Aztec Rulers: Chimalpopoca, Third Tlatoani of Tenochtitlan

While it’s believed Chimalpopoca is the son of Huitzilihuitl, it’s possible his father was Acamapichtli, the first ruler of Tenochtitlan. His rule, from about 1417 to 1427, oversaw the building of a wooden aqueduct from Chapultepec into the city, as well as construction of a causeway to Tlacopan.

Militarily, Chimalpopoca kept the Mexica place as a vasal of the Tepanecs, whose ruler was Chimalpopoca’s maternal grandfather, Tezozomoc in the Tepanec capital of Azcapotzalco. After a war in 1418, the Mexica support of the Tepanecs was rewarded with the city of Texcoco. However, Chimalpopoca kindly allowed the ruler of Texcoco, the legendary Nezahualcoyotl, to live in Tenochtitlan rather than be exiled to the mountains.

His death is shrouded in intrigue as several narratives exist on the cause of his death. After fending off an attack by Coyoacan’s ruler, Maxtla, Chimalpopoca was taken hostage by the Tepanecs and taken to Azcapotzalco, where he died. Either by suicide, murdered by the Tepanecs or assassinated by his relative Itzcoatl, the next tlatoani. There seems to be some academic favor to the last option, given Chimalpopoca’s family tie to the Tepanecs. Although Itzcoatl was also the son of a different Tepanec woman, he did not have the loyalty of his half-brother/nephew to those people. Itzcoatl also had a much more grand vision for the Mexica.

Chimalpopoca dressed as the god Huitzilopochtli
Chimalpopoca dressed as the god Huitzilopochtli

Name: Chimalpopoca is a compound name of chimalli (shield) and poctli (smoke). His name is roughly smoking-shield.

Huitzilihuitl <<- Chimalpopca ->> Itzcoatl

Aztec Rulers: Huitzilihuitl, Second Ruler of Tenochtitlan

Huitzilihuitl – 2nd Ruler of the Mexica
The second Tlatoani of Tenochtitlan, and the first that was born in the city, was Huitzilihuitl. He was the son of the first tlatoani, Acamapichtli and a Mexica mother named Tezcatlan Miyahuatzin. He was born into a Mexica community still subject to the Tepanec people of Azcapotzalco. He took the throne at about age 16, after the death of his father circa 1403.

Militarily, he aligned the Mexica with Azcapotzalco in their feud with Texcoco. Tenochtitlan profited greatly from the raids of cities to the south and east of Lake Texcoco during these wars. He died around 1417 with his son Chimalpopoca, succeeding him.

Huitzilihuitl pursued his father’s politics, building ties, slowly strengthening the city and army. His reign saw the spread of cotton weaving, elevating Mexica clothing from the courser maguey (agave) fabrics to the much softer cotton fabrics.

Tlatoani Huitzilihuitl depicted in the Tovar Codex.

Name: His name translates to hummingbird feather. In both of the images a green hummingbird can be seen representing his name. Next to his symbol is his name spelled in Latin characters.

Huitzilihuitl, second ruler of Tenochtitlan, depicted in the Codex Mendoza.

Acamapichtli <<- Huitzilihuitl ->> Chimalpopca

Aztec Rulers, The First: Acamapichtli

The first Tlatoani of Tenochtitlan was a bit of a proto-Mexica, as the Mexica nation was just taking shape. After Tenoch had delivered the Mexica to the Valley of Mexico, they began the process of integrating with the other local polities of the Valley.

Acampichtli was a native of Texcoco, his mother was Culhua roylaty, but his father was a Mexica noble. The council, or calpultin, decided to select a ruler with ties throughout the valley to cement the political place of the newly established Tenochtitlan. So Acamapichtli was chosen and became the first Tlatoani of Tenochtitlan around 1382. The Mexica were then a minor newcomer in a place with thousands of years of history.

As a minor city the Mexica, and their Tlatelolca Mexica neighbors, fell into subjugation by Azcapotzalco, capital of the Tepanec people. Acampichtli had set the new Mexica city up to break free from subjugation. His son, Huitzilitzin, would move the city forward.

Acamapichtli’s Accomplishments:

• Built out the chinampa farming system

• Intermarried with numerous women from neighboring cultures to build family ties

• Created the four main neighborhoods of Tenochtitlan

• Great politician who established Tenochtitlan, politically, in the Valley

• Established a new royal line for Tenochtitlan with every subsequent ruler being a direct descendent until the Contact Period.