The Spanish Crown Of The Aztec Empire Essay

The Spanish Crown Of The Aztec Empire Essay

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In 1518 Hernán Cortés took command of an expedition to secure the interior of Mexico in the name of the Spanish Crown. In the letters he detailed his expedition and the land and peoples they conquered and encountered. The first letter, dated 1519, is a problematic document as it is written in the third person and was most likely not actually wire by cortez. The second and third letters are much more reliable and were published in Seville in 1522 and 1523 respectively. The culture, geography, economy and other details of the Aztec civilization, as well as Cortés and his forces’ interaction with them, are detailed in his letters which are addressed to the monarch of the sponsor of his force, Spain. In his letters Cortés also gave justification and explanation of the actions he took in Mexico.
Politically, Cortés attempted to use the letters to provide justification as well as explanation for his conquest of the Aztec Empire, as his task had simply been to explore. He attempted this primarily through his portrayal of Montezuma’s system of governance as brutal and is people as disloyal to him. He described the apparent willingness of the peoples he encountered to abandon the Aztecs and swear allegiance to the King of Spain, “Although they were subjects of Montezuma … they had been reduced to that condition by force …and when they had obtained through me some knowledge of your Highness … they declared their desire to become vassals of your Majesty, and to form an alliance with me”(Second Letter, 38–39). Cortés justified his conquest further through his proclamation to the his king that he was acting in defense of these newly acquired vassals. Cortés wrote that Montezuma subjected the local people to violent and tyrannical repression ...


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... Lord of all … I said every thing to divert them I could to divert them from their idolatries, and draw them to a knowledge of God our Lord”(Second Letter, 114–18). In this section Cortés both explained the religious culture of the region and further justified his conquest through religious means.
On pages 76-77 Cortés recounted his expedition’s discovery of a volcano and the confusion its sight had caused. When he saw a snow capped mountain producing smoke from the peak he dispatched a team to, “to ascend the mountain and find out the cause of that smoke, whence and how it was produced.” The smoke coming from the snow capped peak cause he and his men great confusion and he recounted the full story to the king in his letter. This section of the letter demonstrates the fascination with the new world that Cortés and the Spanish had, and the desire they had to discover.

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