Tenochtitlan, 1945 by Diego Rivera


In 1345 the Aztecs, or Mexica as they called themselves, founded the city of Tenochtitlan in the middle of Lake Texcoco. The Aztecs, who were relative latecomers to the Valey of Mexico, built Tenochtitlan on the spot where a vision appeared to them: an eagle perched on a cactus eating a serpent.

Tenochtitlan had humble beginnings. For decades after the city was founded, the Aztecs dredged the lake bottom for mud to build up the city's foundation. By the time Moctezuma II came to power in 1502, Tenochtitlan had become an impressive city connected to the mainload by a series of stone bridges. The city had temples, pyramids, palaces, and a huge marketplace. Stone-edged canals carried thousands of people through the city daily. Streets lined with flowers and trees paralleled the canals.

Famous for his larger-than-life murals, Rivera's Tenochtitlan Marketplace is "an encyclopedic presentation of the multiple products, services, activities, and personages to be seen at the great Aztec marketplace. ... The painting gives no hint of Aztec imperialism, which the market symbolizes. Tribute and sacrifice victims were brought to Tenochtitlan from the subject peoples".