History Files


The Americas

Central American Native Kingdoms




Culhuacan (Toltecs / Aztecs)

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.

The city of Culhuacan (or Culhuacán) was traditionally founded by the Toltecs, who held a large empire in Mexico until it collapsed at the end of the twelfth century. The resulting power vacuum probably allowed the Aztec to migrate in, although Culhuacan managed to maintain its status despite the loss of empire. Most of the information on the Aztec rulers was gathered together by a series of Spanish historians.

(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), from An Analytical Dictionary of Nahuatl, Frances E Karttunen, and from External Links: Aztec History, and SFU Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.)


The great city of Teotihuacan is sacked and its grand buildings burned around this time. Somewhat reduced in circumstance, the city may survive into the eighth century AD but refugees find a new home on the southern shore of Lake Texcoco. Under the leadership of a chieftain named Mixcoatl, the settlement of Culhuacan is founded as the first city of the Toltecs.



Founder chieftain of Culhuacan.


Toltec civilisation flourishes as an empire is born from the city state of Tula, which conquers much of the Mexican region. The settlement of Culhuacan is moved to a fresh site named Tollantzingo. With Tula at the height of its powers at this time, it can easily spare settlers to help populate the new Culhuacan. Other neighbouring sites are also settled and flourish, including that of Itztapalapan.


The Toltec empire undergoes a sudden and violent collapse, possibly due to a long period of drought which induces large population movements, bringing disruption to the region. Refugees settle in some of the towns of the southern Valley of Mexico and the city of Culhuacan survives the collapse. Its leaders claim descent from the Toltec kings.

c.1250 - 1300

Various tribes have been migrating towards the prosperous and flourishing Valley of Mexico. One of them is that of the Nahuatl-speaking Mexica, and they are initially allowed to settle within the territory of Culhuacan. Although they are largely forced to be subservient thanks to their raids on other settlements for women, they generally live in peace. In time they are forced to found their own settlement (around 1325), which becomes the city of Tenochtitlan.

1283 - 1414

Tepanec expands, taking Cuauhnahuac, Cuitlahuac, Culhuacan, and many other cities besides.

fl 1299


Native ruler.


Cocoxtli aids the Azcapotzalco Tepanecs, the Xochimilca, and other cities in expelling the Mexica from Chapultepec. Instead, the Mexica are allowed to settle in the barren land of Tizapan, which lies to the south-west of Chapultepec, making them vassals of Culhuacan. The Mexica become assimilated into Culhuacan's culture and provide mercenaries for the city's wars.

Aztec god of the air Quetzalcoatl
Quetzalcoatl, god of the air, was predicted to arrive in 1519, heralding the beginning of the Nine Hells. Coincidentally, the Spanish seemed to fit the bill for this entirely

early 1300s


Achitometl expels the Mexica and they find their way to a small island in Lake Texcoco, where they found Tenochtitlan.

fl c.1324


fl c.1372


Direct descendant of the Toltecs.


Atotoztli is an Aztec who had married a local woman from Culhuacan. His son, Acamapichtli, is offered the throne of Tenochtitlan.


Tezozomoctli of Azcapotzalco attacks Culhuacan with a large body of troops, mostly Mexica, and subjugates the city. From this point on it is incorporated within the administration of Azcapotzalco. At some point the city must regain a semblance of independence, as it has to be attacked again in 1428.


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. As an early member of the alliance, governance of Itztapalapan is passed more diplomatically to the new Aztec social elite. It is formed into a union of four city states which also includes Culhuacan, Huitzilopochco, and Mexicaltzingo, and which is governed more remotely by Tenochtitlan. Later in his reign, Itzcoatl places his son, Huehua Cuitlahuatzin in command of Itztapalapan and in return the city has no taxes to pay.

1520 - 1521

Culhuacan is conquered and is soon incorporated into the colonial administrative region of New Spain.