South American Fights and Fighters - Cyrus T. Brady

The Great Adventures of Cortez (continued)

The March to Tenochtitlan

Into this loosely compact political and social organization, hard-headed, clear-sighted, iron-hearted, steel-clad Cortes precipitated himself. His was a mind at the same time capable of vast and comprehensive designs and a most minute attention to small details. For instance, he laid out the city of Vera Cruz at the place of his landing. He caused his men to elect a full corps of municipal officers from their number. To this organization he frankly resigned his commission and the power that he had by the appointment of Velasquez, which the latter had tried so hard to revoke. They immediately elected him captain-general of the expedition with vastly increased prerogatives and privileges. Thus he could now, in form at least, trace his authority to the crown, as represented by this new colonial municipality and he therefore had behind him the whole power of the expedition!

With a skill, which showed not only his adroitness, but his determination, he next caused his men to acquiesce in the scuttling of the ships which had conveyed them to Mexico! After saving the cordage, rigging and everything else that might be useful, which was carefully stored away in the little fort rapidly building, the vessels were destroyed beyond repair. Before this was done, Cortes offered to reserve one ship for certain malcontents and partisans of Velasquez in which they might return if they wished. Nobody took advantage of his offer.

By this bold and original stroke, he added to his expeditionary force some one hundred and twenty hardy mariners, who thereafter took part with the soldiery in all the hazards and undertakings. With, therefore, less than six hundred men, sixteen horses, ten small cannon, and one woman, Cortes prepared to undertake the conquest of this mighty empire. It was a small force, but its fighting quality was unsurpassed. Lew Wallace thus characterizes them:

"It is hardly worth while to eulogize the Christians who took part in Cortes's crusade. History has assumed their commemoration. I may say, however, they were men who had acquired fitness for the task by service in almost every clime. Some had tilted with the Moor under the walls of Granada; some had fought the Islamite on the blue Danube; some had performed the first Atlantic voyage with Columbus; all of them had hunted the Carib in the glades of Hispaniola. It is not enough to describe them as fortune-hunters, credulous, imaginative, tireless; neither is it enough to write them soldiers, bold, skilful, confident, cruel to enemies, gentle to each other. They were characters of the age in which they lived, unseen before, unseen since; knights errant, who believed in hippogriff and dragon, but sought them only in lands of gold; missionaries, who complacently broke the body of the converted that Christ might the sooner receive his soul; palmers of pike and shield, who, in care of the Virgin, followed the morning round the world, assured that Heaven stooped lowest over the most profitable plantations."

Just what Cortes at first proposed to do is not quite clear. Indeed, he himself could not form any definite plan until the circumstances under which he would be compelled to act, should be more precisely ascertained. He was, therefore, an opportunist. For one thing, he made up his mind to lead his troops to the capital city willy-nilly, and there act as circumstances might determine. He was a statesman as well as a soldier. It did not take him long to fathom the peculiarities of the organization and composition of the Aztec Empire. He knew that discord existed and he had only to introduce himself to become a focus for the discontent and rebellion. By giving a secret impression that he was for either side, he could play one party against the other, as best suited his purposes. He came to bring freedom to the one, to promote the revolt of the other, check the oppression of the third, and destroy the presumption of the another tribe, or warring nation. So he caused his purposes to be declared.

Cortes's personal character was not by any means above reproach, yet withal he was a sincere and devoted Christian, strange and inexplicable as the paradox may seem, but it was an age of devoted Christians, whose devotion and principles fortunately were not translated into daily life. Neither Cortes nor any of his followers—perhaps not even the priests were of different opinion—thought any less of themselves or regarded themselves the less worthy Christians: if their conduct toward the native races did not manifest that continence, restraint and sympathy which their religion taught. Cortes was a child of his age; the other great men of his age were much like him in these things. Here and there a Las Casas appears, but he shines forth against a dark and universally extensive background. Such as the great apostles to the Indies were lonely exceptions indeed.

All the Spanish conquerors were cruel; but Cortes was not so cruel as many others. He was not to be compared to the ruthless Pizarro for instance. Save in daring and personal courage, he vastly surpassed the Lord of Peru in every quality which goes to make a man. Cortes was treacherous in his dealings with Montezuma and others, but the man of his age regarded very lightly the obligation of his word toward a savage. Indeed, it was a well-known principle that no faith was necessarily to be kept with either heretics or heathen and no oath was binding against the interests of the state. Cortes, of course, had all the contempt for the Aztecs that Caucasians usually have for inferior races, although in his letters, he tried his very best to be fair, to be just, even to be generous to these people he overcame; and no one can doubt the sincerity with which he desired to promote the spreading of the Christian religion.

They did things differently in those days. Not only did they believe that the religion of the heathen should be changed by force, but they believed that in some way they could constrain all people to accept Christianity. More blood has been shed in promoting the idea that the outsider should be compelled to come into the fold than from the misinterpretation of any other text in the sacred scriptures. If any civilized power in the world to-day should send an expeditionary force into a heathen country, which should signalize its arrival therein by the desecration of its temples and the destruction of its idols, the commander would be recalled at once. We have learned other methods, methods of persuasion, of reason, of love. The age of Cortes knew nothing of these methods, and he was only following out the common practice when he smashed with his battle-axe the hideous gods of the Mexicans, and washed and purified with clean water, the reeking, gory, ill-smelling slaughter-houses which were the Aztec Holy of Holies, and adorned them with crosses and images of the Blessed Virgin Mary. When Charles the IX. offered Henry of Navarre a choice of death, mass, or the Bastille on the night of Saint Bartholomew, he gave him one more chance than the early steel-clad militant missionary gave to the aborigines of the new world—for them there was no Bastille.

