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Mexican Spanish Conquest

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The meeting between Hernán Cortés with the Spanish expedition into Tenochtitlan, the Mexican imperial city under the reign of Montezuma has brought a vivid depiction of the conflict and contention between these two forces that would prosper a range of different accounts and perspectives of the incidents that would consequently follow during and after the clash. Bernard Sahagún wrote the ‘Florentine Codex’ which depicts these series of events from the accounts of the indigenous and Spanish population that are based around his religious motives and interpretation of the truth. This is different Cortés own account of events through his personal letters to Charles V which aims to provide substantial justification for his acts in Mexico under a positive humanistic light. Both these sources become targeted by Inga Clendinnen on their flawed weaknesses and ambiguities within their work. These composers provide a contrast of images describing the actual events of the meeting but it is when these texts are examined collectively that we as the reader can gain insights into the past that would have not been possible if the sources were interpreted independently.

These pieces of work present different models of European-native relations displayed by Cortés and Montezuma. The portrayal of Spanish arrival to Mexico is seen by Cortés in his letters as an act of colonisation and to expand the Spanish Empire securely under Emperor Charles V as a vassal state (Cortés 1986, Pg. 87). Their belief in this ‘white man’s burden’ to civilise the indigenous Aztecs is supported this in the meeting through the exchange of gifts (Cortés 1986, Pg. 85) which in their context portrayed submission. To the Aztecs however, the meeting could have instead been repr...

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...versions of the same meeting could of been interpreted so differently between the Spanish and the native accounts under separate cultural and religious between Christians and Aztec Sun worship and how the awareness of the methods and extents taken to record by Sahagún and Clendinnen show a resistance that was never mentioned by the Spanish. A collaboration of thoughts and interpretations can enrich our understanding of interaction between the Spanish and the Aztecs.

Works Cited

• Clendinnen, Inga. "Fierce and Unnatural Cruelty." In New World Encounters. Berkley: University of California Press, 1993. Pg. 12-23.

• Cortés, Hernán. "The Second Letter." In Letters from Mexico. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986. Pg. 83-87.

• Sahagun, Bernard. "The Conquest of Mexico." In Florentine Codex: Book 12. Santa Fe: The School of American Research, 1975. Pg. 43-45, 65.
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