The “Cronica Mexicayotl“, one of the most important sources of Aztec mythical-historical information, was written in 1609 by Hernando Alvarado Tezozomoc, who was the grandson of Motecuhzoma on his mother’s side and a great grandson of Azayacatl on his father’s. He
tells in this portion of the chronicles of the emergence in 1064 of the Aztecs from Aztlan-Chicomoztoc, led by their god Huitzilopochtli, and their long journey to the place of their
destiny, Tenochtitlan. The chronicle as a whole contains this migration myth as well as myths of Huitzilopochtli, descriptions of the establishment of Tenochtitlan, dynastic history, and detailed genealogical data for the pre-Conquest and colonial Indian rulers of
Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco up to about 1579.
This selection focuses on five episodes in the migration of the Aztecs, each repeating in varying form the essential details of the myth of Huitzilopochtli, who, like Athena among the Greeks, appears and disappears in accordance with the needs of his people.
Thelma Sullivan, the present translator of this work, the original of which is now in the Bibliotheque National de Paris, claims that in addition to its being one of the great sources of mythology and history for this period, the “Cronica Mexicayotl” is a “Saga of true
literary merit and heroic dimensions.” She has abridged this translation slightly to emphasize those features.
Translated from the Nahuatl by Thelma D. Sullivan.
Originally published in “The Finding and Founding of Tenochtitlan,” translated by Thelma D. Sullivan, in “Tlalocan” 6, no. 4 (1971): 312-36.
The myth was divided into sections and editorial corrections were made by the editors.
Taken from: “The Flayed God. The Mesoamerican Mythological Tradition: Sacred Texts and Images From Pre-Colombian and Central America.” Robert H. Markman and Peter T. Markman.
Here it is told, it is recounted
How the ancients who were called, who were named,
Teochichimeca, Azteca, Mexitin, Chicomoztoca, came, arrived,
When they came to seek,
When they came to gain possession of their land here,
In the great city of Mexico Tenochtitlan. . . .
In the middle of the water where the cactus stands,
Where the eagle raises itself up,
Where the eagle screeches,
Where the eagle spreads his wings,
Where the eagle feeds,
Where the serpent is torn apart,
Where the fish fly,
Where the blue waters and the yellow waters join,
Where the water blazes up,
Where feathers came to be known,
Among the rushes, among the reeds where the battle is joined,
Where the peoples from the four directions are awaited,
There they arrived, there they settled…
They called themselves Teochichimeca, Azteca, Mexitin.
They brought along the image of their god,
The idol that they worshipped.
The Aztecs heard him speak and they answered him;
They did not see how it was he spoke to them…
And after the Azteca, Mexitin sailed here from Aztlan,
They arrived in Culhuacan….
They went everywhere in Culhuacan,
In far-off Culhuacan, in Tona Ichuacan or Tonallan.
All of them journey far—
The people of Michoacan, kin of the Mexicans,
And the people of Malinalco—for all of them came.
And when the Aztecs abandoned the people of Michoacan,
The men and women were amusing themselves in the water at
A place called Patzcuaro.
They made off with the men’s capes and breechcloths
And they took the women’s skirts and huipiles.
The men no longer had breechcloths;
They went about with their bottoms bare,
Rather, they go about with their bottoms bare, uncovered.
The women gave up their blouses and the men became wearers
In this manner they abandoned the people of Michoacan.
And the reason Huitzilopochtli went off and abandoned his
Sister, named Malinalxoch, along the way,
That all his fathers abandoned her while she was sleeping,
Was because she was cruel,
She was very evil.
She was an eater of people’s hearts,
An eater of people’s limbs—it was her work—
A bewitcher of people,
An enchanter of people.
She put people to sleep,
She made people eat snakes,
She made people eat scorpions,
She spoke to all the centipedes and spiders
And transformed herself into a sorcerers.
She was a very evil woman;
This was why Huitzilopochtli did not like her,
This was why he did not bring his sister, Malinalxoch, with him,
That they abandoned her and her fathers while they were sleeping.
Then the priest, Huitzilopochtli spoke,
He addressed his fathers, called the `idol-bearers,’ … he said to
`O my fathers, the work that Malinalxoch does is not my work.