Making friends with the Tabascans, and leaving one hundred and fifty men to guard his base of supplies at Vera Cruz and to watch the coast, Cortes began his march toward Mexico on the sixteenth day of August, 1519. He proceeded with the greatest caution. Bernal Diaz, an old soldier, who afterward wrote a most vivid and graphic account of the conquest, of which he was no small part, says that they marched forward "with their beards on their shoulders," that is, looking from side to side, constantly. There was no hurry and there was no need to tire out the force which was thus facing the danger of a long, hard and rash adventure.

By the aid of Marina and Aguilar, Cortes speedily learned of places like Cempoalla, which were hostile to Montezuma and he took in as many of these places on his march as possible, always with incidents instructive and valuable. At Cempoalla, for instance, he met the tax-gatherers of Montezuma. He persuaded the Cempoallans to refuse payment of the tax—an action which would ordinarily have brought down upon them the fury of the Aztec monarch and would have resulted in their complete and utter extermination. He did more. He caused the Cacique of Cempoalla—a man so fat and gross, that, like "the little round belly" of Santa Claus, he "shook like a jelly" so that the Spaniards called him "The Trembler"—actually to raise his hand against the tax-gatherers and imprison them. They would undoubtedly have been sacrificed and eaten had not Cortes, secretly and by night released three of them and allowed them to go back to their royal master, after he had sent two into a safe ward at Vera Cruz.

Montezuma's messengers met him at every town. "Bearing rich gifts, they disclosed the possibilities of the Hinterland and germinated in the brain of Cortes the idea of conquest. One revelation was confirmed by another, and, as the evidence of Aztec wealth multiplied the proofs of internal disaffection throughout the empire stimulated the confidence of the brooding conqueror. Disloyalty among the Totonacs, treachery that only waited an opportunity in Texcoco, an ancient tradition of hate in Tlascala, and the superstition that obscured the judgment and paralyzed the action of the despotic ruler—these were the materials from which the astute invader evolved the machinery for his conquest."

Montezuma was in a pitiable state of superstitious indecision. It was popularly believed that Quetzalcoatl would some day return, and it was more than probable to the Aztec monarch and his counsellors that he might be reincarnated in the person of Cortes and his followers. Indeed, the common name for them among the Mexicans was Teules, which means gods. If Cortes was a god it was useless to fight against him. If he and his were men, they could of course be easily exterminated, but were they men? There were a few bold spirits who inclined to this belief, but not many. Besides, whatever the rest might be, the horsemen must be of divine origin. Cuitlahua, the brother of Montezuma, and one of the highest and most important of the Aztec rulers was for attacking them whatever the consequences, but he was alone in advising this. It was thought better to temporize. Perhaps later on it might be decided whether these strange beings were of common clay, and there would be plenty of time to exterminate them then.

Montezuma was therefore an opportunist, like Cortes, but there was a vast difference between them. Montezuma was a man of great ability, undoubtedly, or he never could have been chosen by the hereditary electors to the position he occupied, and he could never have held it if he had not been. He was a man over fifty years of age, and had maintained himself on the throne, in spite of many wars, in which he had been almost universally victorious. His judgment and his decision alike were paralyzed by superstition. He did the unwisest thing he could possibly have done. He sent messengers to Cortes, bearing rich gifts, gold, feather work, green stones, which the Spaniards thought were emeralds, vast treasures. He acknowledged in effect the wonderful wisdom of Cortes's overlord, the great emperor, Charles V., in whose name Cortes did everything, taking care always to have a notary to attest his proclamations to the Indians, but he told Cortes not to come to Mexico City. He said that he was poor, that the journey was a long and hard one; in short, he offered him every inducement to come with one hand, while he waved him back with the other.

Treasure was the only motive of the conquerors of Peru. Cortes was big enough and great enough to rise above that. He was after larger things than the mere filling of his purse, and on several occasions he relinquished his own share of the booty to the soldiery. He was an empire-builder, not a treasure-hunter.

As Cortes progressed through the country, the treasure sent by Montezuma grew in value, and the prohibitions, which by and by amounted to entreaties, increased in volume. We wonder what might have happened, if young Guatemoc, whom we shall hear of later had occupied the throne. Certainly, although the Spaniards would have died fighting, they would undoubtedly have been overwhelmed, and the conquest of Mexico might have been postponed for another generation or two. It was bound to happen anyway, sooner or later, as far as that goes.

