The finding and Founding of Tenochtitlan,
from the "Cronica Mexicayotl"
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
data for the pre-Conquest and colonial Indian rulers of
Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco up to about 1579. This selection
on five episodes in the migration of the Aztecs, each
repeating in varying form the essential details of the myth of
who, like Athena among the Greeks, appears and
disappears in accordance with the needs of his people.
the present translator of this work, the original
of which is now in the Bibliotheque National de Paris, claims that
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.
from the Nahuatl by Thelma D. Sullivan. Originally
published in "The Finding and Founding of Tenochtitlan," translated
Thelma D. Sullivan, in "Tlalocan" 6, no. 4 (1971): 312-36. The
myth was divided into sections and editorial corrections
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,
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 spreads his wings,
Where the eagle feeds,
Where the serpent is torn apart,
the fish fly,
Where the blue waters and the yellow waters join,
Where the water blazes up,
Where feathers came to
Among the rushes, among the reeds where the battle is joined,
Where the peoples from the four directions are
There they arrived, there they settled…
They called themselves Teochichimeca, Azteca, Mexitin.
brought along the image of their god,
The idol that they worshipped.
The Aztecs heard him speak and they answered him;
did not see how it was he spoke to them…
And after the Azteca, Mexitin sailed here from Aztlan,
arrived in Culhuacan….
They went everywhere in Culhuacan,
In far-off Culhuacan, in Tona Ichuacan or Tonallan.
of them journey far—
The people of Michoacan, kin of the Mexicans,
And the people of Malinalco—for all of
And when the Aztecs abandoned the people of Michoacan,
The men and women were amusing themselves in the water
A place called Patzcuaro.
They made off with the men's capes and breechcloths
And they took the women's skirts
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
manner they abandoned the people of Michoacan.
And the reason Huitzilopochtli went off and abandoned his
named Malinalxoch, along the way,
That all his fathers abandoned her while she was sleeping,
Was because she was cruel,
was very evil.
She was an eater of people's hearts,
An eater of people's limbs—it was her work—
An enchanter of people.
She put people to sleep,
She made people eat snakes,
She made people eat scorpions,
spoke to all the centipedes and spiders
And transformed herself into a sorcerers.
She was a very evil woman;
was why Huitzilopochtli did not like her,
This was why he did not bring his sister, Malinalxoch, with him,
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.
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
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;
the cacao of variegated colors,
And the cotton of variegated colors!
I shall see all this,
For in truth, it is my
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
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?
us seek the land where we are to dwell…."
Then they saw the mountain called Texcaltepetl;
They established themselves
Along the way Malinalxoch became big with child,
And the child of Malinalxoch, a son named Copil, was
His father's name was Chimalquauhtli;
He was king of Malinalco….
The others settled at Coatepec….
Mexicans erected their temple, the house of Huitzilopochtli…
And they laid down Huitzilopochtli's ball court
constructed his skull rack.
Then they blocked the ravine, the gorge.
And the water collected, it filled up.
was done at the word of Huitzilopochtli.
Then he said to his fathers, the Mexicans,
"O my fathers, the water has collected.
sow, willows, bald cypresses, reeds, rushes and water-lilies!
And the fish, frogs, ajolotes, crayfish, dragonfly larvae,
ephydrids, and the salamanders multiplied,
And also Izcahuitli,
And the birds, ducks, American coots, and the "red-shouldered"
And Huitzilopochtli said,
"The Izcahuitli are my flesh, my blood, my substance."
he sang his song,
They all sang and danced;
The song was called Tlaxotecayotl and also Tecuilhuicuicatl;
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,
shall arouse the cities.
With your belly, with your head,
And your heart, your blood, your substance,
You shall capture
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
Let your fathers, your vassals, the Aztecs, the Mexicans, gather
Here!" The Centzonhuitznahua beseeched
Huitzilopochtli became enraged,
"What are you saying?" he said.
"Do you know?
Is it your work?
better than I?
I know what I must do!"
Then, atop the temple, his house, Huitzilopochtli began to array
he had arrayed himself,
When he had arrayed himself for battle,
He painted his face the color of a child's excrement,
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,
The Mexicans were frightened.
The Centzonhuitznahua had thought that the city was to be there in
Mexico was to be there,
But Huitzilopochtli did not want it so.
He made a hole in the dam where the water had been,
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
all the birds perished.
Then Huitzilopochtli set out,
He went off with his fathers, his vassals, the Mexicans….
came, they settled behind Chapultepec in a place called
Then Huitzilopochtli gave orders to the
He said to the idol-bearers,
"O my fathers, wait, for you shall see,
wait, for I know what is to
Gird yourselves, be courageous.
