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Unformatted text preview: Introduction The history of the conquest of Tenochtitlan and the defeat of the Mexican people is confused by contradicting accounts. Although every historical document explains the major events of the Spanish conquest in Mexico, the narrations tell different stories. The documents hold opposing views on how the natives and Spaniards perceived each other. The reports give different accounts of which side started conflicts, or even massacres. The emperor of Tenochtitlan, Montezuma, is described either as a coward, or an honorable leader. The three main primary sources, Hernan Cortes, Bernal Diaz Del Castillo, and the Nuhuatl speaking natives, all had different goals to present in their portrayal of the Spanish invasion. Through their words, they tell the story of the fall of the Aztec Nation. Hernan Cortes, the leader of the Spanish conquistadors, describes his experiences in letters to the Royal Emperor of Spain Charles V. Cortes, who left Cuba for Mexico without permission, advocates his purpose in Mexico by telling the king he is doing all he can to teach the barbarous Indians Christianity in the New World. 1 He tells tales of the grandeur of the cities and the great wealth the cities possessed. He describes, in great detail, of the great gifts given to him by the indigenous people. Cortes not only wanted to justify his conquest of Mexico, but also wanted the Spanish king to support his conquest by sending reinforcements and accepting Cortes’ will to rule over the new land. Cortes, however, reports a very different story told by the natives. The stories of the Nuhuatl natives were told to Fray Bernardino de Sahagun beginning in 1547, twenty- six years after the fall of Tenochtitlan. The natives, mainly from the city state of 1 Camilla Townsend, “Burying the White Gods” The American Historical Review 108, no. 3(2003): 673. 1 Tlatelolco, were very critical of Montezuma, the Mexicans, and the Spanish conquerors. 2 They depict Montezuma as a frightful coward that believed the Spanish were gods. 3 The natives said that the Mexicans believed that Cortes was the god Quetzalcoatl and described how they did not help the Tlatelolcas against the Spanish in combat. 4 The Nuhuatl accounts also describe the Spanish as vicious people. They explain how the Spanish would start conflicts with the indigenous people by slaughtering unarmed men. Almost thirty years after being conquered, the indigenous version of the conquest shows their anger towards their defeat. Bernal Diaz Del Castillo’s account of the conquest seems to have the least motivation to twist the truth. Castillo, a conquistador in Cortes’ conquest, responded to the letters written by Cortes and Francisco Lopez de Gomara’s biography of Cortes by writing his own historical account: The True History of Mexico . He opens his book by explaining that his motivation. He describes how Gomara’s account of the conquest is exaggerated and does not give honor to the great number of his Spanish companions who...
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This note was uploaded on 04/16/2008 for the course HIST 187 taught by Professor Suarez-potts during the Fall '06 term at Kenyon.
- Fall '06