The Republic of Tlascala

Cortes's progress finally brought him to a remarkable tribe, whose friendship he succeeded in winning, and which must be added as the fourth factor, with himself, Marina, and the horses, as the cause of the downfall of Mexico. Curiously enough, this tribe had a sort of republican form of government. It is usually referred to as the Republic of Tlascala. It was an independent confederation composed of four separate states. The government consisted of a senate, composed of the rulers of the four states or clans of the tribe. Tlascala was completely hemmed in by provinces of the Aztec Empire, with which it was always in a state of constant and bitter warfare. The inhabitants had no access to the sea, consequently they had never enjoyed the use of salt. They had no access to the lowlands, so they were without cotton, a fabric then universally used throughout the country. They had no trade or commerce. They were completely shut in and eternal vigilance was the price of their liberty. They lacked the arts, the grace, and the refinement of the Mexicans, but they were as hardy, as bold, as skilful in the use of arms, and as determined, as well as cruel, as the Aztecs. Neither Montezuma nor his predecessors with the power of millions had been able to make them acknowledge any sovereignty but their own. They were protected by the mountain ranges and here and there they had built high walls across the valley. Tlascala was a large and imposing city. Cortes thus describes it:

"This city is so extensive and so well worthy of admiration, that although I omit much that I could say of it, I feel assured that the little I shall say will be scarcely credited, for it is larger than Granada, and much stronger, and contains as many fine houses and a much larger population than that city did at the time of its capture; and it is much better supplied with the products of the earth, such as corn, and with fowls and game, fish from the rivers, various kinds of vegetables, and other exellent articles of food. There is in this city a market, in which every day thirty thousand people are engaged in buying and selling, besides many other merchants who are scattered about the city. The market contains a great variety of articles both of food and clothing, and all kinds of shoes for the feet; jewels of gold and silver, and precious stones, and ornaments of feathers, all as well arranged as they can possibly be found in any public squares or markets in the world. There is much earthenware of every style and a good quality, equal to the best Spanish manufacture. Wood, coal, edible and medicinal plants, are sold in great quantities. There are houses where they wash and shave the head as barbers, and also for baths. Finally, there is found among them a well-regulated police; the people are rational and well disposed, and altogether greatly superior to the most civilized African nations. The country abounds in level and beautiful valleys all tilled and sown, without any part lying unimproved. In its constitution of government that has existed until the present time, it resembles the states of Venice, Genoa and Pisa; since the supreme authority is not reposed in one person. There are many nobles, all of whom reside in the city; the common people are laborers and the vassals of the nobility, but each one possesses land of his own, some more than others. In war all unite and have a voice in its management and direction. It may be supposed that they have tribunals of justice for the punishment of the guilty; since when one of the natives of the province stole some gold of a Spaniard, and I mentioned the circumstance to Magiscacin, the most powerful of the nobility, they made search for the thief, and traced him to a city in the neighborhood called Churultecal (Cholula) from whence they brought him prisoner, and delivered him to me with the gold, saying that I must have him punished. I acknowledged in suitable terms the pains they had taken in the matter, but remarked to them that since the prisoner was in their country, they should punish him according to their custom, and that I chose not to interfere with the punishment of their people while I remained among them. They thanked me and, taking the man, carried him to the great market, a town crier making public proclamations of his offense; they then placed him at the base of a structure resembling a theatre, which stands in the midst of the market-place, while the crier went to the top of the building, and with a loud voice again proclaimed his offense; whereupon the people beat him with sticks until he was dead. We likewise saw many persons in prison who were said to be confined for theft and other offenses they had committed. There are in this province, according to the report made by my order, five hundred thousand inhabitants, besides those in another smaller province adjacent to this, called Guazincango, who live in the manner, not subject to any native sovereign and are not less the vassals of Your Highness than the people of Tlascala."

Montezuma gave another reason for permitting the Tlascalans their liberty and independence. He said that he was allowing them to maintain their existence and remain a republic because everything else in the vicinity had been conquered; and as there was no field for the young warriors of the Aztec nation to obtain that military training which it was always best to learn by actual experience, he kept Tlascala in a state of enmity because it furnished him a place where he could get the human beings for sacrifices to his gods that he required and at the same time train his young soldiery. In other words, Tlascala was regarded as a sort of game preserve from a religious point of view. Doubtless, Tlascala did not acknowledge the justice, the propriety and the correctness of this attitude of scorn and contempt on the part of the Aztecs. The other tribes of Mexico bore the yoke uneasily, and cherished resentment, but even the enmity between the Jews and the Samaritans was not more bitter than the enmity between the Tlascalans and the people of the city of Anahuac.

When Cortes drew near Tlascala, the senate debated what course it should pursue toward him. One of the four regents, so called, of the republic was a man of great age, feeble and blind, but resolute of spirit. His name was Xicotencatl. He was all for war. He was opposed by a young man named Maxixcatzin. The debate between the two and the other participants was long and furious. Finally the desire of Xicotencatl prevailed in a modified form. There was a tribe occupying part of the Tlascalan territory and under Tlascalan rule called Otumies. It was decided to cause the Otumies to attack Cortes and his force. If Cortes was annihilated, the problem would be solved. If the Otumies were defeated their action would be disavowed by the Tlascalans and no harm would be done to anybody but the unfortunate Otumies, for whom no one in Tlascala felt any great concern.

