Impossible to know when Mexico-Tenochtitlán was founded

20/02/2021

Establishing an exact date for the founding of Mexico-Tenochtitlan "is very difficult, if not impossible," acknowledged this Thursday the director of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), Diego Prieto, in reference to the controversy over whether that event took place in 1321 or 1325.

At the inauguration of the seminar Mexico Tenochtitlan: seven centuries of history -organized by the Secretariat of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation of Mexico City-, the anthropologist explained that cities "are not founded overnight: they are the result of processes that eventually result in mythical stories that refer to some portentous event that marks a foundational milestone, but that cannot be reduced to an isolated event".

Another impediment, he said, is that the available historical sources, codices and chronicles, "do not offer a unique date, but admit different readings", besides the fact that the Mexica were a transhumant group that, apparently, accessed the Basin of Mexico towards the first decades of the 13th century AD, when the place was occupied by peoples settled there centuries before.

He recalled that the Mexica began their journey in that region as a marginal group, subdued by other peoples, until in the 14th century they managed to distance themselves from the other political formations, emancipate themselves and form a space of their own, consisting of two cities in the middle of the waters: Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco, which would later emerge as hegemonic.

The construction of this hegemony, he stressed, could not be based solely on military force, but required a myth that would legitimize their power and strength, which referred to their tutelary god, Huitzilopochtli, but also to the creation of a lineage that could claim superiority over the other peoples who had settled there before.

Diego Prieto recalled that various codices, such as the Mendocino, the Azcatitlan and the Durán, record how the Mexica had to wander through different places before reaching their final settlement, among them Mixhuca and Temazcaltitlán, the former being, according to Hernando de Alvarado Tezozómoc's chronicle, where a noble Mexica woman gave birth to the first Mexica-Toltec, thus relating to the most prized lineage of the time.

The seminar Mexico Tenochtitlan: seven centuries of history is part of the program of commemorations to be held in the country's capital in 2021. It will consist of 21 sessions to be held throughout the year and its purpose is to deepen the knowledge of Mexico City, its formation, its plurality, and the challenges it faces.

By Mexicanist