The Remains of Hernán Cortés

After touring many opulent cathedrals in Mexico, the Church and Hospital of Jesús Nazareno seemed unusually plain. There were no frescos covering the walls, no grand carved marble alters, or organ pipes spanning the width of the church. Just a plain white ceiling and walls with an unusual stylistic depiction of the Virgin Mary. There were a few of the local faithful in attendance, but this was not a hot spot tourist destination. In fact, you wouldn’t even know that the bones of the most detested man in the history of the Americas were concealed behind the alter walls. The only thing memorializing this most controversial man was a small red placard that read ... Hernán Cortés.

The Church and Hospital are supposedly located at the spot where Hernán Cortés and Moctezuma II met for the first time in 1519. This location served as the opening of the causeway leading from Tenochtitlan to Iztapalapa. After the Conquest, Cortés ordered that a hospital be built to tend to Aztec soldiers wounded fighting with the Spanish.[1]

In his last will, Cortés clearly stated that he wanted the hospital to be built for the sons of the Aztec warriors who had perished in battle during the Conquest of Tenochtitlan. This was not an institution for wounded Spanish soldiers. It was built many years after the Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire.[2]

While small, hidden and vertically unknown to most of the world, this spot had a huge impact on making the Montezuma and Cortez moment in history come alive for me. Cortez’s remains will forever be entombed at the site that changed the course of Mesoamerican history, and no one even knows that they’re there.