The Otumies were placed in the front of the battle, but the Tlascalans themselves followed under the command of another Xicotencatl, son of the old regent, who was a tried and brilliant soldier. The battles along the coast had been more like massacres, but this was a real fight, and a number of Spaniards were killed, three horses also, more valuable than the men, were despatched, and at the close of the engagement the Spaniards had lost about fifty, a serious diminution of the forces of Cortes, but the unfortunate Otumies and the Tlascalans were overwhelmed with a fearful slaughter. Of course, the action of the Otumies was disavowed, Cortes was invited into Tlascala and an alliance between the Spaniards and the republic was consummated. The Tlascalans threw themselves, heart and soul, into the project, which they dimly perceived was in the mind of Cortes, the conquest of Mexico. Nothing was said about all of this. Cortes simply declared his design to pay a friendly visit to Montezuma to whom he sent repeated and solemn assurances that he intended him no harm, that Montezuma could receive him with the utmost frankness and without fear and without anticipating any violence whatever on the part of the Spaniards. But the wise in Tlascala knew that a collision between the Spaniards and the Aztecs would be inevitable. They saw a chance to feed fat their ancient grudge, and to exact bitter revenge for all that they had suffered at the hands of the Aztecs.

To anticipate, they were faithful to the alliance and loyally carried out their part of the agreement in the resulting campaigns. Without them on several occasions Cortes' fortunes would have been even more desperate than they were. Montezuma's envoys, heartily detesting the Tlascalans, sought to persuade Cortes against any dealings with them whatsoever. They gave a very bad character to the dusky allies of the Spaniards and the Tlascalans returned the compliment in kind.

When his wounded had recovered, accompanied by a large army of Tlascalans under young Xicotencatl, Cortes set forth about the middle of October on the last stage of his wonderful journey. By this time, Montezuma had concluded to make a virtue out of a necessity, and he had sent word to him that he would welcome him to his capital. He received return reiterations of the statement that Cortes' intentions were entirely pacific, that he represented the greatest monarch in the world who lived beyond the seas, and all that he would require of Montezuma was the acknowledgment of his dependence in common with every earthly monarch upon this mysterious potentate across the ocean. This Montezuma was quite willing to give. He was also willing to pay any tribute exacted if only these children of the Sun would go away, and he could be left to the undisturbed enjoyment of his kingdom.

He suggested a way for Cortes to approach the capital. The Tlascalans did some scouting and informed Cortes that the way was filled with pitfalls, blocked with stones, and the opportunities for ambuscade were many and good. No one can blame Montezuma for taking these precautions, although he afterwards disowned any participation in them and said that the arrangements had been made by some irresponsible subjects, and Cortes passed it over.

The Tlascalans, who knew all the passes of the mountains, offered to lead Cortes and his followers by another way. Although he was warned not to trust them by the envoys of Montezuma, Cortes with that judgment of men which so distinguished him, elected the harder and shorter way across the mountains. Nature had made the pass a difficult one, but the indomitable Spaniards struggled over it, enduring terrible fatigue and periods of piercing cold. They got far above the timber line and approached the boundaries of eternal snow. It is characteristic of them, that on one point of their journey, they stopped and despatched a party under Ordaz to scale and explore the smoking volcano Popocatepetl, which with Ixtaccihuatl guarded the beautiful valley of Mexico. Ordaz and his twelve companions followed the guides as far as they would lead them and then they climbed far up the sides. They were unable to reach the top, but they accomplished a prodigious ascent, and Ordaz was afterwards allowed to add to his coat of arms a flaming volcano.

The summit of the mountain was at last passed, and the magnificent valley of Mexico opened to their view. It was a scene which caused even the hearts of these rugged and hardened adventurers to thrill with pleasure and satisfaction. No fairer land had ever burst upon human vision. The emerald verdure was broken by beautiful lakes, bordered by luxuriant vegetation, diversified by mountains and plateaus, while here and there magnificent cities glistened in the brilliant tropical sun among the sparkling waters. As far as one could see the land was under cultivation.

The descent of the mountains was easy, comparatively speaking, and the Spaniards, after some journeying, found themselves in the populous and wealthy city of Cholula, remarkable for the splendid pyramid temple—Teocalli—which rose in the centre of its encircling walls.

Here a plan was devolved to massacre the whole force which had been quartered in one of the vast palaces or houses of the town. The women and the children left the city in large numbers, a vast body of Mexican soldiers was secretly assembled near by. The provisions, which had always been supplied them generously, were suddenly withdrawn. The suspicions of the Spaniards were of course awakened and extra good watch was kept. They did not know what to suspect, until a Cholulan woman, who had formed an acquaintance with Marina, told her of the purpose of the Mexicans, and advised her to flee from the Spanish camp if she valued her life. The faithful Marina immediately disclosed the whole plan to Cortes. He acted with remarkable celerity and decision. There were many Cholulan lords and attendants about the Spanish camp and there were many others in town, evidently to lull any suspicions which the Spaniards might feel and to make whatever excuse they could for the lack of provisions. On one pretense or another, Cortes summoned the whole body to his house, which was a great rambling structure of many rooms and thick walls and enclosures. He got them assembled in one room and then proceeded to slaughter most of them, reserving only a few for use after the event had been determined. While this butchering was going on he sent others of his troops into the streets and squares of the town, where they killed without hesitation and without mercy all with whom they came in contact, including several bodies of soldiers who were more or less helpless without their leaders, whom Cortes had so craftily disposed of.

