Printer-friendly page
Type of Speech: 

The Aztec capital at the time of the Spanish conquest. (Nahuatl word; pronounced Ten-ohk-teet-LAN) When the Spaniards arrived in 1519, they were awestruck upon seeing the Aztec capital. A city laced with canals much like Venice, but far larger than any city in Europe, Tenochtitlan sat upon an island in the center of Lake Texcoco connected by four causeways to the mainland. Thousands of canoes plied the canals every day, and streets thronged with pedestrians criss-crossed the city in a grid. Aztec nobles lived in two-story homes with gardens full of flowers. The court maintained a park for hunting parties, and a zoo full of rare animals and birds. Possibly a thousand men served as garbage collectors, removing waste in barges out of the city. The Spanish claimed that 60,000 people met in the central market, towered over by a twin pyramid dedicated to Huitzilopochtli and Tlaloc, and a gruesome skull rack, or tzompantli. This city of 250,000 people was destroyed by disease and a long siege in which the the Spaniards built brigantines to bombard the city. Later, the canals and the lake were filled in, and Mexico City was founded over the ruins. Since 1978, excavations have uncovered many of the buildings from Tenochtitlan.