When I came forth, when I was sent here,
I was given arrows and a shield,
For battle is my work.
And with my belly, with my head,
I shall confront the cities everywhere.
I shall await the peoples from the four directions,
I shall join battle with them,
I shall provide people with drink,
I shall provide people with food!
Here I shall bring together the diverse peoples,
And not in vain, for I shall conquer them,
That I may see the house of jade, the house of gold, the house of
The house of emeralds, the house of coral, the house of amethysts;
The sundry feathers—the lovely cotinga feathers, the roseate
Spoonbill feathers, the trogon feathers—
All the precious feathers;
And the cacao of variegated colors,
And the cotton of variegated colors!
I shall see all this,
For in truth, it is my work,
It was for this that I was sent here.
And now, O my fathers, ready the provisions. Let us go!
Off there we are going to find it!…”
And when the sister of Huitzilopochtli, called Malinalxoch,
Whom they had abandoned while sleeping,
Whom they had gone off and abandoned,
When Malinalxoch awakened, she wept.
She said to her fathers, “O my fathers, where shall we go?
My brother Huitzilopochtli, had abandoned us by trickery.
Where has the evil one gone?
Let us seek the land where we are to dwell….”
Then they saw the mountain called Texcaltepetl;
They established themselves upon it….
Along the way Malinalxoch became big with child,
And the child of Malinalxoch, a son named Copil, was born.
His father’s name was Chimalquauhtli;
He was king of Malinalco….
The others settled at Coatepec….
The Mexicans erected their temple, the house of Huitzilopochtli…
And they laid down Huitzilopochtli’s ball court
And constructed his skull rack.
Then they blocked the ravine, the gorge.
And the water collected, it filled up.
This was done at the word of Huitzilopochtli.
Then he said to his fathers, the Mexicans,
“O my fathers, the water has collected.
Plant, sow, willows, bald cypresses, reeds, rushes and water-lilies!
And the fish, frogs, ajolotes, crayfish, dragonfly larvae,
Ahuihuitlame, ephydrids, and the salamanders multiplied,
And also Izcahuitli,
And the birds, ducks, American coots, and the “red-shouldered”
and “yellow-throated” grackles.
And Huitzilopochtli said,
“The Izcahuitli are my flesh, my blood, my substance.”
Then he sang his song,
They all sang and danced;
The song was called Tlaxotecayotl and also Tecuilhuicuicatl;
He composed it there.
Then his fathers, the Centzonhuitznahua, spoke, they said to
“O priest, the work for which you came shall be done here.
You shall await the people,
You shall meet in battle the people from the four directions,
You shall arouse the cities.
With your belly, with your head,
And your heart, your blood, your substance,
You shall capture them,
That you may see what you promised us—
The many jades, the precious stones, the gold,
The quetzal feathers and sundry precious feathers,
The cacao of variegated colors,
The cotton of variegated colors,
The diverse flowers, the diverse fruits, the diverse riches.
For, in truth, you have founded,
You have become the ruler of your city, here in Coatepec.
Let your fathers, your vassals, the Aztecs, the Mexicans, gather
Here!” The Centzonhuitznahua beseeched him.
Huitzilopochtli became enraged,
“What are you saying?” he said.
“Do you know?
Is it your work?
Are you better than I?
I know what I must do!”
Then, atop the temple, his house, Huitzilopochtli began to array
When he had arrayed himself,
When he had arrayed himself for battle,
He painted his face the color of a child’s excrement,
He made circles around his eyes,
And he took up his shield….
The he went off;
He went to destroy, he went to slay his uncles, the
On the sacred ball court he devoured his uncles;
And his mother, she whom he took as his mother, called
He cut her off head there and devoured her heart,
Huitzilopochtli devoured it….
The Mexicans were frightened.
The Centzonhuitznahua had thought that the city was to be there in
That Mexico was to be there,
But Huitzilopochtli did not want it so.
He made a hole in the dam where the water had been,
And the water broke the dam.
All the bald cypresses, willows, reeds, rushes and water lilies
All the fish, frogs, ajolotes, ephydrids and insects,
And the crayfish and dragonfly larvae that lived in the water
And all the birds perished.
Then Huitzilopochtli set out,
He went off with his fathers, his vassals, the Mexicans….