This was the celebrated massacre of Cholula. Whether it was justifiable or not, each reader must settle for himself. Cortes' situation then was certainly desperate; for that matter, it was desperate at all times. His life and the lives of his comrades hung upon a thread. He certainly had a right to protect himself. Personally, I do not think such a slaughter was necessary for his protection. However, Cortes thought so, and he was there. It was his life that was concerned, and not mine. Other monarchs in more civilized days have done practically the same as this, as for instance, the famous Barmecide feast, the wholesale assassination of the Abencerrages in Spain, the massacre of the Mamelukes by Napoleon in Egypt, and many others.

To be sure these massacres did not include the helpless inhabitants of the towns. However, with his usual policy, Cortes spared some of the Cholulan lords and when he had shown his power over them, he released them and told them to summon back the people who had left the city. He had no more trouble with the Cholulans after that victory, and he presently took up his journey toward Mexico.

Now, the City of Mexico to the Spaniards was one of the wonders of the world. They have described it in such terms as show the impression it made upon them, but they have not described it in such terms as to enable us to understand from their stories exactly what the city was. It was described as an island city. Some believed it to have been an enormous Pueblo city, such as may be seen in Arizona or New Mexico, surrounded by thousands of squalid huts. Others conjectured it as a city as beautiful as Venice, as great as Babylon, and as wonderful as hundred-gated Thebes.

Cortes shall tell himself the impression it made upon him in the next section which is lifted bodily from one of his famous letters to the emperor Charles V.

Cortes' Description of Mexico,
Written by His Own Hand, to Charles V.

In order, most potent Sire, to convey to your Majesty a just conception of the great extent of this noble city of Temixtitan, and of the many rare and wonderful objects it contains; of the government and dominions of Muteczuma, the sovereign; of the religious rites and customs that prevail, and the order that exists in this as well as other cities, appertaining to his realm; it would require the labor of many accomplished writers, and much time for the completion of the task. I shall not be able to relate an hundredth part of what could be told respecting these matters; but I will endeavor to describe, in the best manner in my power, what I have myself seen; and, imperfectly as I may succeed in that attempt, I am fully aware that the account will appear so wonderful as to be deemed scarcely worthy of credit; since even we who have seen these things with our own eyes, are yet so amazed as to be unable to comprehend their reality. But your Majesty may be assured that if there is any fault in my relation, either in regard to the present subject, or to any other matters of which I shall give your Majesty an account, it will arise from too great brevity rather than extravagance or prolixity in the details; and it seems to me but just to my Prince and Sovereign to declare the truth in the clearest manner, without saying anything that would detract from it, or add to it.

Before I begin to describe this great city and the others already mentioned, it may be well for the better understanding of the subject to say something of the configuration of Mexico, in which they are situated, it being the principal seat of Muteczuma's power. This province is in the form of a circle, surrounded on all sides by lofty and rugged mountains; its level surface comprises an area of about seventy leagues in circumference, including two lakes, that overspread nearly the whole valley, being navigated by boats more than fifty leagues round. One of these lakes contains fresh, and the other, which is the larger of the two, salt water. On one side of the lakes, in the middle of the valley, a range of highlands divides them from one another, with the exception of a narrow strait which lies between the highlands and the lofty sierras. This strait is a bow-shot wide, and connects the two lakes; and by this means a trade is carried on by the cities and other settlement on the lakes in canoes, without the necessity of traveling by land. As the salt lake rises and falls with the tides like the sea, during the time of high water it pours into the other lake with the rapidity of a powerful stream; and on the other hand, when the tide has ebbed, the water runs from the fresh into the salt lake.

This great city of Temixtitan (Mexico) is situated in this salt lake, and from the main land to the denser parts of it, by which ever route one choses to enter, the distance is two leagues. There are four avenues or entrances to the city, all of which are formed by artificial causeways, two spears' length in width. The city is as large as Seville or Cordova; its streets, I speak of principal ones, are very wide and straight; some of these, and all the inferior ones, are half land and half water, and are navigated by canoes. All the streets at intervals have openings, through which the water flows, crossing from one street to another; and at these openings, some of which are very wide, there are also very wide bridges, composed of large pieces of lumber, of great strength and well put together; on many of these bridges ten horses can go abreast. Foreseeing that if the inhabitants of this city should prove treacherous, they would possess great advantages from the manner in which the city is constructed, since by removing the bridges at the entrances and abandoning the place, they could leave us to perish by famine without our being able to reach the mainland—as soon as I had entered it, I made great haste to build four brigantines, which were soon finished, and were large enough to take ashore three hundred men and the horses, whenever it became necessary.

