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Synod Of The Americas


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When Captain Hernando Cortes arrived on the Gulf Coast of Mexico, at what he would call Vera Cruz (True Cross), he entered a world which had been prepared to receive hAztec Sun Stone, mistakenly called a calendarim. More accurately, it was a world prepared, though not yet willing, to receive his God. It was 1519 in the Year of Our Lord, but the fifth epoch according to the Aztec Sun Stone, which chronicled the history of the people who only recently had come to dominate central Mexico.


In Tenochtitlan (Place of the Prickly-Pear Cactus), the capital which we know as Mexico City, the Aztec king Moctezuma II (Montezuma) awaited a prophesied fate. Not only did the Sun Stone tell him he was near the end of the last era of his people, but in 1509 his sister Pazantzin had received a vision of ships, having sheets with a cross on them, whose sailors would bring to her people the knowledge of the true God. This had taken place while the Princess was buried in a tomb, mistaken for dead during a sickness but fortunately discovered alive. Further, a comet visible in central Mexico the year before the arrival of Cortes was understood to presage disaster.

Then there was the mysterious legend of the priest-king Quetzalcoatl. When the Aztecs migrated in the 12th century to the Valley of Mexico (where Mexico City is located), they passed by the great city Teotihuacan, the City of the Gods, at its northeastern end. Teotihuacan’s carefully laid out streets and massive temples, especially the great Pyramid of the Sun at Teotichuacan, City of the GodsPyramid of the Sun (the largest in the world at its base), the temple of the Moon and the temple of the Feathered Serpent (Quetzalcoatl), seemed to the Aztecs to be the work of the gods themselves. Although abandoned in the 8th century, and probably the work of an earlier people, Teotihuacan was commonly associated with the Toltec civilization of nearby Tula, whose culture greatly influenced the surrounding peoples, including the Aztecs. In the history of the Toltecs there had been a king, a priest whose name was the same as the god he served, Quetzalcoatl. Driven out by rivals he went down to the Gulf of Mexico and sailed away. Legend had it that this king would one day return to reclaim his rightful kingdom. Of course, in the meantime the Valley of Mexico and far beyond had fallen to the Aztecs, and what would have been Quetzalcoatl’s domain was now Moctezuma’s.

All these factors came together to produce caution, respect for and a certain dread of Hernan Cortes and his men on the part of Moctezuma and the Aztecs. They received them initially with great deference, and only after some time when they saw that they were mere men did they seek to defend themselves and their religion. The Aztecs, however, were no match for Spanish arms. Cortes, assisted by the Tlaxcalan people (more than willing to repay the Aztecs for their cruelty), conquered Tenochtitlan in 1521 and ended the Aztec religion of human sacrifice.