By 1433 the Valley of Mexico had regained
domination over much of Mexico as a result
of an alliance of three neighboring kingdoms.
This alliance secured the homeland from
which Montezuma I of the Aztecs, began
territorial conquests in the 1400s. The Aztec
built the most powerful empire in
Mesoamerica, famous for its wealth and
rituals. Within less than one century, they
gained control of a region extending from the
Gulf of Mexico in the east to the Pacific coast
in the west and from central Mexico to

On the site of present-day Mexico City they
built the capital Tenochtitlan on island in
Lake Texcoco in ad 1325
    –       population 200,000 by 16th
    •        human sacrifice prominent in
    religious and political rituals
    •        by early 16th century controlled
    empire with 5 - 6 million inhabitants

The empire flourished until 1519, when a
Spanish conquistador, Hernán Cortés,
landed in eastern Mexico and advanced with
Mexican allies upon the Aztec capital

Internal strife and a smallpox epidemic
weakened the Aztecs and helped Cortés
conquer them in 1521

After the Spanish conquest—which took
more than two centuries to reach throughout
Mexico—most of the Native American
peoples were forced to survive as peasants
governed by the Spanish-Mexican upper