Though these characters barely make it into the history books theres still a lot to understand how these cultures stories are told.
When we talk about pre-Columbian civilizations we pay way much more attention to their customs, traditions, ways of understanding life, rituals, and so on, rather than on specific characters. Just think about it, it’s easier for people around the world to know about the achievements and deeds of specific European monarchs or warriors than their pre-Columbian counterparts, but their stories, not known by many (even in their own countries) can be as compelling and intriguing than any other historical character. As you can tell by the title, we’re going to talk about a character that doesn’t appear quite often in the history books but whose life is able to shock as much as any event of the history of her people. This is the story of Chalchiuhnenetzin, the beautiful Queen who lured men into her chambers only to end with them in the most ruthless and cruel way imaginable.
Chalchiuhnenetzin was the daughter of Axacáyatl, emperor of Tenochtitlán, or in other worlds of the Aztec Empire. She was a gracious and beautiful young girl when she was taken to Texcoco among many other noble girls and women so that the King Nezahualpilli would choose a wife (in some versions she’s taken to Tlatelolco where the king Moquihuixtli chose her as a wife). Not only was she really beautiful and charming, she was the daughter of one of the most powerful emperors in the region, and thus a great political ally for his kingdom. Without thinking it that much, Nezahualpilli chose Chalchiuhnenetzin as his wife.
By the time of the wedding, she was still a young girl, so the marriage couldn't be consummated so Nezahualpilli decided she had to be taken to her own palace until she was able to live next with him.
Though she was secluded most of the time, Chalchiuhnenetzin grew up with so many freedoms compared to other noblewomen of the empire. According to the story, as soon as she became of age, she began to acquire many lovers. Her story appears in several chronicles from the 16th century and in all of them, it’s said that she had hundreds of lovers, which ranged from servants to warriors and nobles.
Now comes the eerie and macabre part of the story. According to all of these chronicles, once she had sex with them she ordered her servants to kill them and skin them. Then she would ask local artists to create sculptures with their bones, which were then exhibited in her palace. Now, you’d think that her husband would’ve noticed something strange going on, especially after seeing all those bone sculptures. Well, the chronicles claim that she told him these were made from animal bones and were a homage to her deities so she wouldn’t miss her home.
Her sex and killing spree would apparently last for years if she hadn’t committed one grave mistake, sparing the life of three of her lovers. One of them Chicuhcóatl, king of Texoyucan, appeared before Nezahualpilli wearing one of her bracelet, oblivious to the fact that it had been a gift from her husband. Noticing this, Nezahualpilli decided to investigate what was going on only to uncover the dark truth. He condemned his wife to death together with all her servants and artists who had helped her in her macabre hobby.
Of course, there’s no solid evidence of this story being true. I mean, probably this woman did have many lovers since at the time noble women did enjoy a freedom unseen in other social classes or even civilizations. In these sources, she’s clearly portrayed as perhaps the vilest woman on earth, who would lure good men into her bed only to kill them and dismember them. Which no offence, it's hard to buy.
One thing to bear in mind is that these chronicles were stored and written by the Spaniards who colonized the territories so it's obvious it would have huge religious undertones and let's face it, when has the Church ever demonized women? Well, lots of times if we're honest so perhaps it's through the lens of Christianity that we are introduced to Chalchiuhnenetzin’s story. So, in many ways she remains a mystery, among the many other characters that are fascinating and are waiting to be uncovered.
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Cover photo by @yayolopez_photo