Aztec Account of the Conquest of America

Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of America, edited by Miguel Leon-Portilla (Beacon Press, 1992).

Broken Spears tells the Aztec peoples’ account of the Spanish conquest of Mexico.

Throughout history, the conquest has been told from the viewpoint of the conquistadors — the Spanish victors. Broken Spears was the first book to tell the story of the conquest from the Aztecs’ perspective.

It was originally published in Spanish (in 1959), and was only published in English in the year 1962.

The book begins a few years before the conquest by telling of the Aztecs’ perceived omens of the conquest, and the remainder of the book gives a chronological account of the conquest.

The primary impetus of the book is not historical data gathering but, rather, is of the storytelling and human emotion behind the Spanish conquest.


Hernando Cortes’ army arrived in Mexico in the early 16th century and defeated the Mexicans in relatively short order.

Cortes had originally been sent to Mexico by the Cuban governor to search for gold, but when he was asked to withdraw and return to Havana, he gathered 11 ships and 600 troops and made his way to Mexico.

Previous Spanish expeditions had been sent to Mexico as early as 1517, but Cortes was a very powerful, persuasive leader and was able to rally the troops, so to speak. Also, the Indians turned out to be very susceptible to the Spaniards’ superior weapons, as well as the new European viruses such as smallpox, chicken-pox, and measles.

Of crucial importance was the Aztec leader’s (Moctezuma) indecisiveness about Cortes’ motives and confusion as to whether Cortes’ arrival was a spiritual arrival or a spiritual sign – a major mistake. Finally, the Mexican Indians were internally divided and there was much internal resentment about the Aztec domination in Mexico. Therefore, the Tlaxcaltecs and others – the Aztecs’ enemies – became the Spaniards’ allies.

Cortes arrived in the Yucatan Peninsula in 1519 and marched to Tenochhtitlan. In September of that year, his army battled with the Tlaxcaltecs, and the Tlaxcaltecs, defeated, became Spanish allies.

After an October 1519 massacre in Cholulam, Cortes and his troops arrived in Tenochtitlan, and the next month Montezuma was made prisoner of Cortes’ army.

However, in May of 1520, Cortes left Tonochtitlan to confront Panfilo de Narvaez and during that time a massacre occurred in the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan. The Aztecs were then able to force the Spaniards to their quarters.

By June, Cortes returned to Tenochtitlan (after defeating Narvaez) and in that same month, Montezuma died.

The Spaniards were forced to flee Tenochtitlan when they fell under attack, and in July of 1520, the Battle of Otumba took place.

By April 1521, numerous Spanish reinforcements had arrived to support the Cortes army, and Indian towns began to help the Spaniards.

Finally, in August 1521, Cuauhtemoc was captured and the Aztecs surrendered. The once great Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, was now in ruins and their once strong leader, Moctezuma, was dead.

The Spanish defeat of the Aztecs was of great historical significance. First, the greatest Indian civilization in history had been decimated. Second, the Spanish victory created a new race of people – created by the mix of the Aztecs and the Spaniards – that resulted in today’s Mexican race.


The importance of this book is that it finally introduced the conquered peoples’ viewpoint of the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs.

Many commentators and readers have applauded the book precisely for this reason.

The subject can become very emotional for many readers because of the racial and cultural implications. For example, some have commentated that “conquest” is too loose a term, and that the term “holocaust” or “mass murder” of the Aztecs, the most powerful tribe at that time in Mexico, should instead be used when describing what occurred when the Spanish Europeans invaded Mexico.

They no longer had nor could find any arrows, javelins or stones with which to attack us, and our allies fighting with us were armed with swords and bucklers, and slaughtered so many of them on land and in the water that more than forty thousand were killed or taken that day. So loud was the wailing of the women and children that there was not one man among us whose heart did not bleed at the sound.


The Aztecs called themselves the Mechica. They were originally nomads, and they came to the Valley of Mexico in 1276. Although they were originally subjugated under the Toltecs, they were strong mercenaries, and eventually were able to begin to build their great city — Tenochtitlan. It was a gigantic city of great efficiency and a marvel in its time for its system of canals and waterways.