They came, they settled behind Chapultepec in a place called
Then Huitzilopochtli gave orders to the Mexicans….
He said to the idol-bearers,
“O my fathers, wait, for you shall see,
wait, for I know what is to happen.
Gird yourselves, be courageous.
Gird yourselves, prepare yourselves.
We shall not dwell here,
We shall find the place off there,
There is where we shall posses it.
Let us await those who shall come to destroy us!…
The son of Malinalxoch, sister of Huitzilopochtli, whose name was
Spoke, he said to her,
“O my mother, well I know that your brother is off there.”
“Yes, your uncle, named Huitzilopochtli, is yonder,” she said.
“He abandoned me,
He abandoned me by trickery along the way.
Then we settled here in Texcaltepeticpac.”
“Very well, O my mother,” said Copil.
“I know that I must look for him in the place he has found
In the place he has settled.
I shall destroy him,
I shall devour him,
And I shall destroy, I shall vanquish his fathers
And the vassals that he took with him.
Well I know all the gifts that are marked for him who is to see,
Who is to behold the manifold riches.
And it shall be I.
Mine shall be the knowledge of all the sundry jade and gold,
Of the quetzal feathers and the other feathers,
Of the cacao of variegated colors,
Of the cotton of variegated colors,
Of the diverse flowers and diverse fruits.
O my mother, be not sad.
I go now to seek out the evil one, my uncle….”
Then he came.
He arrayed himself, he adorned himself, he who was called Copil.
He was very evil,
He was a greater sorcerer than his mother, Malinalxoch;
Copil was a very evil man.
He came in the year 1-House, 1285
And in the place called Zoquitzinco he transformed himself.
Once more he came, and in the place called Atlapalco he transformed
He came once again and in the place called Itztapaltemoc he
And because Copil transformed himself, because he turned himself
into a flagstone,
It is now called, all of us call it, Itztapaltetitlan.
And after the transformation of Copil,
After Copil had transformed himself into a flagstone,
Once again he returned to his home called Texcaltepeticpac;
(they now call it Malinalco because Malinalxoch dwelt there….)
Once more Copil came…
And in the place called Tecpantzinco he transformed himself.
But Huitzilopochtli knew him at once,
He recognized his nephew, now grown, called Copil.
The he said to his fathers,
“O my fathers, array yourselves, adorn yourselves,
Me nephew, the evil one, is coming.
I am off.
I shall destroy him, I shall slay him!”
He encountered him at the place called Tepetzinco,
And when he saw him, he said,
“Who are you? Where are you from?”
“It is I,” he replied,
Again he spoke to him.
“Where is your home?”
“In Texcaltepeticpac,” he answered.
Then Huitzilopochtli said, “Good. Are you not he whom my sister,
Malinalxoch, brought into the world?”
“Yes, I am he,” Copil said,
“And I shall capture you, I shall destroy you!
Why did you abandon my mother while she was sleeping?
Why did you abandon her by trickery?
I shall slay you!”
“Very well,” Huitzilopochtli said, “Come ahead.”
They pursued each other with cunning,
And they captured Copil in Tepetzinco.
When he was dead Huitzilopochtli cut off his head and slashed open
And when he had slashed open his chest, he tore out his heart.
Then he placed his head on top of Tepetzintli, which is now called
And there the head of Copil died.
And after Huitzilopochtli slew him,
He ran off with Copil’s heart.
And the idol-bearer, called Quauhtlequetzqui came upon
When he encountered him, he said,
“You have wearied yourself, O priest.”
“Come, O Quauhtlequetzqui,” he said.
“Here is the heart of the evil one, Copil.
I have slain him.
Run with it into the rushes, into the reeds.
There you shall see the mat of stone
On which Quetzalcoatl rested when he went away,
And his seats, one red and one black.
There you shall halt
And you shall cast away the heart of Copil.”
Then Quauhtlequetzqui went off to cast away the heart.
When he came to the place he had described to him,
He saw the Mat of stone,
And he halted there and cast away the heart;
It fell in among the rushes, in among the reeds….
The place where Quauhcoatl stopped and cast away the heart,
We now call Tlalcocomoco….
