THE AZTEC EMPIRE
In 1428, under their leader Itzcoatl, the Aztecs formed a three-way alliance with the Texcocans and the Tacubans to defeat their most powerful rivals for influence in the region, the Tepanec, and conquer their capital of Azcapotzalco. Itzcoatl’s successor Montezuma (Moctezuma) I, who took power in 1440, was a great warrior who was remembered as the father of the Aztec empire. By the early 16th century, the Aztecs had come to rule over up to 500 small states, and some 5 to 6 million people, either by conquest or commerce. Tenochtitlán at its height had more than 140,000 inhabitants, and was the most densely populated city ever to exist in Mesoamerica.
EUROPEAN INVASION & FALL OF THE AZTECS
The first European to visit Mexican territory was Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba, who arrived in Yucatan from Cuba with three ships and about 100 men in early 1517. Cordobars reports on his return to Cuba prompted the Spanish governor there, Diego Velasquez, to send a larger force back to Mexico under the command of Hernan Cortes. In March 1519, Cortes landed at the town of Tabasco, where he learned from the natives of the great Aztec civilization, then ruled by Moctezuma (or Montezuma) II. Defying the authority of Velasquez, Cortes founded the city of Veracruz on the southeastern Mexican coast, where he trained his army into a disciplined fighting force. Cortes and some 400 soldiers then marched into Mexico, aided by a native woman known as Malinche, who served as a translator. Thanks to instability within the Aztec empire, Cortes was able to form alliances with other native peoples, notably the Tlascalans, who were then at war with Montezuma.
"In Náhuatl, the language of the Aztec world, one key word for poet was 'tlamatine,' meaning 'the one who knows,' or 'he who knows something.' Poets were considered 'sages of the word,' who meditated on human enigmas and explored the beyond, the realm of the gods."