La Noche Triste

La Noche Triste ("The Night of Sorrows", literally "The Sad Night") also known as La Noche Victoriosa ("The Night of Victory" or "The Victorious Night") by Toltecayotl traditional groups (in the line of thought of The Broken Spears), was an important event during the Spanish Conquest of Mexico, wherein Hernán Cortés, his invading army of Spanish conquistadors, and their native allies were driven out of the Aztec capital at Tenochtitlan.

La Noche Triste ("The Night of Sorrows")
Part of Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire
The sad night

The battle of La Noche Triste.
DateJune 30 – July 1, 1520
Shores of Lake Texcoco, Mexico
Result Aztec victory
Spain Spain
Aztec Empire Triple Alliance
Commanders and leaders
Hernán Cortés (WIA)
Pedro de Alvarado (WIA)
varies; likely 600–1000 Spanish and 20,000 native allies 50,000 Aztec warriors; likely more in reserves
Casualties and losses
Between 400 and 800 Spanish killed, drowned, or captured; between 2,000 and 4,000 native allies killed or captured Light


Cortés' expedition arrived at Tenochtitlan, the Mexica capital, on November 8, 1519, taking up residence in a specially designated compound in the city. Soon thereafter, suspecting treachery on the part of their hosts, the Spaniards took Moctezuma II, the king or Hueyi Tlatoani of the Mexica, hostage. Though Moctezuma followed Cortés' instructions in continually assuring his subjects that he had been ordered by the gods to move in with the Spaniards and that he had done so willingly, the Aztecs suspected otherwise. During the following 98 days, Cortés and his native allies, the Tlaxcaltecas, were increasingly unwelcome guests in the capital.

Cortés heads off Spanish punitive expedition

In June 1520, news from the Gulf coast reached Cortés that a much larger party of Spaniards had been sent by Governor Velázquez of Cuba to arrest Cortés for insubordination. Leaving Tenochtitlan in the care of his trusted lieutenant, Pedro de Alvarado, Cortés marched to the coast, where he defeated the Cuban expedition led by Pánfilo de Narváez sent to capture him. When Cortés told the defeated soldiers about the riches of Tenochtitlan, they agreed to join him. Reinforced by Narvaez's men, Cortés headed back to Tenochtitlan.

Loss of control in Tenochtitlan

During Cortés' absence, Pedro de Alvarado in Tenochtitlan obtained information that the Aztecs were planning to attack him. In response, de Alvarado ordered a preemptive slaughter of Aztec nobles and priests celebrating a festival in the city's main temple. In retaliation, the Aztecs laid siege to the Spanish compound, in which Moctezuma was still being held captive. By the time Cortés returned to Tenochtitlan in late June, the Aztecs had elected a new Hueyi Tlatoani named Cuitláhuac.

Cortés ordered Moctezuma to address his people from a terrace in order to persuade them to stop fighting and to allow the Spaniards to leave the city in peace. The Aztecs, however, jeered at Moctezuma, and pelted him with stones and darts. By Spanish accounts, he was killed in this assault by the Mexica people, though they claim he had been killed instead by the Spanish.[1]:294[2]:90

A map of Tenochtitlan and its causeways leading out of the capital.

With Moctezuma dead, Cortés and Alvarado knew they were in a precarious position. Under constant attack, with gunpowder and food and water in short supply, Cortés decided to break out of the city by night. In order to put the Aztecs off their guard, he sent messengers asking for a one-week ceasefire, at the end of which the Spaniards would return any treasure of which they were in possession and would be permitted to leave the city peacefully.[1]:296

Since the Aztecs had damaged bridges on four of the eight causeways into the island city, the Spaniards devised a portable bridge they could use in order to cross any unspanned sections of water. Cortés ordered that as much of the accumulated gold and other booty as was feasible be packed and carried away, and invited the Spanish soldiers to take and carry away as much as they wished of the remainder. This invitation would lead to the demise of many soldiers who, overburdened with treasure, found it impossible to navigate the causeways and other obstacles encountered on the way out of the city.[1]:297,306

The Spanish head for the causeway out

On the night of July 1, 1520,[3] his large army left their compound and headed west, toward the Tlacopan causeway. The causeway was apparently unguarded, and the Spaniards made their way out of their complex unnoticed, winding their way through the sleeping city under the cover of a rainstorm. Before reaching the causeway, they were noticed by Aztec warriors known as the Eagle Warriors, who sounded the alarm.[1]:298,305 First by a woman drawing water, and then by the priest of Huitzilopochtli from atop Templo Mayor.[2]:85

