Advice on what would happen if the Aztecs defeated the Spanish in 1520 and how would it happen?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Sapphire Williams, Mar 8, 2019.

  1. Sapphire Williams New Member

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    Hello everybody. Well, this is my first time posting on Alternatehistory.com since I've heard of this site since I was on the AltHistory Wiki in Wikia/FANDOM. But I am currently here because I need advice on a timeline I am writing on the Alternate History Wiki on Miraheze called Mexica Victory. And I figured since you guys are the experts in alternate history and I'm sorta lazy to do my own research, then I feel that you guys are the right people to ask.

    Basically, the scenario is about what would happen if the Aztec Triple Alliance/Mexica Empire manage to defeat the Spanish Empire in 1520-1521. As in the Aztec manage to kill/capture all of the Spanish and opposing indigenous forces, and instead of the Spanish conquering the Aztecs and establishing New Spain, the Aztecs survive and establishes a society that exists in the present day.

    First off, how would the Aztecs manage to defeat the Spanish? I would say most likely it would be from the defeat of the Spanish during La Noche Triste, and also can and would the Aztec survive the smallpox epidemic introduced by the Spanish.

    Also, if the Aztec manage to defeat the Spanish the first time, would the Spanish and other European colonial powers attempt to invade and conquer the Aztecs again? Would the Aztecs become a trade partner with the European colonial powers. Also, would the Aztecs, along with the Spanish, French, British, etc. also become a colonial power and establish their own colonies throughout the Caribbean and the rest of the Americas?

    And what about the neighboring Purepecha/Tarascan state, which was one of the biggest Aztec enemies? What would happen to them? If the Aztecs first manage to fight of the Spanish and trade with them, would they attempt to conquer the Purepecha again, or would they form an alliance and remain a separate state from each other?

    And how would they expand? What about the eventual formation of the United States and the Incas?
     
  2. Noscoper Well-Known Member

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    Repeatedly ravaged by disease until Europeans conquer it.
     
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  3. RGB Unqueering the Academia

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    This is a frequently discussed topic that tends to provoke all sorts of strong reactions. Generally speaking, and summarizing quite a bit, there are two major trains of thought:

    1. Would have been conquered by Europeans at a later date anyway, likely quite soon, too. Evidence/argumentation: that's what happened to basically everyone in the world absent both a favourable disease gradient/warfare-technological parity AND vastly superior numbers; or,
    2. The setback would have convinced the Spanish private conquistadors that this is risky and likely to result in disaster, also dampening the desire to repeat the successes everywhere, derailing the first colonial European empires. Evidence/argumentation: usually lots of very specific local perspectives by people who really study the cultures discussed in depth.

    Sounds like you should really talk to group #2 given your preliminary ideas.
     
  4. minifidel Well-Known Member

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    Welcome to Alternate History!
    The Aztecs were done in primarily because of the Spanish allies, who helped even out the fights enough for the small contingent of Spaniards to be effective as a deciding factor. A less successful recruitment campaign for the Spanish, or some opportune treachery, would hamper their efforts, and every single dead Spaniard is infinitely more difficult to replace than Aztec casualties.
    If the Spanish expedition is defeated, it would likely dampen enthusiasm for more private expeditions, but any word that gets about about Aztec gold will make them a tempting target, and Spanish gloryseekers are likely to be a recurring problem for decades, especially while the Aztecs remain debilitated by constant war with its neighbors and rebellious vassals. Concerted efforts to invade are unlikely, but you may well see gradual Spanish and European encroachment along its coasts, possibly aided by allied tribes welcoming them in.

