How a Colorado city and county were named after historical enemies who never set foot in the region

A 17th-century painting by an unknown artist depicts the 1521 invasion of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire. The Spanish explorer Hernán Cortés is often given credit for Moctezuma II’s death, though he was likely part of a much wider set of factors that influenced the fall of the empire.

A version of this article first appeared in the June 2021 issue of the Four Corners Free Press magazine.

On a cloudy, windy day in late spring of 2021, the Montezuma Heritage Museum in Cortez, Colo. opened the doors of its new building to the public for the first time. Local histori­ans, elected…