The fighting was ferocious. As the Spaniards and their native allies reached the causeway, hundreds of canoes appeared in the waters alongside to harry them. The Spaniards fought their way across the causeway in the rain. Weighed down by gold and equipment, some of the soldiers lost their footing, fell into the lake, and drowned. Amid a vanguard of horsemen, Cortés pressed ahead and reached dry land at Tacuba, leaving the rest of the expedition to fend for itself in the treacherous crossing.[1]:299–300

Seeing the wounded survivors straggle into the village, Cortés and his horsemen turned back to the causeway, where they encountered Pedro de Alvarado, unhorsed and badly wounded, in the company of a handful of Spaniards and Tlaxcaltecas. According to Bernal Díaz del Castillo, it was at this point that tears came to Cortés' eyes, as he realized the extent of the debacle.[1]:300

Cortés, Alvarado and the strongest and most skilled of the men had managed to fight their way out of Tenochtitlan, although they were all bloodied and exhausted. Cortés himself had been injured in the fighting. All of the artillery had been lost, as had most of the horses.[1]:302

The sources are not in agreement as to the total number of casualties suffered by the expedition. Cortés himself claimed that 154 Spaniards were lost along with over 2,000 native allies. Thoan Cano, another eyewitness to the event, said that 1170 Spaniards died, but this number probably exceeds the total number of Spaniards who took part in the expedition.[4] Francisco López de Gómara, who was not himself an eyewitness, estimated that 450 Spaniards and 4,000 allies died.[5]

Montezuma's son, Chimalpopoca (Moctezuma) was killed and the Tepanec prince Tlaltecatzin.[2]:87 King Cacamatzin, his three sisters and two brothers were also killed.[2]:90

Diaz states the Spaniards suffered 860 soldiers killed, which included those from the later Battle of Otumba. The Tlaxcaltecas lost a thousand. The noncombatants attached to the expedition suffered terribly, 72 casualties, including five Spanish women. The few women who survived included La Malinche the interpreter, Dona Luisa, and María Estrada.[1]:302,305–306 The event was named La Noche Triste ("The Night of Sorrows") on account of the sorrow that Cortés and his surviving followers felt and expressed at the loss of life and treasure incurred in the escape from Tenochtitlan.


Further battles awaited the Spaniards and their allies as they fought their way around the north end of Lake Zumpango. Two weeks later, at the Battle of Otumba, not far from Teotihuacan, they turned to fight the pursuing Aztec, decisively defeating them — according to Cortés, because he slew the Aztec commander — and giving the Spaniards a small respite that allowed them to reach Tlaxcala.[1]:303–305

It was there in Tlaxcala that Cortés plotted the siege of Tenochtitlan and the eventual destruction of the Aztec Empire.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Diaz, B., 1963, The Conquest of New Spain, London: Penguin Books, ISBN 0140441239
  2. ^ a b c d León-Portilla, M. 1992, 'The Broken Spears: The Aztec Accounts of the Conquest of Mexico. Boston: Beacon Press, ISBN 978-0807055014
  3. ^ Various sources give dates ranging from June 30 to July 4, a problem further confounded by the use of the Julian calendar in Europe at this time, which had diverged from the true (solar) date by almost 12 days.
  4. ^ Prescott, Appendix.
  5. ^ Prescott, Book 5, Chapter 3.


Primary sources

  • Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España ("True History of the Conquest of New Spain") by Bernal Díaz del Castillo. Bernal Díaz del Castillo served as a rodelero, or soldier armed with sword and buckler, in Cortés' expedition, and personally participated in the nocturnal battle known as "La noche triste." His Chapter CXXVIII ("How we agreed to flee from Mexico, and what we did about it") is an account of the event.
  • La Historia general de las Indias ("General History of the Indies") by Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés. See Parsons (below), Volume III, p. 296-292. Oviedo, not himself a witness to La Noche Triste, claimed to have interviewed Thoan Cano, a member of Pánfilo Narváez' expedition who joined Cortés in his return to Mexico and who survived the escape from the city.

Secondary sources

  • Conquest: Cortés, and the Fall of Old Mexico by Hugh Thomas (1993) ISBN 0-671-51104-1.
  • Cortés and the Downfall of the Aztec Empire by Jon Manchip White (1971) ISBN 0-7867-0271-0.
  • History of the Conquest of Mexico. by William H. Prescott ISBN 0-375-75803-8. Available online at
  • The Rain God cries over Mexico by László Passuth.
  • Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest by Matthew Restall, Oxford University Press (2003) ISBN 0-19-516077-0.
  • The Conquest of America by Tzvetan Todorov (1996) ISBN 0-06-132095-1.
  • The Conquistadors by Michael Wood (2002) PBS.