    The lack of such a stunning, overwhelming victory over the preeminent power in the region means that the dynamic of any conquest will be completely different.
    There will probably be precious little left to settle in the Caribbean by the time Aztec numbers of have recovered enough to even contemplate settler colonies on islands that, to them, offer nothing but problems and potential conflict with other European powers. Plus, there's the fact that they'll have plenty of depopulated territory of their own to resettle, for much the same reason that settling the Caribbean islands proved so accessible -- European diseases were truly disastrous demographically.
    If they recognize the existential threat posed by the Spanish, they may recalibrate their strategy towards trying to obtain more allies against the strange invaders instead of pursuing their traditional grudges, but that's not a guaranteed outcome. If they can beat them, they will try, possibly to their detriment.
    The Incas already exist, and will likely be a far, far more daunting target in a world where Mexico isn't conquered seemingly by the grace of god by a handful of adventurers. The Inca were an overall far more developed state, and the circumstances that led to their conquest were also so fortuitous for the Spanish that it, too, gives the impression that their triumph was miraculous.
    Prolonged, organized resistance to Spanish incursions, even by tribes "repeatedly ravaged by disease", would radically alter the dynamic of any Mexican colonization that does occur, most notably restricting settlement to the coastline for the foreseeable future, as occurred in North America. And without the radical, truly unbelievable success that was the conquest of Mexico IOTL, the appeal of colonization will be very different too, because it's no longer a stroll into a gold-rich conquest, but a bloody slog against powerful tribes.
     
  5. Guaire Celt from Galicia

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    The aztecs are destroyed by diseases, other peoles, probably the purepechas, conquer them, after some years other conquistador tries to conquer Mexico again.
     
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  6. Gabingston Well-Known Member

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    I think it is much more likely that the Incas survive than the Aztecs. The Inca homeland of Peru is simply much more isolated than Central Mexico, and IIRC the neighboring tribes hated the Aztecs (you know, due to the human sacrifices and enslavement) and were more than willing to take a chance on some pale bearded men with weird hats (who turned out not to be much better than the Aztecs).
     
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  7. alexmilman Well-Known Member

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    While in a general agreement, Cortes expedition was not the 1st one: there were 2 earlier attempts to land defeated by the natives. The problem (for Aztecs, Incas and everybody else) was in a plain fact that the first Spanish colonies on the Caribbean were a ticking demographic time bomb. The people (mostly impoverished lower nobility) had been coming in expectation of getting land (and the slaves) just to find out that there are none available (or rather that there is a long waiting list with the higher-ranking newcomers getting on a top of it).

    For example, Cortes was a relative of a governor of Hispaniola who granted him encomenienda and this relation also allowed him to get acquainted with a new governor of New Spain which improved both his official status and wealth and eventually resulted in his appointment as Captain General of the expedition. But Bernal Diaz came to Cuba as an ordinary soldier looking for gold which was not there (and neither were available native laborers) so he joined the 1st expedition, then the 2nd and eventually the 3rd. And the people like him would keep coming because there was very little for them at home.

    OTOH, the Aztecs were a Stone Age culture, their state had been built on oppression of the neighbors (who switched on the Spanish side as soon as it became clear that the invaders may protect them from their current masters) and “peculiarities” of their religion hardly would allow them to learn new skills and technologies from the Spaniards. So, what chance would they have in a long run?
     
  8. Worffan101 Ain't done nothing if I ain't been called a Red

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    I doubt that the Aztecs, who were really a rather rickety tributary empire with far less manpower, development, and state organization than the Tawantinsuyu in South America, would do very well. Disease epidemics would be devastating, and while the Incas stood a remarkably decent chance of surviving OTL (and probably would have made it in a severely reduced state due to the sheer annoyance Spain would have to deal with for resupply, if only Pizarro hadn't literally run into the Sapa Inca on his way back from a civil war and straight-up captured the guy through sheer luck and a trap that he was frankly insanely lucky to be able to pull off), they had the advantages of an extremely mountainous homeland where they controlled and knew all the supply routes (often having built them themselves) and the Spaniards didn't, plus vastly superior population, far more developed methods of imperial population control and preventing underclass uprisings (not to mention a much better understanding of how to use non-ethnic-group members as an underclass in general), more sophisticated state organization, and being still on the rise (as in, Huanya Capac died shortly after making new conquests and the Incas were still capable of considerable expansion had they not then been hit by a smallpox pandemic and Spanish invasion in short order).