Then the Mexicans went to Acuezcomac,
They passed through Huehuetlan, Atlixcan,
Teoculhuacan, Tepetocan, Huitzilac, Culhuacan,
Huixachtla, Cahualtepec, Tetlacuixomac.
They settled in Tlapitzahuayan in the year 2-Rabbit, 1286…
In the year 11-Reed, 1295… the Mexicans passed through Zacatla….
The people of Chalco drove them out,
They stoned them.
Once again they went to Chapultepec….
Behind Chapultepec all the Tepanecas, Azcapotzalcas and Culhuacans,
The Xochimilcas, Cuitlahuacas and Chalcas besieged the Mexicans….
The Mexicans were besieged in Chapultepec in 2-Reed, 1299.
Then the Mexicans moved to Acuezcomac….
Then they came, they settled in Mazatlan,
And all the Mexicans gathered in Tepetocan.
Then from there they went to Culhuacan.
Coxcoxtli was the king of Culhuacan….
Then Huitzilopochtli said to the Mexicans,
“My fathers, say to Coxcoxtli, `where shall we live?'”
They addressed Coxcoxtli, they said to him,
“O lord, O king, we are beseeching you.
Where shall we go?
We have known this to be your city.
Have mercy on us with a small piece of your land on which we may
Coxcoxtli replied, he said, “Very well.”
He summoned his Culhuacan Chiefs, he said to them,
“Where shall they live?”
“O lord, O King, let them go there,” his chiefs said.
“Let the Mexicans live beside the mountain, here in Tizaapan.”
Then they took them, they established them in Tizaapan.
They advised Coxcoxtli, the king, they said,
“O lord, O king, we have taken the Mexicans to Tizaapan.”
“Good,” Coxcoxtli said, “They are monstrous, they are evil.
Perhaps they will meet their end there,
Perhaps they will be devoured by the snakes,
For it is the dwelling place of many snakes.”
But the Mexicans were overjoyed when they saw the snakes.
They cooked them,
They roasted them over the fire, and they ate them….
In the year 13-Reed, 1323,
The Mexicans had passed, had spent twenty-five years in
Then Huitzilopochtli spoke to his fathers, he said to them,
“O my fathers, another person shall appear whose name is Yaocihuatl.
She is my grandmother and we shall have her.
And hear this, O my chiefs, we are not to remain here.
We shall find the place off there.
There is where we shall possess it….
And now gird yourselves, make yourselves ready,
Foy you have heard the Yaocihuatl, my grandmother, will manifest
I command that you go,
That you ask Achitometl for his child, his daughter.
You are to ask him for his precious child,
For I know he shall give her to you.”
And then the Mexicans went off,
They went to ask Achitometl for his daughter.
The Mexicans spoke to him, they said,
“O my prince, O lord, O king, we your grandfathers, we your vassals,
and all the Mexicans,
Pray that you grant, that you give us, your jewel, your quetzal
Your daughter, our granddaughter, the princess.
There, beside the mountain in Tizaapan she will keep guard.”
Achitometl said, “Very well, O Mexicans, you may take her with you.”
He gave her to the Mexicans.
They went off with the daughter of Achitometl,
They brought her,
They settled her in Tizaapan.
Then Huitzilopochtli spoke… he said to them,
“O my fathers, I order you to slay the daughter of Achitometl
And to flay her.
When you have flayed her, you are to dress a priest in her skin.”
They then slew the princess and they flayed her,
And after they flayed her, they dressed a priest in her skin.
Huitzilopochtli then said,
“O my chiefs, go and summon Achitometl.”
The Mexicans went off, they went to summon him.
They said, “O our lord, O my grandson, O lord, O king…
Your grandfathers, the Mexicans beseech you, they say,
`May he come to see, may he come to greet the goddess.
We invite him.'”
Achitometl said, “Very well. Let us go.”
He said to his lords, “Let us go to Tizaapan,
The Mexicans have invited us….”
They took along rubber, copal, papers, flowers, and tabacco,
And also what is called the “lord’s food” to set down in offering
before the goddess….
And when Achitometl arrived in Tizaapan, the Mexicans said,
As they received him,
“You have wearied yourself, O my grandson, O lord, O king.
We, your grandfathers, we, your vassals, shall cause you to become
May you see, ma you greet your goddess.”
“Very good, O my grandfathers,” he said.
