1121: Maria Bartola

The First Historian of Mexico

Lived: c.16th Century AD, Aztec Empire (Present-day Mexico)

Maria was the niece of Moctezuma II, Emperor of the Aztecs.

A princess of the Aztec Empire, Maria wrote an account of the Spanish invasion of the Aztec capital city, Tenochtitlan (present-day Mexico City). Though her birth name is now lost to history, Maria’s account of the invasion is known as it was the basis for later Spanish chroniclers own accounts of what happened those fateful days in the waning Aztec empire. Unfortunately, Maria’s exact writings were reportedly burned by the Spanish chroniclers after the fact.

Maria’s uncle the king died in the fighting, and though her father succeeded him as king, Maria’s father died only a few months later from smallpox. Maria’s brother became the last Aztec emperor, and succeeded to the throne just as Cortes began his march on the capital. Maria’s brother was killed by the invaders, and very few Aztecs survived the ordeal.

Very little else of Maria’s story is known today, and there are equally few sources easily available for her on the internet. Maria is considered the first historian of Mexico because her account of the fall of the Aztec Empire is the first historical account known to have been written about the land that became known as Mexico.