While many commentators portray the Aztecs as indigenous victims of violent European bloodshed and colonialism, it is also important to understood that because of the power and advancement of the Aztec civilization, the Aztec became an incredibly powerful ruling tribe among the Indian populations in Mexico. And they were not peaceful rulers. They were known as violent dictators – perhaps a natural result of their mercenary pasts – and they engaged in great numbers of human sacrifices of their conquered victims.

Indeed, it could be argued that Broken Spears has an indigenous, pro-victim bias, as it was published to give voice to the perspective of the conquered.

However, the more revealing stance is to instead examine the Aztec account not from the perspective of the author — who is merely the instrument by which the story is being told — but rather, to scrutinize and criticize the two different perspectives (the Spanish and the Aztec) at issue.

Domination Engendered through Assimilation

While many critics scathingly accuse Cortes of being yet another Colonial conqueror who decimated an indigenous culture with no regard for its native people or native attributes, such an account overlooks the important fact that one of the primary reasons Cortes was able to defeat the Aztecs was because he first learned how to become one of them. In short, he learned to assimilate into their culture.

For example, when Cortes first arrived in Mexico, he freed a Spaniard held in captivity by the Indians, Geronimo de Aguilar. Aguilar has been shipwrecked (in Cozumel) eight years before Cortes’ arrival in Mexico, and the Indians had forced him into slavery. As a slave, he learned the Mayan language of his Indian captors. Aguilar became crucial to Cortes’ strategy, as Cortes was now able to communicate in the language of the Indians.

After leaving Cozumel, Cortes and his ships sailed up the east cost of Mexico, fighting and defeating thousands of Indians along the coast. At Tabasco, he quickly defeated the Indians and when they made peace offerings, food, gifts and women were presented.

These Indians were known as the Caciques, and did not speak the language of the Mayans, the language spoken by Aguilar, Cortes’ comrade. However, a woman named Dona Marina – who had been presented as a gift, understood the Mayan language and translated Cortes’ words of gratitude. Dona Marina was an Aztec princess who had had the misfortune of becoming a slave to the Tabascan Indians; this is how she had come to know the language of the Aztecs (Nahuatl) as well as the Tabascan and Mayan languages.

Marina and Aguilar proved to be Cortes’ ultimate weapons, because Cortes was now able to communicate with all of the Indian tribes that he encountered, including the Indians in the capital city of the Aztecs — Tenochtitlan.

But beyond this assimilation of the Indians’ language through his ships’ crew, Cortes assimilated the Indian culture in other crucial ways.

Dona Marina and Cortes had a passionate love affair, and she became his ultimate ally. She was his ear on the ground, so to speak, and would warn him of plots against his army and against his life. Later, even though she had been given as a gift to one of Cortes’ captains, Marina bore Cortes a son.

This son was Don Martin Cortes.

Don Martin Cortes was both literally and figuratively the beginning of the Mexican race, and the result of Cortes’ successful assimilation into the Indian culture – an assimilation which would ultimately prove to be their defeat.

B. Heroine or Traitor: The Role of Dona Marina in the Conquest

Commentators have debated the role of Dona Marina in the conquest of Mexico. Some describe her as a traitor to the Aztecs. Others describe her as the symbolic mother of a new race of people — the Mexicans, or the mestizos.

Certainly, if Broken Spears is unique precisely because it is an account of the Aztec conquest from the Aztec perspective, then Marina — as an Aztec princess — might be properly viewed as a traitor to the Aztec people. However, it should be reiterated that the point of this essay is to take into account the two perspectives, the Aztec and the Spaniard — the conquered and the conquerors — and critique those perspectives.

Moreover, Broken Spears as a text does not stand alone as mere pieces of paper isolated from historical context. History has changed and affected the context of the book. For example, while the indigenous Indian people respected Dona Marina, she became a maligned national figure after the Mexican Revolution and after the Mexican people found a new national identity. As such, Marina came to symbolize those who betray their own people for a foreign enemy.