He took the rubber, the copal, the flowers, the tabacco, and the
And he offered them to her,
He set them down before the false goddess whom they had flayed.
Then Achitometl tore off the heads of quail before his goddess;
He still did not see the person before whom he was decapitating the
Then he made an offering of incense and the incense-burner
And Achitometl saw a man in his daughter’s skin.
He was horror-struck.
He cried out, he shouted to his lords and to his vassals.
He said, “Who are they, eh, O Culhuacans?
Have you not seen?
They have flayed my daughter!
They shall not remain here, the fiends!
We shall slay them, we shall massacre them!
The evil ones shall be annihilated here!”
They began to fight….
The Culhuacan pursued them, they pursued the Mexicans,
They drove them into the water….
The Culhuacans thought that they had perished in the water,
But they crossed the water on their shields,
They crossed on their arrows and shields.
They bound together the arrows, called Tlacochtli,
And those called Tlatzontectli,
And, sitting upon them, they crossed the water….
And sitting upon the shields they crossed the water
When the Culhuacans pursued them.
And they came into the rushes, into the reeds at
There they dried their battle gear which had become wet,
Their insignias, their shields—all their gear.
And their women and children began to weep.
They said, “Where shall we go? Let us remain here in the reeds….”
And then the old Mexicans, Quauhtlequtzqui, or Quauhcoatl,
And also the one called Axolohua went off,
They went into the rushes, into the reeds
At the place that is now called Toltzalan, Acatzalan;
The two of them went to look for the place they were to settle.
And when they came upon it,
They saw the many wondrous things there in the reeds.
This was the reason Huitzilopochtli had given his orders to the idol-
bearers, his fathers,
Quauhtlequetzqui, or Quauhcoatl, and Axolohua, the priest.
For he had sent them off,
He had told them all that there was in the rushes, in the reeds,
And that there he, Huitzilopochtli, was to stand,
That there he was to keep guard.
He told them with his own lips,
Thus he sent off the Mexicans.
And then they saw the white bald cypresses, the white willows,
And the white reeds and the white rushes;
And also the white frogs, the white fish, and the white snakes
That lived there in the water.
And they saw the springs that joined;
The first spring faced east and was called Tleatl and Atlatlayan,
The second spring faced north and was called Matlalatl and also
And when they saw this the old men wept.
They said, “Perhaps it is to be here.
We have seen what the priest, Huitzilopochtli, described to us
When he sent us off.
He said, `In the rushes, in the reeds, you shall see many things.’
And now we have seen them, we have beheld them!
It has come true, his words when he sent us off have come true!”
Then they said,
“O Mexicans, let us go, for we have beheld them.
Let us await the word of the priest;
He knows how it shall be done.”
Then they came, they sojourned in Temazcaltitlan.
And during the night he saw him,
Huitzilopochtli appeared to the idol-bearer, called
Quauhtlequetzqui, or Quauhcoatl.
He said to him, “O Quauhcoatl, you have seen all there is in among
In among the rushes,
You have beheld it.
But hear this:
There is something you still have not seen.
Go, go and look at the cactus,
And on it, standing on it, you shall see an eagle.
It is eating, it is warming itself in the sun,
And your heart will rejoice,
For it is the heart of Copil that you cast away
Where you halted in Tlalcocomoco.
There it fell, where you looked, at the edge of the spring,
Among the rushes, among the reeds.
And from Copil’s heart sprouted what is now called Tenochtli.
There we shall be, we shall keep guard,
We shall await, we shall meet the diverse peoples in battle.
With our bellies, with our heads,
With our arrows, with our shields,
We shall confront all who surround us
And we shall vanquish them all,
We shall make them captives,
And thus our city shall be established.
Where the Eagle Screeches
Where he spreads his wings,
Where the Eagle feeds,
Where the fish fly,
And where the Serpent is torn apart.
And many things shall come to pass.”
Then Quauhcoatl said to him, “Very well, Oh priest. Your heart has
Let all the old men, your fathers, hear.”
Then Quauhcoatl gathered the Mexicans together,
He had them hear the words of Huitzilopochtli;
The Mexicans listened.
And then, once more, they went in among the rushes, in among the
To the edge of the spring.