External links


Cacamatzin (or Cacama) (1483–1520) was the king of Texcoco, the second most important city of the Aztec Empire.

Cacamatzin was a son of the previous king Nezahualpilli by one of his mistresses. Traditionally, the Texcocan kings were elected by the nobility from the most able of the royal family. Cacamatzin's election to the throne in 1515 was said to have been made under considerable pressure from Moctezuma II, lord of Tenochtitlán. Moctezuma II wished to lessen Texcoco's power in favor of greater centralization in Tenochtitlán.

Moctezuma II, under orders from Cortés, had Cacamatzin arrested "in his own palace while discussing war-preparations". The Caciques of Coyoacan, Iztapalapa, and Tacuba were also arrested.Cacamatzin died during the retreat of Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés, on the La Noche Triste.

Cappuccino (album)

Cappuccino is the 15th studio album by Mexican pop singer Mijares. This album was released on 2004 and it has several producers. It also has the song "La noche triste" (The sad night) that was written by Reyli Barba and it was performed in a duet with the Canadian singer Gino Vannelli. There is a bonus track "Rebecca" a theme from the telenovela of the same name. [1]

Chimalpilli I

Chimalpilli I was a tlatoani (ruler) of the Aztec altepetl (city-state) of Ecatepec from 1428 until his death in 1465. He was the first known historical king of that city.He was also known as Huehue Chimalpilli.

There was also Chimalpilli II.

Fall of Tenochtitlan

The Siege of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire, was a decisive event in the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire.

It occurred in 1521 following extensive manipulation of local factions and exploitation of preexisting divisions by Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés, who was aided by the support of his indigenous allies and his interpreter and companion La Malinche.

Although numerous battles were fought between the Aztec Empire and the Spanish-led coalition, which was itself composed primarily of indigenous (mostly Tlaxcaltec) personnel, it was the siege of Tenochtitlan—its outcome probably largely determined by the effects of a smallpox epidemic (which devastated the Aztec population and dealt a severe blow to the Aztec leadership while leaving an immune Spanish leadership intact)—that directly led to the downfall of the Aztec civilization and marked the end of the first phase of the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire.

The conquest of Mexico was a critical stage in the Spanish colonization of the Americas. Ultimately, Spain conquered Mexico and thereby gained substantial access to the Pacific Ocean, which meant that the Spanish Empire could finally achieve its original oceanic goal of reaching the Asian markets.

Juan Velázquez de León

Juan Velázquez de León was a Spanish conquistador, who along with Hernán Cortés participated in the third Spanish expedition to continental America (present day Mexico) in 1519. He was distinguished by being relative of the then Governor of Cuba Diego Velázquez, but overall served Hernán Cortés and the cause of the Conquest. Cortés gave Juan the daughter of Maxixcatzin, baptized as Doña Elvira, after the Tlaxcallan's made peace with the Spanish.Juan had a determining participation in the defeat of the army of Pánfilo de Narváez, when Cortés sent him to "win him friends in Narváez' camp."He died when the Aztec army attacked the Spaniards as they fled the city of Tenochtitlán, during the La Noche Triste.

La Nueva España (composition)

La Nueva España is a set of six symphonic poems by Lorenzo Ferrero written between 1990 and 1999, which is dedicated to the Spanish conquest of Mexico (once called the New Spain) in 1519–21. The suite can be considered a kind of preparatory study to the opera La Conquista (Prague National Theatre, 2005). This story—says the composer—is of great relevance and reminds us that cultural diversity is a precious asset that must not be squandered.A typical performance lasts about one hour and ten minutes.

List of Mexican films of the 1890s

A list of the earliest films produced in the Cinema of Mexico ordered by year of release from 1896 to 1899. For an alphabetical list of articles on Mexican films see Category:Mexican films.

Madrid – Las Ventas

Madrid – Las Ventas is a live album by folk metal artists Mägo de Oz, which was released in 2005.

Massacre in the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan

The Massacre in the Great Temple, also called the Alvarado Massacre, was an event on May 22, 1520, in the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan during the Spanish conquest of Mexico, in which the celebration of the Feast of Toxcatl ended in a massacre of Aztec elites.While Hernán Cortés was in Tenochtitlan, he heard about other Spaniards arriving on the coast – Pánfilo de Narváez had come from Cuba with orders to arrest him – and Cortés was forced to leave the city to fight them. During his absence, Moctezuma asked deputy governor Pedro de Alvarado for permission to celebrate Toxcatl (an Aztec festivity in honor of Tezcatlipoca, one of their main gods). But after the festivities had started, Alvarado interrupted the celebration, killing almost everyone present at the festival, men, women, and children alike. The few who managed to escape the massacre climbing over the walls proceeded to inform the community of the treacherous Spaniards' atrocity.The Spanish version of the incident claims the conquistadors intervened to prevent a ritual of human sacrifice in the Templo Mayor; the Aztec version says the Spaniards were enticed into action by the gold the Aztecs were wearing, prompting an Aztec rebellion against the orders of Moctezuma. While differing so on Alvarado's specific motive, both accounts are in basic agreement that the celebrants were unarmed and that the massacre was without warning and unprovoked.

