Well, there we are going right into the happenings of the night from June 30th to July 1st 1520, the day, that got famous as La Noche Triste.
A cool, silent night it was in which the Spaniards, after around 200 days of stay in Tenochtitlan decided to sneak out the city. Sneaking out however is an odd choice of a word. Did you ever try to sneak out with around 3.500 people over canals, that don’t have any bridges anymore?
However, the fighting started after a time, and if we may believe Bernal Diaz it was one big mess. Everyone was mostly looking for his own well-being, and that’s understandable. In this situation something happened (or not?) that would give a street in today’s Mexico City its name – Puente de Alvarado.
Scene-cut: we are at the third canal, sweet hope for freedom behind it. At the end of the big trek is the company of Alvarado – Pedro de Alvarado that is, later governor of Guatemala. Him being a pretty handsome guy, if the indigenous had an eye for handsome. They actually called him the son of the sun on occasions, cause of his long blond hair. But back to the fighting!
The bridges were destroyed very quickly, cause the Aztecs were firing and attacking from canoes. People that could swim, tried to swim. Some drowned cause they packed too much gold. Many couldn’t swim at all. Bernal Diaz tells us about the dead bodies that blocked the way.
Alvarado and his company were at the very end of the large group of fighters, fighting for the escape of the others. Most soldiers of his company died. Later Bernal Diaz saw him coming, walking with his lance as a support, cause he was badly injured. Being asked how he could escape, he told that he put his lance to the water and – holding it – jumped over the place, where there had been a bridge before. Basically he told them, that he jump in style of pole vault over the canal.
Bernal Diaz doubted that… and in fact, it looks rather improbable.
Not because of his injuries or strength – he must indeed have been a strong and brave fighter. But we have a length problem. The lake was not too deep, sure, but deep enough for Brigantines to sail on it. A Brigantine had a gauge of at least 2,5m. We can assume a water depth of 3 meters. From drawings and the purpose of bridges, we can assume, that the height of the dam was at least around 1,50m above the water level. The chest of a man is another 1,50 high. I don’t even want to talk about the angle, that increases the distance to the ground as well.
As I see it, his lance would have to be around 6 meters in length to perform that jump. The lances of the Conquistadores were light lances, and certainly not longer than 2,50m. And there we have our problem: The jump is very improbable, the way he described it immediately after it happened (or not?) and ever after. He was, however, celebrated as a hero and soon legends existed about that strong worrier, even amongst the Mexican people. Later in a process, Alvarado brought forth two Mexican witnesses, that confirmed seeing him perform that jump. It was supposed, that he bribed them, cause he didn’t want to let go of the cult around his person. I mean, there were even Mexicans eating dust, when they saw him – a gesture they would make for gods. They even called him Tonatiuh – that’s the one in the middle of the Sun Stone.
Even without that sportive high quality moment, he was still one of Cortés best officers and later governor of Guatemala. In the battle of Mixtón however, he died by falling down a slope, cause of being hit be the falling horse of another conquistador. His own horse, also falling down the slope, landed soft – on him. The death of probably the first pole vault sportsman (or not?) on Mesoamerican soil.