In our last blog post, we laid out the circumstances leading up to La Noche Triste, or The Sorrowful Night. Hernán Cortés and his conquistadors were occupying the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan where they were holding king Montezuma II hostage and looting the city’s gold and other treasures. Cortés left the city to confront and recruit another Spanish army. But, when he returned nearly a month later, Tenochtitlan had undergone some serious changes.
Lieutenant Pedro de Alvarado debriefed Cortés when he returned to the city. Alvarado claimed to have learned of an Aztec plot to attack him. In response, Alvarado slaughtered many Aztec nobles and high priests during a religious celebration. This massacre united the Aztec people and solidified their resolve: the conquistadors had to go.
To start, the Aztecs crowned a new king – nullifying the Spaniards bargaining chip. Cortés ordered Montezuma to dissuade the Aztecs from violence and allow the Spaniards to leave the city peacefully; but it was to no avail. The crowds jeered their former king and threw darts and stones at him. Badly injured, cast aside by his own people, and held captive by cruel foreigners, it is said that Montezuma died of a broken heart.
The Spaniards holed up in their compound to plan their next move. Any goodwill the Aztecs once had was completely gone. With the compound under siege, Cortés devised a plan that would let him have his cake, and eat it too – a daring escape with all the gold he could carry. A plan that would go down in history as La Noche Triste – to be continued in our next blog post!