    If Cortez for whatever reason fails, be it by dying, losing control of his expedition somehow and descending into internecine feuding on an irretrievable level, not arriving during a politically and spiritually significant time and being seen as a potential political tool by local rulers, or just by being defeated by the Triple Alliance in battle somehow (maybe Cortez's guys fail to get as many native allies, due to being badly-behaved racists, and take heavier casualties, nerfing their gunpowder and armor advantages?), it's more likely that the Aztecs still collapse and are conquered more piecemeal by the Spanish, then the Incas rebound from the smallpox epidemic, rebuild, reach back out through traders, hear about these new people who are wiping out the Taino and Caribs and are eating up Central America, and get their hands on gunpowder weapons because those are obviously the new thing. For a state as developed and with the level of state understanding of technology development as the Tawantinsuyu, replicating gunpowder weapons will be mostly a matter of figuring out gunpowder--for which they'll need either trial and error, or a captured Spaniard. So they're likely going to be in the market for Spanish renegades (certainly plausible) or slaves captured and sold south during colonial campaigns.

    Entirely possible that the Incas are "discovered" by a Spanish criminal who lives like a king in exchange for telling the Sapa Inca everything he knows about gunpowder and metallurgy (presumably after a token bit of torture to make sure he knows who's boss).

    I do not want to be a 16th-17th century European power trying to handle wars of religion AND unstable, more messily-acquired colonies AND a major war with the Tawantinsuyu. Just not a great idea.
     
  9. RGB Unqueering the Academia

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    Just to be perfectly clear I'm definitely in camp no.1 here and I personally see any major surviving American polity as a black swan exception to what I see as a general global trend at the time. Details and precise dates may vary but everyone the Spanish or Portuguese or whoever meet will likely not do too well. Colonial wars were incredibly cheap relative to facing off the Ottomans or the Protestants.

    At the same time I don't know everything and nobody really does and rare events seem to happen frequently enough that option no.2 is worth exploring regardless.

    I didn't want to prejudice the OP with my pessimism basically.
     
  10. WeissRaben Well-Known Member

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    The Aztecs are goners either way - they just have to see which poison kills them. Mesoamerica might, might, get a very much needed second wind as yet another Spanish expedition vanishes without leaving a single trace (the Noche Triste being even more sad for the Spanish would do this, I guess), but the Aztecs just have too fragile a system to survive suddenly invigorated subjects and the ravages of the epidemics.

    The Inca, on the other hand, have a good chance of going the way of India if Pizarro can't get there with just the most perfect timing - they had a state organized enough to survive the plagues, and they showed OTL a willingness to adopt Spanish tech - which made them a pain to put down completely. Together with the awful terrain, I expect them to survive until later in the Modern Era, getting conquered somewhere in 1700... that is, if they don't modernize. But that's a pretty long shot. And still...
     
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  11. snerfuplz Liveral Fascist

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    It would be interesting if the Neo-Incan State of Vilcabamba could survive.
     
  12. NegusNegast Well-Known Member

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    I disagree with the general sentiment that Mesoamerica would ultimately become a Spanish possession. Others have noted that the Spanish expedition was contingent upon their recruitment of native allies, but what has not been mentioned is that the native peoples themselves were not completely certain of allying with the Spanish. The primary Spanish allies in the conquest were the Tlaxcallans, who also almost completely wiped out the Spanish expedition under Xicotencatl the Younger and only changed their minds when a faction of the city decided to ally with the Spanish instead of massacring them. If Xicotencatl the Younger finished off the expedition, the next Spanish conquistadors would probably not find any Tlaxcallan allies (as how credible can these guys look when their friends just got killed) which would be a major impediment to Spanish conquest. I agree that the general Aztec hegemony over Mexico was probably going to collapse given its fragility, but I feel like the void is more likely to be filled by native polities, with a Spanish presence on the coast. Also, while disease was disastrous to native countries, the disaster was usually compounded by the effects of colonization. Someone else on the board mentioned that despite disease outbreaks, the indigenous populations in Jesuit Paraguay increased while other native populations decreased, suggesting that colonial exploitation was a huge factor in the population decrease. Consequently, if the disease outbreaks happen to native-controlled polities, I don't think you'd see population collapse that is quite as dramatic as OTL.
     
  13. WeissRaben Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, the lack of exploitation is going to make the Columbian Exchange more into a Black Death-level event, I suppose - still absolutely devastating and still enough to crush the Aztecs, but not enough to kill Mesoamerica outright. From there, though, it's a race against time - even being optimistic about the triple punch choking Spanish ambitions for the moment, they will come back, especially because gold is at once the greatest bait and the greatest opportunity for the Mexican populations. I expect something before 1600 rolls through, and if the region hasn't reorganized by then, it will fall piecemeal.
     