This city has many public squares, in which are situated the markets and other places for buying and selling. There is one square twice as large as that of the city of Salamanca, surrounded by porticoes, where are daily assembled more than sixty thousand souls, engaged in buying and selling; and where are found all kinds of merchandise that the world affords, embracing the necessities of life, as, for instance, articles of food, as well as jewels of gold, silver, lead, brass, copper, tin, precious stones, bones, shells, snails and feathers. There were also exposed for sale wrought and unwrought stone, bricks burnt and unburnt, timber hewn and unhewn of different sorts. There is a street for game, where every variety of birds found in the country is sold, as fowls, partridges, quails, wild ducks, fly-catchers, widgeons, turtle-doves, pigeons, reedbirds, parrots, sparrows, eagles, hawks, owls, and kestrels; they sell, likewise, the skins of some birds of prey, with their feathers, head and beak and claws. There they also sold rabbits, hares, deer, and little dogs which are raised for eating and castrated. There is also an herb street, where may be obtained all sorts of roots and medicinal herbs that the country affords. There are apothecaries' shops, where prepared medicines, liquids, ointments, and plasters are sold; barber shops where they wash and shave the head; and restauranteurs that furnish food and drink at a certain price. There is also a class of men like those called in Castile porters, for carrying burdens. Wood and coal are seen in abundance, and brasiers of earthenware for burning coals; mats of various kinds for beds, others of a lighter sort for seats, and for halls and bedrooms. There are all kinds of green vegetables, especially onions, leeks, garlic, watercresses, nasturtium, borage, sorel, artichokes, and golden thistle-fruits also of numerous descriptions, amongst which are cherries and plums, similar to those in Spain; honey and wax from bees, and from the stalks of maize, which are as sweet as the sugar-cane; honey is also extracted from the plant called maguey, which is superior to sweet or new wine; from the same plant they extract sugar and wine, which they also sell. Different kinds of cotton thread of all colors in skeins are exposed for sale in one quarter of the market, which has the appearance of the silk market at Granada, although the former is supplied more abundantly. Painter's colors, as numerous as can be found in Spain, and as fine shades; deer-skins dressed and undressed, dyed different colors; earthenware of a large size and excellent quality; large and small jars, jugs, pots, bricks, and an endless variety of vessels, all made of fine clay, and all or most of them glazed and painted; maize or Indian corn, in the grain, and in the form of bread, preferred in the grain for its flavor to that of the other islands and terra firma; pates of birds and fish; great quantities of fish, fresh, salt, cooked and uncooked; the eggs of hens, geese and of all the other birds I have mentioned, in great abundance, and cakes made of eggs; finally, everything that can be found throughout the whole country is sold in the markets, comprising articles so numerous that, to avoid prolixity and because their names are not retained in my memory, or are unknown to me, I shall not attempt to enumerate them. Every kind of merchandise is sold in a particular street or quarter assigned to it exclusively, and thus the best order is preserved. They sell everything by number or measure; at least, so far we have not observed them to sell anything by weight. There is a building in the great square that is used as an audience house, where ten or twelve persons, who are magistrates, sit and decide all controversies that arise in the market, and order delinquents to be punished. In the same square there are other persons who go constantly about among the people observing what is sold, and the measures used in selling; and they have been seen to break measures that were not true.

This great city contains a large number of temples or houses for their idols, very handsome edifices, which are situated in the different districts and the suburbs; in the principal ones religious persons of each particular sect are constantly residing, for whose use, beside the houses containing the idols, there are other convenient habitations. All these persons dress in black and never cut or comb their hair from the time they enter the priesthood until they leave it; and all the sons of the principal inhabitants, both nobles and respectable citizens, are placed in the temples and wear the same dress from the age of seven or eight years until they are taken out to be married; which occurs more frequently with the firstborn, who inherits estates, than with the others. The priests are debarred from female society, nor is any woman permitted to enter the religious houses. They also abstain from eating certain kinds of food, more at some seasons of the year than others. Among these temples there is one which far surpasses all the rest, whose grandeur of architectural details no human tongue is able to describe; for within its precincts, surrounded by a lofty wall, there is room for a town of five hundred families. Around the interior of this enclosure there are handsome edifices, containing large halls and corridors, in which the religious persons attached to the temple reside. There are full forty towers, which are lofty and well built, the largest of which has fifty steps leading to its main body, and is higher than the tower of the principal church at Seville. The stone and wood of which they are constructed are so well wrought in every part, that nothing could be better done, for the interior of the chapels containing the idols consists of curious imagery, wrought in stone, with plaster ceilings, and woodwork carved in relief, and painted with figures of monsters and other objects. All these towers are the burial places of the nobles, and every chapel of them is dedicated to a particular idol, to which they pay their devotions.

There are three halls in this grand temple, which contain the principal idols; these are of wonderful extent and height, and admirable workmanship, adorned with figures sculptured in stone and wood; leading from the halls are chapels with very small doors, to which the light is not admitted, nor are any persons except the priests, and not all of them. In these chapels are the images or idols, although, as I have before said, many of them are also found on the outside; the principal ones, in which the people have greatest faith and confidence, I precipitated from their pedestals, and cast them down the steps of the temple, purifying the chapels in which they stood, as they were all polluted with human blood, shed in the sacrifices. In the place of these I put images of Our Lady and the Saints, which excited not a little feeling in Muteczuma and the inhabitants, who at first remonstrated, declaring that if my proceedings were known throughout the country, the people would rise against me; for they believed that their idols bestowed upon them all temporal good, and if they permitted them to be ill-treated, they would be angry and withhold their gifts, and by this means the people would be deprived of the fruits of the earth and die of famine. I answered, through the interpreters, that they were deceived in expecting any favors from idols, the work of their own hands, formed of unclean things; and that they must learn there was but one God, the universal Lord of all, who had created the heavens and the earth, and all things else, and had made them and us; that He was without beginning and immortal, and that they were bound to adore and believe Him, and no other creature or thing. I said everything to them I could to divert them from their idolatries, and draw them to a knowledge of God our Lord. Muteczuma replied, the others assenting to what he said: "That they had already informed me that they were not the aborigines of the country, but that their ancestors had emigrated to it many years ago; and they fully believed, after so long an absence from their native land, they might have fallen into some errors; that I, having been recently arrived, must know better than themselves what they ought to believe; and that if I would instruct them in these matters, and make them understand the true faith, they would follow my directions, as being for the best." Afterward Muteczuma and many of the principal citizens remained with me until I had removed the idols, purified the chapels, and placed images in them, manifesting apparent pleasure; and I forbade them sacrificing human beings to their idols, as they had been accustomed to do; because, besides being abhorrent in the sight of God, your sacred Majesty had prohibited it by law and commanded to put to death whoever should take the life of another. Thus, from that time, they refrained from the practice, and during the whole period of my abode in that city, they were never seen to kill or sacrifice a human being.

