The Tree of the Victorious Night (Árbol de la Noche Victoriosa) had been known for hundreds of years as the Tree of the Sad Night (Árbol de la Noche Triste). The name was officially changed in 2021 in commemoration of the 500 year anniversary of that night. The tree is today, sadly, a ruin. But the events of the night June 30, 1520 are still very much with us.
The plaza, also renamed, is the site where Hernán Cortés and his men stopped after fleeing Tenochtitlan and the Mexica armies. They are thought to have been loaded with stolen gold that had been melted into ingots only hours earlier. One of these ingots, recovered in 1981, and nicknamed the Treasure of Moctezuma, is in the collection of the National Museum of Anthropology and History. Scientists there used fluorescent X-ray chemical analysis to determine that it was made between 1519 and 1520.
The Mexica and their allies achieved a partial victory against the Spanish invaders that night. Cortés, defeated, is said to have sobbed beneath this very tree.
The renaming and commemoration in 2021 were intended to honor the resistance put up by the indigenous people here, and over centuries since then.
The tree is just one of the multiple sites of historical interest along the ancient Mexico-Tacuba Causeway. Connecting the island city of Tenochtitlan with Tacuba in the west, Popotla was a small village where the causeway touched land again. The village is thought to have been within a stand of the giant ahuehuete trees.