for the subsequent colonial period.

(Additional information from Codex Chimalpahin Vol 1: 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, (Eds) Arthur J O Anderson, Susan Schroeder, & Wayne Ruwet (1997), and from An Analytical Dictionary of Nahuatl, Frances E Karttunen.)

12th century

The Tlahuica arrive in the region and found the settlement of Cuauhnahuac.

1283 - 1414

Xólotl, ruler of Tetzcoco, ventures into the region as he conquers much of the Valley of Mexico. Later, Tepanec expands, taking Cuauhnahuac, Cuitlahuac, and Culhuacan to its east, and many other cities besides.

fl 1365



Macuilxochitl attempts to conquer territory as far as the Valley of Mexico, but is halted in his ambitions by Tzalcualtitlan of Chalco, who has the same idea.

? - 1396

Tezcacohuatzin / Ozomatzinteuctli

A sorcerer, one of a dynasty of 'magician lords'.

1396 - 1398

In 1396, Huitzilihuitl of Tenochtitlan begins to expand his empire into Cuauhnahuac's region. He requests the hand in marriage of the ruler's daughter, which is refused. This starts a war which ends with the Aztec ruler victorious in 1396 (perhaps the real intention of the proposal), and Tezcacohuatzin's daughter is taken anyway. She becomes the mother to Moctezuma, later Moctezuma I of the Aztec empire at Tenochtitlan, while Cuauhnahuac appears to become tributary (although still regionally dominant) to Tenochtitlan.

Cuauhnahuac's main temple
Cortes razed Cuauhnahuac's main temple and used the base of the pyramid as the foundation for his own residence

1398 - 1433


Aztec governor for Tenochtitlan.

1403 - 1427

Cuauhnahuac maintains its high standing, and is able to call on troops from Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco to act as auxiliaries in a campaign in what is now the Mexican state of Guerrero (immediately to the west and reaching to the Pacific coast). Neighbouring peoples such as the Coauixcas are conquered. However, this high standing ends in 1427, the year in which the Triple Alliance is formed by the Aztec cities.


Miquiuix rebels against Tenochtitlan, but is quickly subdued by Netzahualcoyotl of Tetzcoco on behalf of the Aztec emperor. The region is divided into two for the payment of tribute, one governed by Cuauhnahuac and the other by Huaxtepec (modern Oaxtepec, within the municipality of Yautepec in the northern part of the Mexican state of Morelos).

1433 - ?


Son of Tezcacohuatzin? Father of 'Queen Atotoztli' of Tenochtitlan.


Tezcacohuatzin's grandson, Moctezuma I, is the offspring of his daughter, Miahuaxihuitl, and Huitzilihuitl of Tenochtitlan. In 1440, Moctezuma becomes ruler of the now-powerful city. Cuauhnahuac retains local rulers, one of whom ascends the throne in 1487, but apparently enjoys a period of independence before 1458.


Aztec forces from Tenochtitlan and Tetzcoco embark on a campaign that will expand the boundaries of Aztec territory dramatically. Their first major gain is the reconquest of Cuauhnahuac. The city presumably remains an integral part of the empire until its fall, although with local rulers in place.

1487 - ?


Aztec governor for Tenochtitlan.

bef 1491 - 1504


Aztec governor for Tenochtitlan.

? - 1520

Itzohuatzin / Itzcoatzin

Aztec governor for Tenochtitlan.

1520 - 1521

Cuauhnahuac is swiftly conquered by the invading Spanish, before even Tenochtitlan, and is soon incorporated into the colonial administrative region of New Spain. The city eventually becomes Cuernavaca, the capital of the Mexican state of Morelos.