AUGUST 13, 1521


Born circa 1495, Cuauhtémoc, whose name meant “Descends Like an Eagle,” was cousin and son-in-law of Moctezuma II and the last Aztec emperor.  He became emperor in 1520 on the death of Moctezuma’s successor, Cuitláhuac.  When Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés marched on Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital, Cuauhtémoc defended his capital in a four-month siege that left most of the city destroyed and few Indians surviving.  Cuauhtémoc was captured while trying to flee across Lake Texcoco with his wife, family, and friends.  He was, at first, treated with deference.  Later, however, Cuauhtémoc was tortured to reveal the location of hidden Aztec wealth.  His stoicism and refusal to speak became legendary.  Fearing trouble if he left Cuauhtémoc behind, Cortés took the emperor with him to Honduras.  On February 26, 1522, hearing of a plot against the Spaniards, Cortes had Cuauhtémoc hanged. 

Source: “Cuauhtémoc:  Aztec Emperor,” Encyclopedia Britannica.  Retrieved 7/10/2019,
Painting:  Author unknown.  Date: Latter half of the 17th Century.  Public Domain in U.S.:  Pre 1/1/1925.  Public Domain elsewhere where copyright term is author’s life plus 100 years or less.

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