The figures of the idols in which these people believe surpass in stature a person of more than the ordinary size; some of them are composed of a mass of seeds and leguminous plants, such as are used for food, ground and mixed together, and kneaded with the blood of human hearts taken from the breasts of living persons, from which a paste is formed in a sufficient quantity to form large statues. When these are completed they make them offerings of the hearts of other victims, which they sacrifice to them, and besmear their faces with the blood. For everything they have an idol, consecrated by the use of the nations that in ancient times honored the same gods. Thus they have an idol that they petition for victory in war; another for success in their labors; and so for everything in which they seek or desire prosperity, they have their idols, which they honor and serve.

This noble city contains many fine and magnificent houses; which may be accounted for from the fact that all the nobility of the country, who are the vassals of Muteczuma, have houses in the city, in which they reside a certain part of the year; and besides, there are numerous wealthy citizens who also possess fine houses. All these persons, in addition to the large and spacious apartments for ordinary purposes, have others, both upper and lower, that contain conservatories of flowers. Along one of the causeways that lead into the city are laid two pipes, constructed of masonry, each of which is two paces in width, and about five feet in height. An abundant supply of excellent water, forming a volume equal in bulk to the human body, is conveyed by one of these pipes, and distributed about the city, where it is used by the inhabitants for drinking and other purposes. The other pipe, in the meantime, is kept empty until the former requires to be cleansed, when the water is let into it; and continues to be used until the cleansing is finished. As the water is necessarily carried over bridges on account of the salt water crossing its route, reservoirs resembling canals are constructed on the bridges, through which the fresh water is conveyed. These reservoirs are of the breadth of the body of an ox, and of the same length as the bridges. The whole city is thus served with water, which they carry in canoes through all the streets for sale, taking it from the aqueduct in the following manner: the canoes pass under the bridges on which the reservoirs are placed, when men stationed above fill them with water, for which service they are paid. At all the entrances of the city, and in those parts where the canoes are discharged, that is, where the greatest quantity of provisions is brought in, huts are erected and persons stationed as guards, who receive a certum quid for everything that enters. I know not whether the sovereign receives this duty or the city, as I have not yet been informed; but I believe that it appertains to the sovereign, as in the markets of other provinces a tax is collected for the benefit of their cacique. In all the markets and public places of this city are seen daily many laborers and persons of various employments waiting for some one to hire them. The inhabitants of this city pay a greater regard to style in their mode of living, and are more attentive to elegance of dress and politeness of manners, than those of the other provinces and cities; since as the Cacique Muteczuma has his residence in the capital, and all the nobility, his vassals, are in the constant habit of meeting there, a general courtesy of demeanour necessarily prevails. But not to be prolix in describing what relates to the affairs of this great city, although it is with difficulty that I refrain from proceeding. I will say no more than that the manners of the people, as shown in their intercourse with one another, are marked by as great an attention to the proprieties of life as in Spain, and good order is equally well observed; and considering that they are a barbarous people, without the knowledge of God, having no intercourse with civilized nations, these traits of character are worthy of admiration.

In regard to the domestic appointments of Muteczuma, and the wonderful grandeur and state he maintains, there is so much to be told, that I assure your Majesty I do not know where to begin my relation, so as to be able to finish any part of it. For, as I have already stated, what can be more wonderful, than that a barbarous monarch, as he is, should have every object found in his dominions, imitated in gold, silver, precious stones and feathers?—the gold and silver being wrought so naturally as not to be surpassed by any smith in the world; the stone work executed with such perfection that is it difficult to conceive what instruments could have been used; and the feather work superior to the finest productions in wax and embroidery. The extent of Muteczuma's dominions has not been ascertained, since to whatever point he despatched his messengers, even two hundred leagues from his capital, his commands were obeyed, although some of his provinces were in the midst of countries with which he was at war. But as nearly as I have been able to learn, his territories are equal in extent to Spain itself, for he sent messengers to the inhabitants of a city called Cumatan (requiring them to become subjects of Your Majesty), which is sixty leagues beyond that part of Putunchan watered by the river Grijalva, and two hundred and thirty leagues distant from the great city; and I sent some of our people a distance of one hundred and fifty leagues in the same direction. All the principal chiefs of these provinces, especially those in the vicinity of the capital, reside, as I have already stated, the greater part of the year in that great city, and all or most of them have their oldest sons in the service of Muteczuma. There are fortified places in all the provinces, garrisoned with his own men, where are also stationed his governors and collectors of the rent and tribute, rendered him by every province; and an account is kept of what each is obliged to pay, as they have characters and figures made on paper that are used for this purpose. Each province renders a tribute of its own particular productions, so that the sovereign receives a great variety of articles from different quarters. No prince was ever more feared by his subjects, both in his presence and absence. He possessed out of the city as well as within, numerous villas, each of which had its peculiar sources of amusement, and all were constructed in the best possible manner for the use of a great prince and lord. Within the city his palaces were so wonderful that it is hardly possible to describe their beauty and extent; I can only say that in Spain there is nothing to equal them.