The Aztecs were already antagonistic towards the Spaniards for being inside their city and for holding Moctezuma under house arrest. When Cortez and his men, including those who had come under Narvaez, returned, the Aztecs began to commence full scale hostilities against the Spaniards. The Spaniards had no choice but to retreat from the city, which they did on what is called the Sad Night (La Noche Triste), losing most of their men, who were either killed in the battle or were captured and sacrificed.


Matlaccoatzin was an Ecatepec Tlatoani, father of Chimalpilli II, Tlacuilolxochtzin and Tlapalizquixochtzin.


Maxixcatl was the tlatoani (ruler) of the Nahua altepetl (city-state) of Ocotelolco at the time of the Spanish conquest of Mexico.

Ocotelolco was one of the four towns that formed the state of Tlaxcallan. Mase Ecasi gave his daughter, baptized as Dona Luisa, to Juan Velazquez de Leon, both of whom were killed on La Noche Triste. Maxixcatzin was instrumental in forming the alliance between Tlaxcallan and the Spanish force of Hernán Cortés against the Aztecs. Maxixcatl died in the smallpox epidemic which decimated the indigenous population of central Mexico in 1520.He was succeeded by his 13-year-old son Lorenzo Maxixcatl.

Metro Cuitláhuac

Metro Cuitláhuac is a station on the Mexico City Metro. It is located in the Colonia Popotla and Colonia San Álvaro districts in the Miguel Hidalgo borough of Mexico City, to the northwest of the city centre. It lies along Line 2.The station logo depicts an Aztec battle shield. However, the name comes from nearby Avenida Cuitláhuac, an avenue named in honour of Cultlahuanctzin (whose name was later changed into Spanish language as "Cuitláhuac"). He was the tenth, and penultimate, Aztec emperor and the one who defeated Hernán Cortés in the Battle of La Noche Triste ("Sad Night") in 1520. The station was opened on 14 September 1970.Metro Cuitláhuac is also close to Avenida México-Tacuba, one of the most important avenues in the city built on the former route of one of Tenochtitláns three main avenues into the mainland. The station also connects with trolleybus Line "I", which runs between Metro El Rosario and Metro Chapultepec.

Metro Popotla

Metro Popotla is a station on Line 2 of the Mexico City Metro system. It is located in the Colonia Popotla district of the Miguel Hidalgo borough of Mexico City, northwest of the city centre, near the Calzada México-Tacuba.The name of the station comes from a town that once existed in the zone. The logo depicts an ahuehuete tree, referring to the Árbol de la Noche Triste – the "tree of the sad night" – where Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés stopped his retreat from Tenochtitlán and cried after being defeated by Cuitláhuac in the Battle of Noche Triste. The actual tree survived until the 20th century, when it was destroyed by a fire. There is a commemorative plaque on the site where the tree used to be. The station was opened on 14 September 1970.

Rolando Alarcón y sus canciones

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Steven Cole (tenor)

Steven Cole (born 1949) is an American opera singer. He is particularly known for his portrayal of tenor character roles in an international career spanning more than 30 years. He sang in the world premieres of Jean Prodromides's La Noche Triste, Gavin Bryars's Medea, and the revised version of György Ligeti's Le Grand Macabre.

Tacuba, Mexico City

Tacuba is a section of northwest Mexico City. It sits on the site of ancient Tlacopan. Tacuba was an autonomous municipality until 1928, when it was incorporated into the Central Department along with the municipalities of Mexico, Tacubaya and Mixcoac. The Central Department was later split up into boroughs (delegaciones); historical Tacuba is now in the borough of Miguel Hidalgo. The area was designated as a "Barrio Mágico" by the city in 2011.

