During the time when the Aztecs ruled in the center of the country, they managed to accumulate immense wealth, with pieces of gold and precious stones. This was one of the reasons that motivated the Spanish to come to the great city of Tenochtitlan .
Upon the arrival of the Spaniards to the country, in 1519, they noticed that there were great treasures in the territory, due to the offerings that were sent by the tlatoani Moctezuma , who tried to prevent their arrival to the Aztec city by sending precious stones or various pieces made of gold. But instead of stopping Hernán Cortés and his companions, seeing the gold pieces that were sent to him caused him more curiosity to reach Tenochtitlan.
Cortés and some 500 men who accompanied him landed on the island of Santa Cruz , now known as Cozumel . They advanced towards the Yucatan coast, and then headed towards Tabasco, Tlaxcala and Cholula. As they passed through these towns, the Spanish troops managed to defeat the indigenous inhabitants and accumulate wealth.
It was on November 8, 1519, when Cortés and his army arrived in Mexico-Tenochtitlan, capital of the Mexica empire. That day, the tlatoani Moctezuma and the Spanish conqueror had their first meeting, right where today is the corner of Pino Suárez and República del Salvador streets, where there is even a mural that represents that meeting.
The Spaniards, upon their arrival in the imposing city, stayed at the Axayácatl palace , where Moctezuma’s father had lived , who was in what is now Monte de Piedad, in the Historic Center. Faced with the refusal of the Aztec emperor to put a Christian altar in the Templo Mayor, the Spanish then asked to place it in the palace where they were staying.
When a carpenter was building the altar, he realized that there was a hidden door. Opening it and nosing around they found a magnificent treasure. Bernal Díaz del Castillo , in the True History of the Conquest of New Spain, narrates that when he opened the door and saw so many riches, they were “elevated”. “And when it was opened, Cortés with certain captains first entered inside, and they saw so many gold jewels and plates, and many weaves, and chalchihuis stones and other great riches; they were elevated ”.
Riches, according to the Mexica tradition, could not be touched by Moctezuma, they could only be increased, as his father and grandfather had done. Fortune was sheltered in the so-called Teucalco. Among the gold objects that the Spaniards found were earrings, tiaras, feather fabrics, fine shields, nose lunettes, anklets, necklaces, among others. All the gold found by the Spanish was melted down and turned into bars. To their allies, the Tlaxcalans, who joined them in being subdued by the Aztecs, they gave chalchihuites, jade pebbles, feathers, and fine woods.
After discovering the treasure, Cortés took Moctezuma prisoner , and shortly after he left Mexico-Tenochtitlán to fight against Pánfilo de Narváes, another Spanish conqueror who was sent to capture Cortés, who had disobeyed the orders of the governor of Cuba not to come to Mexico.
After facing Narváes and defeating him, Cortés returned to Tenochtitlan, but encountered a rebellion of the Aztecs, which was caused by a massacre that the Spanish committed in the Templo Mayor. That episode is known as the Tóxcatl massacre .
To calm the people, Cortés asked Moctezuma to intercede for him and his men, but the crowd stoned the emperor, killing him. The Mexica clashed with the Spanish whom they managed to defeat in the well-known Noche Triste . Cortés was looking to flee with the treasure that night, however, a woman who noticed the action and screamed, so Aztec warriors came out to stop them. That night about 600 Spaniards died , and they also lost the treasure.
It is said that Cuauhtémoc decided to get rid of that wealth before the city fell completely. Cortés tortured him and burned his feet, asking him to reveal where the treasure had been, but the last Aztec emperor confessed that he had thrown it into the lagoon. Nothing was ever known about the treasure, however, on March 13, 1981 a man found a gold bar of about 2 kg 5 meters underground. The site of the discovery was next to the Mexico City mall, where the SAT offices are now located.
The National Institute of Anthropology and History announced that the piece of gold was melted between 1519 and 1520, so it probably belongs to the disappeared treasure of Moctezuma.