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HISTORY

Atotoztli: The Only Female Aztec Ruler That History Forgot

Many codices and writings describe her with a position corresponding to that of a female tlatoani (ruler).

Much has been said about the great Mexica empire and its powerful warriors and rulers; brave men and perfectionist strategists who led and built empires. However, history has forgotten to mention the name of a woman who also occupied these functions with very favorable results: Atotoztli.

Since its foundation in 1325, the political organization of the Mexica in Mexico-Tenochtitlan was similar to a monarchy, that is to say, there was a family in charge of governing and ceding power to its own descendants, generally to the males. This is how Moctezuma Ilhuicamina, the fifth tlatoani (ruler) of the Toltec-Mexican dynasty, came to power. Moctezuma eventually had a daughter named Atotoztli and another boy he named Iquehuacatzin, who was educated to fill his father’s position when necessary, even holding the position of tlacatécatl, a preparatory step to the position of tlatoani.

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Who Was Atotoztli?

However, when Moctezuma I passed in 1469, his son did not take his place, and historians still ignore the reasons for this fact. Iquehuacatzin passed three years after his father. So there was nothing left but to turn to Atotoztli. This is how anthropologist Rudolf van Zantwijk explained this extraordinary historical event.

“In cases of succession by one or more of the brothers of a previous tlatoani, after the brothers had ruled, the function reverted to a descendant of the one among them (the brothers) who occupied the position as immediate successor.”

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There are other theories supported by other historiographic investigations. For example, in the Codex Ramirez, it is suggested that the emperor Moctezuma I and his daughter Atotoztli, governed together between 1440 to 1469. It would be logical that having this preparation, Atototoztli naturally relieved the position. It is also believed that the woman ruled between the passing of her father and that of her brother, and was later relieved by one of her sons. While others believe that Atotoztli ruled after her father, for 12 years accompanied and directed by Tezozómoc, her husband. What is certain is that the name of Atotoztli appears in several writings as a ruler.

Atotoztli’s Life

Thanks to these texts, and interpretations written by Spanish conquistadors, it is also known that Atotoztli had three sons with Tezozómoc: Axayácatl, Tizoc, and Ahuizotl. The first was the successor of Moctezuma I in official history. Unfortunately, little is known about his mother, although some historians consider that this woman could have been the head of one of the largest empires in the Americas. “She was a key figure in the continuity of the empire’s dynasty,” commented historians Filiberto Romo and Enrique Aguilar in one of the few studies that exist on the subject. “Possibly she was not only the bearer of the lineage but, having the legitimate right to reign, she did so; she was queen and ruled.”

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It is quite obvious to think that there could have been great censorship before the figure of a female ruler, the Mexica also had quite macho traditions and customs. In addition, of course, to the European chroniclers and conquerors who only transcribed what they heard about the history before their arrival.

Hopefully, historians will be able to obtain more clues about this admirable woman and her passage through the history of Mexico.

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Story originally published in Spanish in Cultura Colectiva

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