El Morzillo: The horse who was worshipped as a God

Horses were once extinct in the Americas. At the end of Pleistocene era, the last of the prehistoric North American Horses had died out. By that time, the genus Equidae had spread far and wide. Already present in Asia, Europe, and Africa. So, roughly 8000 years later, when explorers from Europe arrived in the Americas, locals were not familiar with horses at all. One of these horses, even rose to the status of a god, sadly to its detriment.

The 15th and 16th centuries birthed an era of exploration that culminated in the conquest of the Americas, spearheaded by Portuguese and Spanish Explorers. It estimated that within 400 years of their arrival there were over 25million horses in the Americas.

A seven-hundred-year-old Moorish occupation of the Iberian Peninsula came to an end in 1492, leaving many professional, skilled soldiers without work. Many of these men, spurred on by tales of wealth and riches, traveled to the New World as adventuring mercenaries. They were an unsavory lot that committed countless atrocities to the native people.

Storming of the Teocalli by Cortez and His Troops
Storming of the Teocalli by Cortez and His Troops

One of the most infamous of these men was Hernan Cortes who arrived in 1519.  He was largely responsible for crushing the Aztec Nation. Cortez landed in Mexico with 600 Spanish Infantry, 250 Indians, and 16 Horses. Of the 16 horses, eleven were stallions of the Cordoba Strain, including ‘El Mozilla”, Cortez’s own horse. Cortez is said to have claimed: “next to God, we owe our victory to the horses.” Probably because, the heavily armored horses, struck fear into the heart of the locals.

Cortex rode his stallion ‘El Mozilla’ through his exploration of Honduras. The severe terrain and tropical conditions were not ideal for cavalry, so when “El Mozilla’ severely damaged a foot, he was unable to continue. Cortez left the horse with a tribe of friendly Indians, promising he would return for his horse.  Something he never did.

The Indians did not wish to incur the wrath of Cortez, so made their best effort to care for the beast they were so in awe of. They housed the creature in a temple, where he was served magnificent offerings of the best fruit and chicken available. I can not imagine any horses would appreciate that! Mozilla died shortly as the deification, and peculiar diet obviously did not suit him.

In fear of reprisals, the terrified Indians built a statue in honor of ‘El Mozilla’ on one of the island lakes where in time it became known and worshiped as Tziunchan, the God of Thunder and Lightning.