In her case, the situation was viewed by such observers as even worse, because she also bed the enemy, bore his child, and quite directly led to the destruction of her own clan and its replacement with a new nation.

Yet this is to ignore and devalue the Aztec’s own accounts given at the time of the conquest, accounts which respected Marina and her decisions (or lack of ability to decide, due to her status as a slave and as a woman).

More importantly, it is to ignore the entire exercise of viewing both sides of a story. In this case, examining both sides of the conquest and both sides of the tale shows us deeper issues. First, Dona Marina, known know as La Malinche, was a woman of complicated motives in a complex situation. She was an Aztec princess who became a slave and was once again forced into captivity at the hands of the Spaniards. Throughout her life she had had little or no control over her own destiny. Once she became the trusted advisor of Cortes, however, she at last had a measure of authority and some control over her own life. She had been born an Aztec, but her own people had given her over into slavery, and now at the hands of a Spaniard, she was exerting power and control over her own life for the first time. Second, she was by all accounts deeply in love with Cortes. One commentator notes the effect that this dynamic would have had on the actions of Marina.

We spent an afternoon at the ruins of Quiahuiztlan with a young musician from Jalapa. Sitting on the spot where I imagine Cortes sat, staring out at the sea and plotting the conquest of Mexico, I asked him what he thought of La Malinche. “Was she a traitor or a heroine? Didn’t she have reason to oppose the tyranny and oppression gripping Mexico, and to hope for relief from the powerful strangers?”

It is a story of love,” he told me. “Love is more important than politics.”

Domination through Manipulation of Internal Division

The Aztecs were the most powerful tribe in Mexico, and they were by all accounts cruel and violent leaders. Therefore, Cortes had little trouble playing off the poor situation of the indigenous Indians and offering a potentially better future in a new ruler, even if that ruler came from a strange and distant land.

Cortes had established a town in Veracruz called La Villa Rica de la Veracruz. Here he met with representatives from the Aztecs. The Indians in the Veracruz area, the Cempoalans, and just been defeated by the Aztecs and had been treated very badly. They were more than eager to form an alliance with the Spaniards, and did so. In fact, Cortes and his men were received at the Cempoalan’s capital city, Xoxotlan, with a celebration-like atmosphere by the Cempoalan people. They quickly and eagerly told Cortes everything he needed to know about the Aztecs, including their great population, advanced city, and domineering leadership. Most shocking of all was the great number of subjugated peoples the Aztecs sacrificed to their gods.

Cortes and his army set off for the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, joined by the Cempoalans.

After jointly fighting the Indian Tlaxclalans, they eventually made peace with the Tlaxclalans and gained even more ally soldiers from the Tlaxclalan army. They then set out for the city of the Cholulans, where a vicious attack took place. Because the Tlaxcalans despised the Cholulans, the battle turned into a massacre and most of the Cholulans were killed.

Thus, by the time Cortes reached the city of Tenochtitlan – the Aztec capital – he had been able to play on the internal divisiveness of the Indians. Ultimately, this divisiveness was what helped him win the Aztec battle. With various Indian tribes running to his aid and fighting against each other, eager to topple the Aztecs, it was only a matter of time before the Aztec empire would be crushed.

This account would be missed if we only read the Aztec side of the conquest, because we would not understand that the cruelty that the Aztecs imposed throughout the Indian empire ultimately led to their own demise.

Uniting the two perspectives

August 13, 1521

Heroically defended by Cuauhtemoc, Tlatelolco fell to the power of Hernan Cortes. It was neither a triumph nor a defeat. It was the painful birth of the mestizo nation that is the Mexico of today.

Text of monument at Tlatelolco

Finally, the point that has been made throughout this essay will end this essay.

Broken Spears was a breakthrough text largely because it presented the viewpoint of the Aztec people – the conquered – for the first time. Before that, the viewpoint of the Spaniards — the colonialists — had always been presented. History, it is said, has been written by the victors.

For a balanced perspective of history, it is necessary to understood both viewpoints. For example, if we were presented only with the Aztec account, we would never know that the Aztecs themselves were vicious rulers who sacrificed thousands of human subjects in the name of their gods. Victimhood can be very one-sided, as can victory.