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  14. chornedsnorkack Well-Known Member

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    Like, Cortez was OTL successful in patching up a coalition against Aztecs in late 1520-early 1521.
    What if he is not as successful?
    The express terms of his alliance with Tlaxcala in 1520 included permitting Tlaxcalans to build a fortress in Tenochtitlan. Show it.
    Right - Cortez promptly broke his deal.
    Suppose Tlaxcalans get cold feet in 1520 and after their losses at Noche Triste get sceptical about Cortez´ prospect of success - or his good faith after his victory. They therefore decide to cut their losses, seek peace terms with Aztecs - and though they do not attack Spaniards immediately, they do advice them to retreat all the way to Veracruz.
    So no return to Anahuac in 1520-1521.
    What next?
     
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  15. Prince de Pringondani Well-Known Member

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    Would Vera Cruz become a Spanish stronghold and starting point for Expansion to the North? will Aztecs and other peoples adopt horseriding?
     
  16. minifidel Well-Known Member

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    The moment horses get out, the tribes that encounter them will adopt them.
     
  17. WeissRaben Well-Known Member

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    Yeah. We saw this in Peru, it would happen in Mesoamerica as well in this scenario.
     
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  18. Gloss Well-Known Member

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    I'm more of the idea that eventually some of Mesoamerica would become part of or clients/vassals of oversea powers, for a couple of reasons:

    1. Even if the Spanish expedition's successes were effectively a fluke, the Spaniards would never again encounter the same kind of resistance afterwards, because:
    2. Diseases would inevitably hurt a large portion of the population, I honestly am skeptical of the idea that the death toll of the diseases can be reduced by much, with the example of the Black death one can see how easily diseases can take way up to 2/3 of a population in even a relatively interconnected area, imagine piling up different diseases and also:
    3. The effects of droughts, historically Mexico suffered of multiple droughts during the 17th century, this would not only further exacerbate the effects of diseases but also hamper regrowth, similar to Europe's population stagnating up to the early 16th century.
    4. The valley of Mexico would be hit harder by those factors AFAIK so this would cause a collapse of the existing Mesoamerican system, bringing a political instability that would allow Spaniards to play sides.

    The Black Death killed 2/3 of the population in some regions, the disease will be disastrous no matter what, be it "just" 75-80%(which honestly I don't find likely without having actual examples of that from IOTL) instead of 90-95% and they would be recurrent too.

    Also Paraguay is a very particular case, you could use that to argue just about any impossible demographic POD you want, but it's not very useful because the Jesuits bend the society they run into something very peculiar. Considering you compared it to the black death, just look at how many decades it took before most areas started recovering, something like 1520 for Northern Europe and 1450 for some parts of Southern Europe, it would took centuries before the recovery happens in Mesoamerica.
    Also what's special Paraguay is more the high birth rates, it doesn't show the effects of colonialism because the point is that the population recovered so quickly, not anything else(after all the Spaniards settled the region decades after they explored it)
     
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  19. chornedsnorkack Well-Known Member

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    Look at Yucatan Maya. The first Mesoamericans reached by Spaniards in 1517.
    They sailed past with brief visits on coastal cities. In early 1530s, Francisco de Montejo tried to conquer Yucatan. Unsuccessfully. He could take towns, but eventually could not hold them, and departed with heavy losses in 1535.
    It was only in 1542 that he finally made a useful native ally followed by rapid success.
    If Cortez´ expedition in 1519-1520 is a bloody failure, Mexican highlands might remain unconquered by Spaniards for decades much like Yucatan did.
     
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  20. Richard V Well-Known Member

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    The conquest of the New World is inevitable because while the native population is crashing, new crops like potato, corn, bean, squash will cause a population boom in Europe. These people know there are vast lands with temperate climate not that far out there that’s poorly defended by stone age people.

    Aztecs with horses would be tougher to fight, but the alternative is fighting heavily fortified European kingdoms for scraps of land or well armed Berber kingdoms for North Africa.

    Perhaps inevitable is a strong word, but they would need disease resistance, better agriculture and livestock package for population recovery, cavalry, lots of metal weapons, and lots of fortifications.
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2019