For the ten years prior to Hernan Cortes’s arrival, odd happenings had haunted the Aztec.
Elders had peculiar and upsetting dreams. Lightning struck a temple honoring the god of fire. The waters of the lake surrounding Tenochtitlan turned rough unexpectedly. Religious leaders feared these were omens of impending disaster.
When Cortes arrived in their lands, many, including Montezuma, were relieved. With his light complexion and dark facial hair, Cortes seemed to be the god QuezalcOatl, as he was described in Aztec legend, who as promised had at last come back to earth. The omens, they reasoned, had foretold QuezalcOatl’s return, not the end of the universe as they feared.
Cortes returned Montezuma’s hospitality by taking him hostage. As the Spaniard tried to take over the city, the Aztec began to fight Cortes’s men. They drove off their enemies, but during the conflict, Montezuma was killed. Even worse, the Spanish were not gone for long. On April 28, 1521, Cortes led 900 Spanish soldiers and thousands of Indian allies in a full-scale assault on Tenochtitlan.
The Aztec’s arrows, clubs, and lances were no match for the Europeans’ swords, guns, and cannons. The great Tenochtitlan was destroyed, shattering the entire Aztec empire.