Similarly, rather than viewing Broken Spears as an emotional launching pad with which to demonize European colonizers or, similarly, deify the Indian indigenous people and proscribe them as saintly victims, it is a more useful exercise to use Broken Spears as a comparison against the European-based accounts we have of the conquest and then attempt to construct our own balanced view of the birth of the Mexican nation.

The year 1519 was the year that Cortes arrived in Mexico. It was also the year that coincided directly with the Aztec year 1 Reed on the Aztec calendar. Aztec legend provided that the god Quetzalcoatl would return and destroy the Aztecs during this year; therefore, Moctezuma believed that Cortes was Quetzalcoatl. He believed that he could somehow persuade Cortes not to destroy the Aztecs

See, e.g, “The Conquest of Mexico,” by Peter Rashkin, located at

Hernan Cortes, Letters from Mexico, Translated by Anthony Pagden (Yale University Press, 1986).

The Myth of La Malinche: From the Chronicles to Modern Mexican

Theater,” thesis submitted to the Faculty of Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Rosario Perez-Lagunes (2001), located online at

The Conquest of Mexico,” by Peter Rashkin, located at

Get Professional Assignment Help Cheaply

Buy Custom Essay

Are you busy and do not have time to handle your assignment? Are you scared that your paper will not make the grade? Do you have responsibilities that may hinder you from turning in your assignment on time? Are you tired and can barely handle your assignment? Are your grades inconsistent?

Whichever your reason is, it is valid! You can get professional academic help from our service at affordable rates. We have a team of professional academic writers who can handle all your assignments.

Why Choose Our Academic Writing Service?

  • Plagiarism free papers
  • Timely delivery
  • Any deadline
  • Skilled, Experienced Native English Writers
  • Subject-relevant academic writer
  • Adherence to paper instructions
  • Ability to tackle bulk assignments
  • Reasonable prices
  • 24/7 Customer Support
  • Get superb grades consistently

Online Academic Help With Different Subjects


Students barely have time to read. We got you! Have your literature essay or book review written without having the hassle of reading the book. You can get your literature paper custom-written for you by our literature specialists.


Do you struggle with finance? No need to torture yourself if finance is not your cup of tea. You can order your finance paper from our academic writing service and get 100% original work from competent finance experts.

Computer science

Computer science is a tough subject. Fortunately, our computer science experts are up to the match. No need to stress and have sleepless nights. Our academic writers will tackle all your computer science assignments and deliver them on time. Let us handle all your python, java, ruby, JavaScript, php , C+ assignments!


While psychology may be an interesting subject, you may lack sufficient time to handle your assignments. Don’t despair; by using our academic writing service, you can be assured of perfect grades. Moreover, your grades will be consistent.


Engineering is quite a demanding subject. Students face a lot of pressure and barely have enough time to do what they love to do. Our academic writing service got you covered! Our engineering specialists follow the paper instructions and ensure timely delivery of the paper.


In the nursing course, you may have difficulties with literature reviews, annotated bibliographies, critical essays, and other assignments. Our nursing assignment writers will offer you professional nursing paper help at low prices.


Truth be told, sociology papers can be quite exhausting. Our academic writing service relieves you of fatigue, pressure, and stress. You can relax and have peace of mind as our academic writers handle your sociology assignment.


We take pride in having some of the best business writers in the industry. Our business writers have a lot of experience in the field. They are reliable, and you can be assured of a high-grade paper. They are able to handle business papers of any subject, length, deadline, and difficulty!


We boast of having some of the most experienced statistics experts in the industry. Our statistics experts have diverse skills, expertise, and knowledge to handle any kind of assignment. They have access to all kinds of software to get your assignment done.


Writing a law essay may prove to be an insurmountable obstacle, especially when you need to know the peculiarities of the legislative framework. Take advantage of our top-notch law specialists and get superb grades and 100% satisfaction.

What discipline/subjects do you deal in?

