Battle of Otumba

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Battle of Otumba
Part of the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire
The battle of Otumba.jpg
A 17th century depiction of the battle.
Date 7 July 1520 (Julian calendar date)
Location The plain of Otumba, modern-day Mexico
Result Decisive Spanish and Tlaxcalan victory[1]
Spain Spanish Empire
Aztec Empire Triple Alliance
Commanders and leaders
Hernán Cortés Matlatzincatl [2]
Unknown, probably less than 1,000, though significantly inferior in numbers to the Aztecs[1] ~20,000-40,000
Casualties and losses
Less than 73 Spanish deaths (only some dozens of spanish warriors were still alive) unknown but high; ~11,000-13,000 up to over 20,000

The Battle of Otumba was a battle at Otumba de Gómez Farías in 1520.


Around the end of March 1519, Hernán Cortés landed with a Spanish conquistador force at Potonchán on the coast of modern-day Mexico.[3] Cortés had been commissioned by Governor Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar of Spanish-controlled Cuba to lead an expedition in the area,[4] which was dominated by the Aztec Empire.[5]

Through a combination of raw force and political maneuvering, Cortés was able to secure the allegiance of the Totonacs and the Tlaxcaltec (subjugated enemies of the Aztec empire) during his advance on the Empire's main settlement, Tenochtitlan.[6] In November, a Spanish force entered the city, and was greeted by its ruler, Moctezuma II.[7]

Initially, the conquistadors were treated well by the Aztecs whilst they stayed in the city,[8] but increasing tension by the end of June 1520 led to the forced expulsion of the Spanish and Tlaxcaltec from Tenochtitlan in an event called La Noche Triste (The Sad Night.) [9] Cortés then started a retreat to Tlaxcala, during which his force was harassed by Aztec skirmishers, and the Aztec leadership resolved to eliminate them as they withdrew.[9]


After being beleaguered on the causeway leading out of the city, the surviving Spanish forces arrived at the plain of Otumba, where they encountered a vast Aztec army. Despite their opponents' exhaustion and hunger, the Aztecs failed to capitalise on their numerical superiority by choosing a vast plain as the battlefield.[10]

They were unfamiliar with the use of troops mounted on horses as shock troops, and were taken aback when mounted Spanish soldiers continually charged at them. For all of their numbers, they were unprepared to endure cavalry charges and were routed by the combined Spanish and Tlaxcalan army after a fierce battle.[10]:303-305

With this hard-fought victory, the Spanish conquistadors were able to regroup and gather their strength for an eventual counter-attack deep into Aztec territory.

See Also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Ancient life in Mexico and Central America. Biblo & Tannen Publishers. 1968. p. 312. ISBN 978-0-8196-0205-3. 
  2. ^ Factional Competition and Political Development in the New World. Cambridge University Press. 1994. p. 109. ISBN 0-521-38400-1. 
  3. ^ The Spanish Invasion of Mexico 1519–1521. p. 31. 
  4. ^ The Spanish Invasion of Mexico 1519–1521. p. 12. 
  5. ^ The Spanish Invasion of Mexico 1519–1521. p. 13. 
  6. ^ The Spanish Invasion of Mexico 1519–1521. p. 35. 
  7. ^ The Spanish Invasion of Mexico 1519–1521. p. 44. 
  8. ^ The Spanish Invasion of Mexico 1519–1521. p. 45. 
  9. ^ a b The Spanish Invasion of Mexico 1519–1521. p. 53. 
  10. ^ a b Diaz, B., 1963, The Conquest of New Spain, London: Penguin Books, ISBN 0140441239