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Ploughing the sea: Latin America observed

The Spaniards take control

Engraving depicting the grand temple of Mexico, with a human sacrifice taking place in the centre.Le grande Temple de Mexique.This account of the history of the conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards in the early 16th century includes plates illustrating the architecture of the indigenous Aztec people.

The architectural achievements of the Aztecs, particularly in the construction of palaces and towers and in city design, were noted by the conquering Spaniards and were an important feature of Aztec government. These buildings allowed the Aztecs to showcase their power and prestige and provided places to worship their gods.

The Aztec empire dominated the area which is now Mexico from the 14th to the 16th century and exerted power further afield by supporting proxy rulers who paid tribute to the Aztec hierarchy.

In 1521, Montezuma, the leader of the Aztecs, was confronted and defeated in the city state of 'Tenochtitlan', now Mexico City, by Cortés and the Spanish forces. The old state was destroyed and a new city built to symbolise the passing of the old order.

The plate here shows the grand temple of Mexico, with human sacrifice, an important and widely practised Aztec tradition, taking place in the centre. Mexico City Cathedral now stands on this site.

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