In working on our historical graphic novel series Aztec Empire, I’ve had to research a lot of dates! It can be difficult sometimes because different sources conflict with each other, and some information is maddeningly vague. In this post, I’m sharing the timeline I came up with for the beginning of our series, covering the events of Episodes 1-7. I’ll be expanding it as our story progresses.
The exact dates when Cortes’ expedition sailed for Mexico have been distorted as information was passed down through the centuries. In the memoirs of Bernal Diaz, he used the Julian calendar (as opposed to our current Gregorian calendar). Diaz gives a couple of specific dates, with other descriptions such as “two days later.” Based largely on Diaz’s account, I calculated the following chronology.
- February 10 - Cortes’ fleet leaves Cuba (Diaz: “10th of February”).
- February 22 - The San Sebastian with Capt. Alvarado arrives at Cozumel (Diaz described a previous journey from Cuba to Cozumel taking 18 days and that “we arrived two days earlier than the rest”).
- February 24 - Cortes and the rest of the fleet arrive at Cozumel two days after Alvarado (Diaz describes Cozumel’s heavy currents).
- February 27 - Three days after arriving, Cortes sends a letter to Maya King Taxmar asking about Spanish castaways. The letter explains that Spanish ships have come to rescue the castaways, and that they have eight days to rendezvous with Capt. Ordas’ away party at Cape Catoche (Diaz: “the third day after our arrival.” Cortes: “for eight days, to wait for you”).
- March 5 - Spanish castaway Geronimo Aguilar arrives at the home of his fellow castaway, Gonzalo Guerrero. Gonzalo is informed about the arrival of Spanish ships to rescue them, but refuses to leave his life in the Yucatan.
- March 8 – Ordaz leaves the rendezvous point at Cape Catoche, after waiting an extra day (Diaz: “Ordaz stayed there the eight days, and another in addition”).
- March 9 – Eight-year castaway Aguilar misses his rescue by one day (Diaz: “Aguilar was quite downcast”).
- March 10 – The Spanish fleet is back at Cozumel to repair a leak in Escalante’s ship (Diaz: “four days to repair the vessel”).
- March 13 – Aguilar meets up with Cortes at Cozumel before the fleet departs (Diaz, Ch.28).
- March 21 – Spaniards arrive at Tabasco River two days before the Battle of Potonchan (Diaz: Ch.31).
- March 23 – The Battle of Potonchan takes place, two days before the Battle of Centla (Diaz, Ch.32).
- March 25 – The Battle of Centla takes place on “Lady Day” (Annunciation of the Virgin Mary or Annunciation Day is March 25).
- March 27 – King Tabscoob meets with Cortes in Potonchan for peace talks two days after the battle (Diaz: Ch.35).
- March 28 – Malinali given to Spaniards three days after the battle (Diaz: Ch.36).
- April 17 – Cortes leaves Potonchan and heads west (Diaz: “Palm Sunday”).
- April 21– Cortes arrives at Mexica controlled Totonac territory (Diaz: “Maundy Thursday”).
- April 22 – Cortes disembarks on shore (Diaz: “Good Friday”).
- April 23 – Moctezuma’s assistant, Cuitlapitoc arrives (Diaz: “Holy Saturday”).
- April 24 – The Aztec governor of Totonacan, Teuhtlil arrives (Diaz: “Easter Sunday”).
- April 26 – Montezuma’s given an advance report about the Spaniards.
- April 28 – Montezuma meets with painter-scribes who’ve recorded the Spaniards.
- May 4 – Moctezuma’s emissary, Teuctlamacazqui, arrives in the Spanish camp with a startling scale of treasure. Included are a gold and a silver disc, "the size of cartwheels."
Spaniards realize that there is more to be had than merely setting up a colony to control a source of gold, there is a treasure of an empire. Their epic quest has begun.
Stay tuned as we add more dates, and add more pages to Aztec Empire.