Gird yourselves, prepare yourselves.
We shall not dwell here,
find the place off there,
There is where we shall posses it.
Let us await those who shall come to destroy us!…
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,
abandoned me by trickery along the way.
Then we settled here in Texcaltepeticpac."
"Very well, O my mother," said Copil.
know that I must look for him in the place he has found
In the place he has settled.
I shall destroy
I shall devour him,
And I shall destroy, I shall vanquish his fathers
And the vassals that he took with him.
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.
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
He came in the year 1-House, 1285
And in the place called Zoquitzinco he transformed himself.
he came, and in the place called Atlapalco he transformed
He came once again and in the place called Itztapaltemoc
And because Copil transformed himself, because he turned himself
into a flagstone,
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.
Huitzilopochtli knew him at once,
He recognized his nephew, now grown, called Copil.
The he said to his fathers,
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?"
Then Huitzilopochtli said, "Good. Are you not he whom my sister,
Malinalxoch, brought into the world?"
I am he," Copil said,
"And I shall capture you, I shall destroy you!
Why did you abandon my mother while she was sleeping?
did you abandon her by trickery?
I shall slay you!"
"Very well," Huitzilopochtli said, "Come ahead."
each other with cunning,
And they captured Copil in Tepetzinco.
When he was dead Huitzilopochtli cut off his head and
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
He ran off with Copil's heart.
And the idol-bearer, called Quauhtlequetzqui came upon
he encountered him, he said,
"You have wearied yourself, O priest."
"Come, O Quauhtlequetzqui," he said.
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.
you shall halt
And you shall cast away the heart of Copil."
Then Quauhtlequetzqui went off to cast away the heart.
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;
fell in among the rushes, in among the reeds….
The place where Quauhcoatl stopped and cast away the heart,
now call Tlalcocomoco….
Then the Mexicans went to Acuezcomac,
They passed through Huehuetlan, Atlixcan,
Tepetocan, Huitzilac, Culhuacan,
Huixachtla, Cahualtepec, Tetlacuixomac.
They settled in Tlapitzahuayan in the year
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
And all the Mexicans gathered in Tepetocan.
Then from there they went to Culhuacan.
was the king of Culhuacan….
Then Huitzilopochtli said to the Mexicans,
"My fathers, say to Coxcoxtli, `where shall
They addressed Coxcoxtli, they said to him,
"O lord, O king, we are beseeching you.
Where shall we go?
have known this to be your city.
Have mercy on us with a small piece of your land on which we may
replied, he said, "Very well."
He summoned his Culhuacan Chiefs, he said to them,
"Where shall they live?"
O King, let them go there," his chiefs said.
"Let the Mexicans live beside the mountain, here in Tizaapan."
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."
Mexicans were overjoyed when they saw the snakes.
They cooked them,
They roasted them over the fire, and they ate them….
the year 13-Reed, 1323,
The Mexicans had passed, had spent twenty-five years in
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 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.
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."
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.'"
said, "Very well. Let us go."
He said to his lords, "Let us go to Tizaapan,
The Mexicans have invited us…."
took along rubber, copal, papers, flowers, and tabacco,
And also what is called the "lord's food" to set down in offering
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
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
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
saw a man in his daughter's skin.
He was horror-struck.
He cried out, he shouted to his lords and to his vassals.
said, "Who are they, eh, O Culhuacans?
Have you not seen?
They have flayed my daughter!
They shall not remain here,
We shall slay them, we shall massacre them!
The evil ones shall be annihilated here!"
They began to fight….
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.
bound together the arrows, called Tlacochtli,
And those called Tlatzontectli,
And, sitting upon them, they crossed the
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,
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,
also the one called Axolohua went off,
They went into the rushes, into the reeds
At the place that is now called Toltzalan,
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-
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
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
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,
let us go, for we have beheld them.
Let us await the word of the priest;
He knows how it shall be done."
came, they sojourned in Temazcaltitlan.
And during the night he saw him,
Huitzilopochtli appeared to the idol-bearer,
Quauhtlequetzqui, or Quauhcoatl.
He said to him, "O Quauhcoatl, you have seen all there is in among
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,
your heart will rejoice,
For it is the heart of Copil that you cast away
Where you halted in Tlalcocomoco.
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
With our bellies, with our heads,
With our arrows, with our shields,
We shall confront all who surround
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,
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."
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
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
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.
the god called out to them, he said to them,
"O Mexicans, it shall be here!"
(But the Mexicans did not see who spoke).
is for this reason they call it Tenochtitlan.
And then the Mexicans wept, they said,
"O happy, O blessed are we!
have beheld the city that shall be ours!
Let us go, now, let us rest…."
This was in the year 2-House, 1325.