Tlaxcala (Nahua state)

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Confederacy of Tlaxcala
Tlahtōlōyān Tlaxcallan (Classical Nahuatl)
Vexilloids de Tlaxcala.png
Battle vexilloid worn by Tlaxcalan warriors who fought alongside the Spanish ( Lienzo de Tlaxcala )
Aztec Empire 1519 map-fr.svg
Tlaxcala was surrounded by the Aztec Empire in 1519.
Capital Tlaxcala
Common languages Nahuatl (Official)
Tlaxcaltecan religion
Government Confederation
Tlatoani of Tlaxcala 
Historical era Post Classic /Early Modern
 The Tlaxcalla People Migrate to Central Mexico
 early 15th century
Currency Quachtli, Cacao
Preceded by
Succeeded by
JeroglificodeTepeticpac.jpg Tepeticpac
JeroglificodeOcotelulco.jpg Ocotelolco
JeroglificodeTizatlan.jpg Tizatlan
JeroglificodeQuiahuiztlan.jpg Quiahuiztlan
New Spain Flag of Cross of Burgundy.svg
Today part of Mexico

Tlaxcala (Classical Nahuatl : Tlaxcallān [tɬaʃ.ˈká.lːaːn̥] 'place of maize tortillas') was a pre-Columbian city and state in central Mexico.


During the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, Tlaxcala allied with the Spanish Empire against the Aztecs, supplying a large contingent for and sometimes most of the Spanish-led army that eventually destroyed the Aztec Empire.

Tlaxcala was completely surrounded by Aztec lands, leading to the intermittent so called "flower war" between the Aztecs and the Tlaxcalans, fighting for their independence, as the Aztecs wanted to absorb them into the empire.


A Map of Tlaxcala:
The top-right hand sector is Tizatlan, bottom-right Quiahuiztlan, top-left Ocotelolco, and bottom-left Tepeticpac. The river Atzompa crosses the city from north to south (left to right, the map being oriented east-west). From Alfredo Chavero, Pinturas Jeroglificas, Mexico 1901. Tlaxcalamap.jpg
A Map of Tlaxcala:
The top-right hand sector is Tizatlan, bottom-right Quiahuiztlan, top-left Ocotelolco, and bottom-left Tepeticpac. The river Atzompa crosses the city from north to south (left to right, the map being oriented east–west). From Alfredo Chavero, Pinturas Jeroglíficas, Mexico 1901.
Tlaxcalteca allies accompany Hernan Cortes during the Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire, 1519, from the History of Tlaxcala. Entrada a Chalco.jpg
Tlaxcaltecâ allies accompany Hernán Cortés during the Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire, 1519, from the History of Tlaxcala.

The Tlaxcalans arrived in Central Mexico during the Late Postclassic. They first settled near Texcoco in the valley of Mexico, between the settlement of Cohuatlinchan and the shore of Lake Texcoco. [1] After some years the Tlaxcallans were driven out of the valley of Mexico and moved to the east, splitting into three groups along the way. While one group continued north towards the modern state of Hidalgo and another remained in the vicinity of Texcoco, a third group arrived in the modern valley of Tlaxcala, where they established the city of Tepetícpac Texcallan under the leadership of Culhuatecuhtli Quanex.

Over the subsequent years, the Tlaxcallan state expanded with the foundations of Ocotelulco and Tizatlán. The fourth major settlement, Quiahuiztlan, was founded by members of the Tlaxcallan group that had initially remained in the valley of Mexico. [1]

List of Tlatoque of the Tlaxcallan Altepemeh
Señor de Aztahua de Tizatlan
Cuitlixcatl Xayacamach
Tlahuexolotzin Maxixcatl Xicotencatl I Citlapopocaizin
Lorenzo Maxixcatl


Ancient Tlaxcala was a republic ruled by a council of between 50 and 200 chief political officials (teuctli [sg.], teteuctin [pl.]) (Fargher et al. 2010). [2] [3] These officials gained their positions through service to the state, usually in warfare, and as a result came from both the noble (pilli) and commoner (macehualli) classes.

Contact with conquistadors

Tlaxcala was never conquered by the Aztec empire, but was engaged in a state of perpetual war, the so-called flower wars or garland wars.

Conquistador Bernal Díaz del Castillo describes the first battle between the Spanish force and the Tlaxcalteca as surprisingly difficult. He writes that they probably would not have survived, had not Xicotencatl the Elder, and Maxixcatzin, persuaded Xicotencatl the Younger – the Tlaxcallan warleader – that it would be better to ally with the newcomers than to kill them. [4] :140–188

Xicohtencatl the Younger was later condemned by the Tlaxcaltecan ruling council and hanged by Cortés for desertion in April 1521 during the siege of Tenochtitlan.

Due to protracted warfare between the Aztecs and the Tlaxcala, the Tlaxcala were eager to exact revenge, and soon became loyal allies of the Spanish. Even after the Spanish were expelled from Tenochtitlan, the Tlaxcala continued to support their conquest. Tlaxcala also assisted the Spanish in the conquest of Guatemala. [5]

As a result of their alliance with the Spaniards, Tlaxcala had hidalgo privileged status within Spanish colonial Mexico. After the Spanish conquered Tenochtitlan and the rest of Mexico, Tlaxcala was allowed to survive and preserve its pre-Columbian culture. In addition, as a reward to the Tlaxcalans unyielding loyalty to the Spanish, the city and its inhabitants largely escaped the pillaging and destruction following the Spanish conquest. The Tlaxcalans gave further assistance in the Mixtón War.

"The Tlaxcallan Senate", depiction of the Tlaxcalan government by Rodrigo Gutierrez, 1875 Rodrigo Gutierrez - The Tlaxcalan Senate - Google Art Project.jpg
"The Tlaxcallan Senate", depiction of the Tlaxcalan government by Rodrigo Gutiérrez, 1875

Following the Spanish Conquest, Tlaxcala was divided into four fiefdoms ( señoríos ) by the Spanish corregidor Gómez de Santillán in 1545 (26 years after the Conquest). These fiefdoms were Ocotelolco, Quiahuiztlan, Tepeticpac, and Tizatlan. At this time, four great houses or lineages emerged and claimed hereditary rights to each fiefdom and created fictitious genealogies extending back into the pre-Columbian era to justify their claims. [6]

During the colonial period, Tlaxcala's "part in the conquest of the Aztec 'empire,' her favored treatment by the Spanish crown, her unique talent for propaganda and litigation, her astonishing enterprise" gave the small state an important place in Mexican history. [7]

In the 16th and 17th centuries Tlaxcala settlers went to live in new northern colonies to protect Mexico from the Chichimecas. [8]

See also

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  1. 1 2 Aurelio López Corral; et al. (2016). "La República de Tlaxcallan". Arqueología Mexicana. 139: 42–53.
  2. Graeber, David and Wengrow, David "The Dawn of Everything, A New History of Humanity" (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2021), pp. 346–358
  4. Diaz, B., 1963, The Conquest of New Spain, London: Penguin Books, ISBN   0140441239
  5. Restall and Asselbergs 2007, pp. 79–81.
  6. Gibson, 1952.
  7. Simpson, Leslie Byrd. "Tlaxcala in the Sixteenth Century by Charles Gibson". JSTOR. Pacific Historical Review. JSTOR   4491989 . Retrieved 29 September 2021.
  8. Schmal, John P. (2019-09-12). "Indigenous Tlaxcala: The Allies of the Spaniards". Indigenous Mexico. Retrieved 2022-12-28.



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