And when they came out into the reeds,
There at the edge of the spring, was the Tenochtli,
And they saw and Eagle on the Tenochtli, perched on it, standing
It was eating something, it was feeding,
It was pecking at what it was eating.
And when the Eagle saw the Mexicans, he bowed his head low.
(They had only seen the Eagle from afar).
Its nest, its pallet, was of every kind of precious feather—
Of lovely cotinga feathers, roseate spoonbill feathers, quetzal
And they also saw strewn about the heads of sundry birds,
The head of precious birds strung together,
And some bird’s feet and bones.
And the god called out to them, he said to them,
“O Mexicans, it shall be here!”
(But the Mexicans did not see who spoke).
It is for this reason they call it Tenochtitlan.
And then the Mexicans wept, they said,
“O happy, O blessed are we!
We have beheld the city that shall be ours!
Let us go, now, let us rest….”
This was in the year 2-House, 1325.
The Aztec began as a tribe of people known as the Mexica or Mexitin, their name derived from their lord, Mexi. They left Chicomoztoc (the Seven Caves) located in the mythical land of Aztlan in 193 C.E. in search of their promised land. The migration was long and hard, lasting hundreds of years, and many settlements were founded en route. They were Huitzilopochtli, who would communicate to his people and advise them along their course via the priests, who were mediators between the earthly and the celestial realms.
When the Aztec finally reached the Valley of Mexico in the 13th century, they knew that they were close to their promised land, but Huitzilopochtli warned them of hardships to be encountered in this already-settled land. He urged them to prepare themselves accordingly. This land was none other than the area once controlled by the great city of Teotihuacan and later by Tula, which had been settled for hundreds of years prior to the arrival of the Aztec to that region. There were still many settlements in the area that were remnants of those grand civilizations, and so following the advice of Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec fortified themselves and prepared for battle in Chapultepec. However, the Aztec and their patron god had other adversaries to contend with, namely Huitzilopochtli’s nephew Copil, who was out to avenge his mother, Huitzilopochtli’s sister Malinalxochitl. Huitzilopochtli had ordered that Malinalxochitl, who was once part of the caravan in search for the promised land, be left behind, for she had developed wicked and evil practices of witchcraft and could contaminate the rest of the caravan. Accordingly, Malinalxochitl and her flock were abandoned, left alone to fend for themselves.
Copil could not bear his mother’s betrayal by his uncle, so he set out to search for Huitzilopochtli. He soon learned of Huitzilopochtli’s arrival at Chapultepec in the Valley of Mexico. Once in the valley, Copil gained support from the surrounding towns by telling them of the atrocious and tyrannical ways of the Aztec, thus joining forces and gaining the military support necessary to overcome the Aztec. Certain of the Aztec defeat, Copil went to the hill called Tepetzinco, or Place of the Small Hill, to view the massacre from a good vantage point. However, Huitzilopochtli could not be outwitted, as he was well aware of his nephew’s plans. He therefore instructed his people to go to Tepetzinco, where hot springs ran at the base of the hill. Huitzilopochtli demanded that they slay Copil, pull out his heart, and bring it to him.
The priest, Cuauhtlequetzqui, carrying an image of Huitzilopochtli, led the delegation to Tepetzinco and proceeded to do as Huitzilopochtli instructed. Once the heart of Copil was presented to Huitzilopochtli, he instructed the priest to throw the heart into the center of the lake. The place where Copil’s heart landed was called Tlacocomolco. Despite this defeat, the peoples from the region still wanted the Aztec to be ousted from their territory and so began to wage war against them. The enemies, namely the Chalca, continued to surround Chapultepec Hill and attacked the Aztec. They succeeded in their attack and even managed to capture the Aztec leader, Huitzilihuitl. The survivors, who included women, children, and the elderly, sought asylum in a deserted town named Atlacuihuayan (Tacubaya). The Chalca did not find it necessary to follow the survivors, as they were few and disenfranchised.
After replenishing themselves, the defeated Aztecs rebuilt their forces, and upon Huitzilopochtli’s request for them to be strong and proud, they went to their enemies at Colhuacan to ask for a place in which their wives and children could stay and live in peace. After much deliberation with his council, the king of Colhuacan granted the Aztec a site by the name of Tizapan, a most undesirable site, where snakes, reptiles, and other beasts resided. However, the Aztec took the offer and made that land theirs, taming the harsh environment and making do with what was given to them.
