History Files

The Americas

Central American Native Kingdoms


Tetzcoco / Texcoco (with Tanayucan) (Aztecs) (Mesoamerica)

The Aztec people were formed of several ethnic groups which occupied central Mexico. Predominantly this included groups which 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 which 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 city states of Tetzcoco and Tanayucan were founded by the Acolhua peoples in the uninhabited eastern area of the Aztec heartland. The Acolhua were a cultural branch of the Aztec/Nahua migrants who arrived in the region in the fourteenth century, and both also bore some relation to Tepaneca culture.

However, both the Acolhua and Tepanecs arrived before the main Aztec immigration, and Tetzcoco had a ruling family which was descended from Otomi speakers, only switching to Nahuatl when their ruler, Techotlalatzin, decreed it. This form of blending between established cultures and the Mexica immigrants probably happened in all of the region's existing cities, but few mentions are made of the preceding organisational structure or rulers, so only small glimpses such as this one remain available.

Aztec Hero

(Information by Peter Kessler, with original list by Luiz Gustavo, and 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, (Eds) Arthur J O Anderson & Susan Schroeder, from Tetzotzomoc, James Grant Wilson & John Fiske (Eds), 1889, from Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography Vol 1, and from External Links: Terrifying Mesoamerican Skull Racks Were Erected to Deter Enemies (Ancient Origins), and Conquistadors sacrificed and eaten by Aztec-era people (The Guardian).)


The placement of Acosta Acolhua in the list of rulers of Azcapotzalco 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 related by the dubious Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography Vol 1 (which contains several faked biographies).

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, although this seemingly did not include Tetzcoco despite the presence of a Chichimec population within its vicinity

It is the Acolhua peoples who 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 here unlikely.

fl c.1280s


First ruler. Ruled from Tanayucan.

Xólotl is apparently the first ruler of Tetzcoco and Tanayucan. He conquers much of the Valley of Mexico, perhaps venturing as far as Cuauhnahuac. He also adopts the title, 'Chichimec Teuhctli' ('Emperor of the Chichimec') to show that Acolhuan control over the older Chichimec people of the region is complete.

fl 1304 - ?


Son. 'Cactus King'.

Tlotzin Pochotl

Son. Governor of Tetzcoco on behalf of his father.

? - 1357/77


Son of Tlotzin. 'He Who Flattens the Earth'.

Quinatzin is the first Aztec-Chichimec emperor to rule from Tetzcoco rather than what would seem to have been the more senior city of Tanayucan - until now, at least. The switch reverses the situation, with Tanayucan now becoming the secondary city of the two.

Map of Aztec cities around Lake Texcoco AD 1519
The Aztec rise to dominance in the mid-fifteenth century saw them create some cities themselves, conquer others by force, and dominate the remaining ones, with Itztapalapan located at the south-western corner of Lake Texcoco, on the Itztapalapa peninsula (click or tap on map to view full sized)

1357/77 - 1409

Techotlalatzin / Techotlala

Son. The honorific '-tzin' is sometimes removed.

Techotlalatzin actively adopts the prevailing Valley of Mexico culture, which is predominantly Aztec. The city is apparently subject to Azcapotzalco at this time. Presumably they are dominated by, or have been conquered by Tezozomoctli, military genius and strong political leader.

1409 - 1418

Ixtlilxochitl I

Son of Chimalpopoca of Tenochtitlan. 'Black-eyed Flower'.

c.1416 - 1418

Relations between Ixtlilxochitl and Tezozomoc of Azcapotzalco have been deteriorating for some time, and now open hostilities break out, with Azcapotzalco being supported by Tenochtitlan. Tetzcoco is defeated by Azcapotzalco in 1418 and is granted to Tenochtitlan as a tributary state.

1418 - 1431

The displaced prince of Tetzcoco, Netzahualcoyotl, is allowed to live in Tenochtitlan under the ruler's protection, while his home city is controlled by Azcapotzalco. Netzahualcoyotl becomes a firm ally when he later accedes to the throne of Tetzcoco.


The rulers 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 the alliance gains in power into the 1440s, eighty percent of the captured territory is divided between Tetzcoco and Tenochtitlan, with the remaining twenty percent going to Tlacopan. Tetzcoco also becomes the Aztec empire's cultural centre.

Triple Alliance place names
Shown here are place names of the Aztec Triple Alliance of the fifteenth century, with 'Texcoco' on the left


Netzahualcoyotl avenges his father's death by retaking Tetzcoco with the help of the Triple Alliance under Itzcoatl, the ruler of Tenochtitlan. He is also the one who sacrifices the captured Maxtla of Tepanec.

1431 - 1472

Netzahualcoyotl / Nezahualcoyotl

Son. 'Hungry Coyote'. Poet, philosopher, & lawgiver.


The former governor, Miquiuix of Cuauhnahuac, rebels against Tenochtitlan, but is quickly subdued by Netzahualcoyotl on behalf of the Aztec emperor. The region is divided in two for the payment of tribute.


Forces from Tenochtitlan and Tetzcoco embark on a campaign which will dramatically expand the boundaries of Aztec territory. Their first major gain is the reconquest of Cuauhnahuac. The army goes further, into Mixtec territory, to defeat the city of Coixtlahuaca, killing the Mixtec ruler in the process.

1472 - 1515


Son. 'Hungry Prince'.

1515 - 1520


Son. 'Second ear of Maize', a name honouring a blessing.


Coanacoch / Coanachochtzin

Brother. 'Serpent Ear-Pendant'.


Coanacoch flees before the approach of the Spanish conquistador from Cuba, Hernan Cortes. It is Cortes who records the capture by natives of a Spanish convoy in the same year.

Only a few tens of kilometres from the relative safety of the Spanish army, the convoy of conquistadors and allies encounters a local people known as the Acolhuas, allies of Tetzcoco. Somehow, the caravan of male European civilians, soldiers, women, and children, plus a large number of indigenous allies is captured.

Mesoamerican skull rack
A skull rack, known also as tzompantli in the Nahuatl language, is documented to have been used in several Mesoamerican civilisations, including those of the Aztecs, the Toltecs, and the Mayas - the Acolhuas had plenty of supply for their skull rack

Over the next six months its members meet what would seem to be a grisly end. Traces of construction show that the Acolhuas rebuild Zultepec, a town just to the east of Tenochtitlan, to accommodate the prisoners. The town is eventually renamed Tecoaque, which in the native Nahuatl language means 'the place where they ate them'. Archaeological research from 2015 would appear to support this story, despite some academic resistance.

1520 - 1521


Brother. 'Someone's Anger'. Spanish ally.



Brother. 'Necklaces'. Spanish puppet.

1521 - 1531

Ixtlilxochitl II

Brother. Spanish ally and governor.


Ixtlilxochitl had already rebelled against the imposition of Cacama on the throne in 1515. Under his rule Tetzcoco now defects to the Spanish, substantially weakening Tenochtitlan's resistance. Ixtlilxochitl is Christianised as Don Fernando Ixtlilxóchitl and remains in place as governor until, presumably, Spanish central control of Mexico within the Spanish Colonies is formalised in the Americas with the creation of New Spain.

Images and text copyright © all contributors mentioned on this page. An original king list page for the History Files.