History Files


The Americas

Central American Native Kingdoms




Cuitlahuac (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.

An Aztec/Mexica city, Cuitlahuac is only briefly mentioned in the surviving accounts. For most of its history during the Aztec period in Central America it was a subject city. Relatively small, it was located on an island between the lakes of Xochimilco and Chalco, which must have made its inhabitants feel secure enough to refuse Aztec demands to obey them. Before that it had been subject to Tepanec control, until it was conquered by Tenochtitlan. Its only known ruler is right at the end of its pre-Colombian history. Mayehua was probably a priest, and he stood alongside the defenders of Tenochtitlan during its final days.

(Original list by Luiz Gustavo. 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.)

1283 - 1414

Tepanec expands, taking Cuitlahuac along with many other cities in the region.


The eldest son of Acamapichtli of Tenochtitlan is Huitzilihuitl. He proves to be a good politician, cementing alliances with other cities, and marrying the daughter of the ruler of Azcapotzalco, obtaining a reduction in tribute payments to that powerful ruler. He also joins his father-in-law in attacking other Aztec cities, including in 1403 Cuitlahuac and Mixquic. The latter is not conquered at this stage in its history, but probably has to pay tribute.


The kings of Tenochtitlan are crowned in accompaniment with the subjugated Tetzcoco and the ruler of Tlacopan, members of the Triple Alliance which forms the Aztec empire. As primary leader of the alliance, Itzcoatl lays the foundations for the Aztec empire with victories over Tepanec and its subject cities of Coyoacan and Azcapotzalco (1428), Xochimilco (1430), Mixquic (1432), and Cuitlahuac (1433), and he also defeats Culhuacan, and Tezompa, securing agricultural resources and cementing the Triple Alliance's control of the southern half of the Valley of Mexico. Other cities have either already joined the alliance through marriage - including Itztapalapan - or treaty, or they now quickly do so.


On the dual pretexts that the city is impeding trade and that its people had refused to attend a festival in Tenochtitlan, Cuitlahuac is attacked and defeated by Itzcoatl and is drawn into the growing Aztec empire.

Cuitlahuac's warriors attack the Spanish
Cuitlahuac's warriors attack the Spanish during the siege of Tenochtitlan

? - 1521



1520 - 1521

With the advance of the Spanish conquistadors from Cuba, Mayehua flees to Tenochtitlan to take part in the Aztec defence during the siege of 1520. The following year, Cuitlahuac falls with Tenochtitlan.