On February 28, 1525, Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes ordered the execution of Cuauhtemoc, the last independent Aztec emperor
 
Cuauhtemoc and Cortes had engaged in a series of fierce battles five years earlier. Cortes and an alliance of Tlaxcala and other anti-Aztec groups assaulted the Aztec capital, the island-city of Tenochtitlan. The Spanish group cut off supplies to Tenochtitlan, and rotting bodies (killed either in battle or by disease such as smallpox) contaminated the city’s water supply. The city fell, and Cuauhtemoc fled and ultimately surrendered.
 
Convinced Cuauhtemoc was hiding secret hoards of gold, Cortes imprisoned and tortured the former emperor for three years. When Cortes led an expedition to what is today Honduras, he took Cuauhtemoc with him, where the former emperor was hanged.
 
Cortes and other Spanish conquistadors established a series of colonial rulers, but today, Cuauhtemoc is remembered as a symbol of indigenous pride and pre-Columbian civilization in Mexico. Cuauhtemoc is a popular boy’s name, and a statue of the last Aztec emperor stands in the Zocalo, the central plaza of Mexico City—what was once Tenochtitlan.
alliance
Noun

people or groups united for a specific purpose.

assault
Noun

violent attack.

Aztec
Noun

people and culture native to Mexico and Central America.

Aztec Empire
Noun

(1325-1521) area of land in Mesoamerica conquered and ruled by the Aztecs. Also called the Aztec Triple Alliance.

Noun

city where a region's government is located.

city
Noun

large settlement with a high population density.

Noun

complex way of life that developed as humans began to develop urban settlements.

conquistador
Noun

Spanish explorer or conqueror of Latin America in the 16th century.

contaminate
Verb

to poison or make hazardous.

convince
Verb

to persuade or succeed in encouraging someone to believe completely.

emperor
Noun

ruler of an empire.

engage
Verb

to interact with.

establish
Verb

to form or officially organize.

expedition
Noun

journey with a specific purpose, such as exploration.

hoard
Noun

hidden supply or treasure.

imprison
Verb

to confine or put in a jail-like facility.

independent
Adjective

free from influence, threat, or support.

Adjective

characteristic to or of a specific place.

pre-Columbian
Adjective

having to do with the Americas before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492.

smallpox
Noun

very contagious, often fatal disease wiped out with vaccination programs.

surrender
Verb

to give up.

symbol
Noun

something used to represent something else.

torture
Noun

inflicting pain to force a victim to provide information.

More Dates in History

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