Later, the king of Colhuacan had his messengers report on the status of Tizapan. He was amazed to learn that the Aztec had cultivated the land, built a temple to Huitzilopochtli, and made the snakes and local reptiles a part of their diet. Impressed with the news he received from his messengers, the king granted the requests made by the Aztec that they be allowed to trade in Colhuacan and that they be able to intermarry with the people of Colhuacan. This was not the promised land of the Aztec, however, and Huitzilopochtli requested, via the priests, that they leave this land in search for the true Aztec capital, adding that their departure must be a violent departure, not a peaceful one. Huitzilopochtli ordered his people to ask the king of Colhuacan, named Achitometl, for his daughter, so that she might serve Huitzilopochtli and become a goddess, to be called the Woman of Discord. The Aztec did as they were told by their god.
King Achitometl agreed to this honor, and after the pageantry that followed this transaction between the tribes, the young woman was taken to Tizapan. Once in Tizapan, she was proclaimed Tonantzin (Our Mother) by the Aztec and then sacrificed in the name of Huitzilopochtli. As was customary and part of Aztec ritual practices, after the young woman was sacrificed, her skin was flayed. Her flayed skin was worn by a “principal youth” who sat next to the Aztec deity. From that time on, she was both Huitzilopochtli’s mother and bride and was worshipped by the Aztec.
King Achitometl was summoned and, not knowing that his daughter had been killed, accepted the invitation and attended the ceremony with other dignitaries of his town, bringing precious gifts in honor of his daughter, the new Aztec goddess, and the Aztec god Huitzilopochtli. When King Achitometl entered the dark temple, he commenced his offerings and other ceremonial rights. As he drew closer to the figures, with a torch light in his hand, he was able to discern what was before him, the youth wearing the flayed skin of his daughter and sitting next to their deity. Disgusted and filled with fright, the king left the temple and called on his people to bring an end to the Aztec.
The Aztec fought vigorously, and although they were pushed into the water by the opposition, they managed to flee to Iztapalapa. The Aztec were in a state of desolation. Huitzilopochtli tried to comfort his people who had suffered so much in search of their promised land. They were not far from it, so the Aztec continued moving from town to town, seeking refuge where they could.
One day as they roamed the waters, they saw signs that had been prophesied by the Aztec priests. One was a beautiful, white bald cypress (ahuehuetl), and from the base of the tree a spring flowed. This spring was surrounded by all white willows. All around the water were white reeds and rushes, and white frogs emerged, as well as white snakes and fish. The priests recognized all these signs as predicted by their god and rejoiced for they had found their promised land.
Soon after, Huitzilopochtli came to the priest named Cuauhtlequetzqui and told him Copil’s heart, which was thrown into the lake as prescribed by him, had landed on a stone, and from that stone a nopal (prickly pear cactus) sprang. The nopal was so grand and magnificent that an eagle perched there daily, feeding from its plentiful fruits and enjoying the sun. It would be surrounded by beautiful and colorful feathers from the birds that the eagle fed on.
The priest relayed this message to the people, who responded with joy and enthusiasm. Once more they went to the spring where they had seen the wonderful revelations of their god but were surprised to find two streams instead of one, and instead of white, one stream was red and the other was blue. Seeing all this as good omens, the Aztec continued their search for the eagle perched on a nopal, which they soon beheld. The people bowed their heads to this sight in all humbleness, and the eagle did the same in turn. They had finally reached their promised land, and here they built Tenochtitlan.
On the Mexican flag today is an eagle proudly standing on a nopal, which grows from a stone. This symbolism speaks to the Aztec myth and to the Aztec’s perseverance and spiritual belief system. Indeed, Tenochtitlan went on to be the capital of the Aztec Empire.
In pre-Hispanic imagery of this myth, the fruit that grows from the cactus is represented as human hearts, and in the eagle’s beak is an atl tlachinolli, a symbol of fire and water that could have been mistaken for a snake by the colonists, for this is what appears in the eagle’s beak on the modern-day flag. Today, Aztecs Art is sometimes used for Interior Design all around the world.