Tlaxcaltecans captured and ate the Spaniards. The Conquistadors returned and killed them all.

Researchers from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) discovered that the Spanish conquistadors massacred a dozen women and children from a community allied with the Aztecs. The latter had sacrificed and eaten a group of Spaniards.

MEXICO CITY (AP) – New research suggests that the Spanish conquistadors massacred at least a dozen women and their children in a town allied with the Aztecs. The inhabitants had sacrificed and eaten a detachment of Spaniards who had been captured months earlier.

The National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) published on Monday the findings related to the excavations in Tecoaque, which means “where they were eaten” in the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs.

In 1520, the inhabitants of Tecoaque, also known as Zultépec, captured a convoy of about 15 men, 50 women and 10 children, all Spanish; 45 infantry soldiers among whom were Cubans of African and indigenous descent, and about 350 allies from indigenous groups. All of them were sacrificed over several months.

When he learned of this, in early 1521, the conquistador Hernán Cortés ordered Gonzalo de Sandoval to destroy the village in revenge.

Archaeologist Enrique Martínez Vargas said that from the excavations, it is deduced that the inhabitants of Tecoaque knew they were going to be attacked in retaliation and threw the bones of the Spaniards – some of which they had sculpted into trophies – and other evidence into shallow pits.

The settlers also attempted to erect some primitive defense systems along the main avenue of the town. Still, they were of no use when De Sandoval entered with his punitive expedition.

“Some warriors who were still in the town managed to escape, but women and children were left behind, who were the main victims, as we have been able to verify in a stretch of 120 meters (131 yards) of the road, with the finding of a dozen female skeletons, which appeared ‘protecting’ the remains of 10 children between 5 and 6 years of age, whose sex has not been determined,” the institute said in a statement.

In the photographs of the excavations, children’s bones can be seen next to those of adult women, and some of the skulls or arm bones of the women are leaning toward the infants.

“The arrangement of the burials suggests that the people were on the run, were massacred and buried in an improvised manner,” the text adds. “The women and children who were sheltered in their rooms were in turn mutilated, as evidenced by the recovery of bones severed from the floor of the rooms. The temples were also set on fire, and the sculptures of gods were decapitated, thus destroying this site that represented a resistance for Cortés”.

The skeletons of sacrificed Spaniards are on display at the museum of the Zultepec-Tecoaque archaeological site in the state of Tlaxcala, Mexico. Photo: Rebecca Blackwell, AP

The cruelty of both sides can be seen in Tecoaque, the site of one of the worst defeats for the Spanish in the Conquest period from 1519 to 1521.

The heads of the captive Spanish women were hung on skull racks alongside those of the men. An analysis of the bones revealed that they were pregnant, and according to pre-Hispanic customs, this could have given them the status of “warriors. Another sacrifice was that of a woman whose body was cut in half, and her remains were found near those of a dismembered child of three or four years of age.

A Spanish male was dismembered and burned to reproduce the destinies of the gods of the Aztec era, according to a myth known as “The Fifth Sun.”

In convoy, there were people sent from Cuba, in a second expedition, following Cortés’ arrival in 1519, and they were heading for the Aztec capital with supplies and the conquerors’ belongings. Cortés was forced to abandon the caravan to his fate as he tried to rescue his troops from an uprising in what is now Mexico City.

The captured convoy members were kept as prisoners in cells without doors, where they were fed for six months, experts said. Little by little, the town sacrificed and ate the horses, men, and women. But the pigs that the Spaniards brought in to feed themselves generated so much suspicion among the inhabitants that they killed them and did not eat them.

In contrast, the captured Europeans’ skeletons were torn to pieces and have cut marks indicating that the meat was pulled from the bones.

Cortés conquered the Aztec capital in 1521. Mexico commemorates this year the 500th anniversary of the Conquest with a particular round of investigations and conferences.

The Yucatan Times
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