Cuauhtemoc was the last Aztec emperor. I’ve captured one sliver of his life in my series Fall of Tenochtitlan, but obviously he was around before and after the Spanish invaded and destroyed his city. By the way, I’m not making any moral judgements about the Spanish or the Aztecs when I say invaded and destroyed. Invasion and destruction are pretty common themes in history. Historians don’t know exactly when and where he was born, exactly who his parents were, and they don’t know where he was buried. One town in the state of Guerrero claims to have his bones, but others say it’s not him. He was born sometime around 1500 to a noble family. He was named emperor in 1521, and he was hanged by the Spanish in 1525. He had a wife and at least one child. If there were any official documents about him, they were lost or destroyed during the destruction of Tenochtitlan. After the emperor Cuitlahuac died of smallpox, Cuauhtemoc was named emperor and put in charge of the city’s defense. When he finally accepted that he couldn’t save the city, he and some advisers tried to flee and find a better place to continue the war. He was captured and brought to Cortes. He asked to be sacrificed, because that was the expectation of any captured soldier. Before the Spanish arrived, the typical battle strategy was to capture as many people as possible rather than killing them. Live prisoners could be sacrificed to the gods. After death, the soldier would ascend to the heavens and accompany the setting sun. The Spanish soldiers hadn’t been paid yet, and Cuauhtemoc said there was no more gold left. It’s likely that Cortes had kept most of it for himself, and when he did offer his men a bit of gold, the amount was so tiny that they all refused to take it. There had been a few mutinies and conspiracies before the battles of Tenochtitlan, and now that Cortes wasn’t paying up, his men were getting unruly again. But Cortes had to keep them active, and so he sent them to explore and colonize other parts of Mexico and Central America. In 1524 one of Cortes’ men, Cristobal de Olid, who had been sent to conquer Honduras, rebelled against Cortes. So Cortes went to put down the rebellion. He needed to take Cuauhtemoc with him because if he had left him behind, the emperor could have started up his own rebellion. Along the way many of them died of hunger, and others were bitten by venomous snakes.