There was one palace somewhat inferior to the rest, attached to which was a beautiful garden with balconies extending over it, supported by marble columns, and having a floor formed of jasper elegantly laid. There were apartments in this palace sufficient to lodge two princes of the highest rank with their retinues. There were likewise belonging to it ten pools of water, in which were kept the different species of water birds found in this country, of which there is a great variety, all of which are domesticated; for the sea birds there were pools of salt water, and for the river birds, of fresh water. The water is let off at certain times to keep it pure, and is replenished by means of pipes. Each species of bird is supplied with the food natural to it, which it feeds upon when wild. Thus fish is given to birds that usually eat it; worms, maize and the finer seeds, to such as prefer them. And I assure Your Highness, that to the birds accustomed to eat fish, there is given the enormous quantity of ten arrobas every day, taken in the salt lake. The emperor has three hundred men whose sole employment is to take care of these birds; and there are others whose only business is to attend to the birds that are in bad health.

Over the pools for the birds there are corridors and galleries to which Muteczuma resorts, and from which he can look out and amuse himself with the sight of them. There is an apartment in the same palace, in which are men, women, and children, whose faces, bodies, hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes are white from birth. The cacique has another very beautiful palace, with a large courtyard, paved with handsome flags, in the style of a chess-board. There were also cages, about nine feet in height and six paces square, each of which was half covered with a roof of tiles, and the other half had over it a wooden grate, skilfully made. Every cage contains a bird of prey, of all the species found in Spain, from the kestrel to the eagle, and many unknown there. There were a great number of each kind, and in the covered part of the cages there was a perch, and another on the outside of the grating, the former of which the birds used in the night-time, and when it rained; and the other enabled them to enjoy the sun and air. To all these birds fowl were daily given for food, and nothing else. There were in the same palace several large halls on the ground floor, filled with immense cages built of heavy pieces of timber, well put together, in all or most of which were kept lions, tigers, wolves, foxes and a variety of animals of the cat tribe, in great numbers, which were also fed on fowls. The care of these animals and birds was assigned to three hundred men. There was another palace that contained a number of men and women of monstrous size, and also dwarfs, and crooked and ill-formed persons, each of which had their separate apartments. These also had their respective keepers. As to the other remarkable things that the ruler had in his city for amusement, I can only say that they were numerous and of various kinds.

He was served in the following manner. Every day as soon as it was light, six hundred nobles and men of rank were in attendance at the palace, who either sat or walked about the halls and galleries, and passed their time in conversation, but without entering the apartment where his person was. The servants and attendants of these nobles remained in the courtyards, of which there were two or three of great extent, and in the adjoining street, which was also spacious. They all remained in attendance from morning until night; and when his meals were served, the nobles were likewise served with equal profusion, and their servants and secretaries also had their allowance. Daily his larder and wine-cellar were open to all who wished to eat and drink. The meals were served by three or four hundred youths, who brought on an infinite variety of dishes; indeed, whenever he dined or supped the table was loaded with every kind of flesh, fish, fruit, and vegetables that the country provided. As the climate is cold, they put a chafing-dish with live coals under every plate and dish to keep them warm. The meals were served in a large hall where Muteczuma was accustomed to eat, and the dishes quite filled the room, which was covered with mats and kept very clean. He sat on small cushions curiously wrought in leather. During the meals there were present, at a little distance from him, five or six elderly caciques, to whom he presented some of the food. And there was constantly in attendance one of the servants, who arranged and handed the dishes, and who received from others whatever was wanted for the supply of the table. Both at the beginning and end of every meal, they furnished water for the hands, and the napkins used on these occasions were never used a second time; this was the case also with the plates and dishes, which were not brought again, but new ones in place of them; it was also the same with the chafing-dishes. He is also dressed every day in four different suits, entirely new, which he never wears a second time. None of the caciques ever enter his palace with their feet covered, and when those for whom he sends enter his presence, they incline their heads and look down, bending their bodies; and when they address him they do not look in his face; this arises from excessive modesty and reverence. Whenever Muteczuma appeared in public, which was seldom the case, all those who accompanied him or whom he accidentally met in the streets, turned away without looking toward him, and others prostrated themselves until he passed. One of the nobles always preceded him on these occasions, carrying three slender rods erect, which I suppose was to give notice of the approach of his person. And when they descended from the litters, he took one of them in his hands, and held it until he reached the places where he was going. So many and various were the ceremonies and customs observed by those in the service of Muteczuma, that more space than I can spare would be required for the details, as well as a better memory than I have to recollect them; since no sultan or other infidel lord, of whom any knowledge now exists, ever had so much ceremonial in their courts.