Researcher says a native plague wiped out Aztecs





Here's what history tells us about the Spanish conquest of Mexico: Armed with modern weapons and Old World diseases, several hundred Spanish soldiers toppled the Aztec empire in 1521. And by the end of the century, the invaders' guns, steel and germs had wiped out 90 percent of the natives.

It's a key piece of the "Black Legend," the tales of atrocities committed by the Spanish Inquisition and colonizers of the New World. But it may be just that legend, according to Rodolfo Acuña-Soto, a Harvard-trained epidemiologist.

He argues that an unknown indigenous hemorrhagic fever may have killed the bulk of Mexico's native population, which plummeted from an estimated 22 million in 1519, when the Spaniards arrived, to 2 million in 1600.

And he warns that the fever ˜ which the Aztecs called cocoliztli in their Nahuatl language ˜ may still be lurking in remote rural areas of Mexico.

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Robert Elliot Solot - 10/15/2006

Several hundred Spanish soldiers did not topple the Aztec empire in 1521. Several hundred Spanish soldiers, along with several hundred thousands of their Indian allies toppled the Aztec empire in 1521. Cortez's genius was also political: he could harness the political situation borne of an extremely cruel despotism to his purpose.

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