Tacuba was called Tlacopan in the pre-Hispanic period. Tacuba is derived from the former Nahuatl name "Tlacopan" and means place of the jarilla plant. It was conquered by Azcapotzalco which placed Totoquihuatzin as governor. When the Tenochtitlan and Texcoco decided to ally against Azcapotzalco, Tlacopan did not resist and for this reason is considered to be the third of the Aztec Triple Alliance. Tacuba’s importance led to the construction of a causeway over the lake linking it with Tenochtitlan. Today, this causeway still exists as a major thoroughfare called Calzada Mexico-Tacuba.During the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, the Aztecs succeeded at one point in expelling the Spanish from Tenochtitlan in an event called La Noche Triste (The Sad Night). Cortés and his men fled towards Tacuba on the road that still connects it with the historic center of Mexico City. One year later, Cortés returned to Tenochtitlan to conquer it for good. At the intersection of the Mexico-Tacuba Road and Mar Blanco is a still surviving Montezuma cypress tree. According to legend, this is the tree under which Cortés wept.The last ruler of Tacuba was Tetlepanquetzal, who was tortured by Cortés, who suspected that he was hiding treasure. Over the pre-Hispanic ceremonial site, the Franciscans constructed a church dedicate to the Archangel Gabriel. By 1632, the area had sixty haciendas and by the end of the 18th century, 28 villages with Tacuba proper having twelve neighborhoods. The main river through here was the Remedios, which was the main supply of water. In addition, to agriculture, the area was also an important supplier of lumber and sandstone for construction. By 1794, the area had 45 villages.In the first third of the 20th century, three important schools were established in Tacuba. The Colegio Militar was moved to Popotla in 1913, closed during the Mexican Revolution and reopened in 1920. The Escuela Nacional de Maestros (National Teachers College) was opened in 1925 along with the Escuela de Medicina Veterinaria de UNAM. In 1937, the Instituto Politécnico Nacional was opened in Santo Tómas.Since the mid 20th century, Tacuba proper has declined with problems such as crime and sanitation issues. Tacuba has major problems with uncontrolled street vending and public transportation, prostitution and other crime. Rehabilitation of Tacuba is under a program designated RENACE (rebirth) .

The church and former monastery of San Gabriel is located next to the Tacuba Metro station. The main entrance to the atrium has a stone gate with three arches. The small atrium is mostly paved with a few trees. The façade is mostly Baroque with the portal marked the two grooved Doric columns and topped by a frieze with vegetative design done in relief. It has one bell tower with two levels also in Baroque. The side portal faces Calzada Mexico-Tacuba. It also has an arched entryway, but marked with wavy grooved pilasters and topped with a niche. Part of the former cloister is also preserved. The interior is focused on the main altar, which is gilded and has twelve colonial era paintings of the Virgin Mary and various saints along with Salomonic columns. In the center is an image of the crucified Christ and the top has an image of God, the Father. One other feature of the church is an image of the Child Jesus called the “Niño futbolista” (Football playing child), named such because it is dressed in the uniform of Mexico’s national team when it plays in the World Cup .The Monastery of San Joaquín was founded in 1689 by the Carmelites and conserves its original architecture. It was an important school for young priests.The Tacuba area is home to a neighborhood called Popotla. Here are the remains of a Montezuma cypress, under which it is said that Hernán Cortés sat and wept after being run out of Tenochtitlan during La Noche Triste in 1520. Next to the plaza where this tree is found, there is an old mansion whose east side has a mural called “Noche de la Victoria” (Night of the Victory) done in 2010. Also here is the parish called Pronto Socorro. Further east along the Calzada Tacuba-Mexico, there is the Colegio Militar, next to the Metro stop of the same name. This school was founded in 1823 and operated until 1976. Today it is the site of the Universidad del Ejército y Fuerza Aérea which still trains part of Mexico’s military.Tacuba is home to a Child Jesus image called the “Niño Futbolista” (Child Football/Soccer player). It is considered to be generous in granting miracles and is in a glass case surrounded by toys given by the faithful to favors received. Every four years, when the FIFA World Cup is played, this image is dressed in the uniform of the Mexico national football team, in the hopes that Mexico wins the cup.


Temilotzin was born in Tlatelolco and ruled Tzilacatlan. He rose to the rank of Tlacatecatl during his military time. He was a friend of Cuauhtemoc. He fought against the conquistadors during the Conquest of Mexico at Cuauhtemoc's side. He was present at the moment when the Spanish were leaving Tenochtitlan during La Noche Triste. He was at Cuauhtemoc's side when the Mexica had to surrender. He was forcely sent to expedition to Honduras along with Cuauhtemoc. According to Anales de Tlatelolco, Temilotzin witnessed Cuauhtemoc hung from a ceiba tree.


Tlacuilolxochtzin (Nahuatl: tɬakʷilolʃotʃtsin) was an Aztec noblewoman of very noble heritage, Lady of Ecatepec and sister of queen Tlapalizquixochtzin.

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