Exploring Colonial Mexico©

The Espadaña Press Web site

Homepage | Archive | Publications | OrderingYucatan






Crossroads of the Conquest

In the summer of 1519, the conquistador Hernán Cortés left his newly founded colony of Veracruz on the Gulf coast of Mexico and, accompanied by Totonac troops and guides, toiled across the Sierra Madre on his way to meet Montezuma in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan.

En route he faced several daunting challenges: confronting the difficult terrain of an unknown land, as well as the misgivings of his sick and hungry fellow Spaniards. In early September, Cortés arrived at the high stone wall that marked the eastern boundary of the Tlaxcalan Federation, a formidable highland state that, alone and isolated, had resisted the might of the Aztec empire.

Passing beyond this barrier, Cortés engaged in a series of sharp skirmishes with the elite Otomí troops of the Federation. The decisive battle took place on gently sloping ground between the present villages of Tzompantepec and San Andrés Ahuahuaxtepec, where the outnumbered but desperate Spanish soldiers eventually carried the day after prolonged, heavy fighting.

Following this defeat, the Tlaxcalan lords decided to welcome Cortés to their territory, hoping to enlist the fierce Spaniards in their bitter struggle with Montezuma. The rest is history. Cortés and his men went on to subdue the powerful Aztec empire ­ a stunning feat he accomplished only with the support and guidance of his Tlaxcalan allies.

The imposing hillside church of San Andrés Ahuahuaxtepec (top) dates from the 18th century, and is faced with colorful tilework in the popular Pueblan style.

Preserved in the sacristy is a colonial painting (right) that depicts Hernán Cortés and La Malinche, his native consort, with Xicoténcatl, Lord of Tizatlán and the preeminent Tlaxcalan leader.


For more on Tizatlán and the colonial churches of Tlaxcala consult our guide, Mexico's Fortress Monasteries

Check this web site regularly for further features on the colonial art & architecture of Tlaxcala