We have highlighted some of the most popular subjects we handle above. Those are just a tip of the iceberg. We deal in all academic disciplines since our writers are as diverse. They have been drawn from across all disciplines, and orders are assigned to those writers believed to be the best in the field. In a nutshell, there is no task we cannot handle; all you need to do is place your order with us. As long as your instructions are clear, just trust we shall deliver irrespective of the discipline.

Are your writers competent enough to handle my paper?

Our essay writers are graduates with bachelor's, masters, Ph.D., and doctorate degrees in various subjects. The minimum requirement to be an essay writer with our essay writing service is to have a college degree. All our academic writers have a minimum of two years of academic writing. We have a stringent recruitment process to ensure that we get only the most competent essay writers in the industry. We also ensure that the writers are handsomely compensated for their value. The majority of our writers are native English speakers. As such, the fluency of language and grammar is impeccable.

What if I don’t like the paper?

There is a very low likelihood that you won’t like the paper.

Reasons being:

  • When assigning your order, we match the paper’s discipline with the writer’s field/specialization. Since all our writers are graduates, we match the paper’s subject with the field the writer studied. For instance, if it’s a nursing paper, only a nursing graduate and writer will handle it. Furthermore, all our writers have academic writing experience and top-notch research skills.
  • We have a quality assurance that reviews the paper before it gets to you. As such, we ensure that you get a paper that meets the required standard and will most definitely make the grade.

In the event that you don’t like your paper:

  • The writer will revise the paper up to your pleasing. You have unlimited revisions. You simply need to highlight what specifically you don’t like about the paper, and the writer will make the amendments. The paper will be revised until you are satisfied. Revisions are free of charge
  • We will have a different writer write the paper from scratch.
  • Last resort, if the above does not work, we will refund your money.

Will the professor find out I didn’t write the paper myself?

Not at all. All papers are written from scratch. There is no way your tutor or instructor will realize that you did not write the paper yourself. In fact, we recommend using our assignment help services for consistent results.

What if the paper is plagiarized?

We check all papers for plagiarism before we submit them. We use powerful plagiarism checking software such as SafeAssign, LopesWrite, and Turnitin. We also upload the plagiarism report so that you can review it. We understand that plagiarism is academic suicide. We would not take the risk of submitting plagiarized work and jeopardize your academic journey. Furthermore, we do not sell or use prewritten papers, and each paper is written from scratch.

When will I get my paper?

You determine when you get the paper by setting the deadline when placing the order. All papers are delivered within the deadline. We are well aware that we operate in a time-sensitive industry. As such, we have laid out strategies to ensure that the client receives the paper on time and they never miss the deadline. We understand that papers that are submitted late have some points deducted. We do not want you to miss any points due to late submission. We work on beating deadlines by huge margins in order to ensure that you have ample time to review the paper before you submit it.

Will anyone find out that I used your services?

We have a privacy and confidentiality policy that guides our work. We NEVER share any customer information with third parties. Noone will ever know that you used our assignment help services. It’s only between you and us. We are bound by our policies to protect the customer’s identity and information. All your information, such as your names, phone number, email, order information, and so on, are protected. We have robust security systems that ensure that your data is protected. Hacking our systems is close to impossible, and it has never happened.

How our Assignment  Help Service Works

1.      Place an order

You fill all the paper instructions in the order form. Make sure you include all the helpful materials so that our academic writers can deliver the perfect paper. It will also help to eliminate unnecessary revisions.

2.      Pay for the order

Proceed to pay for the paper so that it can be assigned to one of our expert academic writers. The paper subject is matched with the writer’s area of specialization.

3.      Track the progress

You communicate with the writer and know about the progress of the paper. The client can ask the writer for drafts of the paper. The client can upload extra material and include additional instructions from the lecturer. Receive a paper.

4.      Download the paper

The paper is sent to your email and uploaded to your personal account. You also get a plagiarism report attached to your paper.

smile and order essaysmile and order essay PLACE THIS ORDER OR A SIMILAR ORDER WITH US TODAY AND GET A PERFECT SCORE!!!

order custom essay paper