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Aztec Account of the Spanish

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The Europeans first came in contact with the Mexica, who they called the Aztecs, during the fifteenth century. In the Aztec Account of the Spanish, the author, a Mexica messenger, reports how the Spanish look and what weapons they bear. Moctezuma II, who reigned from 1502 until 1520, the year after the Spanish invaded Mexico (Shi, Tindall 7), sent several messengers who bore gifts and words of welcome to the Spanish (Leon-Portilla 1962). However, the Spanish came into the Americas parading their weapons and horses, while the Mexica could only watch and wonder if this was a sign from the gods. The messengers explain how the Spanish had with them a cannon which expelled a stone ball which made mountains split open (Leon-Portilla 1962). The Spaniards, led by Cortes, were head to toe in armor and were white, a clear distinction from the Mexica natives, who were of a browner complexion.

The messengers finish by describing the two foreign beasts that the Spanish brought along with them. The horse, which they described as a tall deer and enormous dogs which they thought were powerful. During this time, european countries were beginning to explore and settle in the Americas. The Spanish focused in Central and South America, where the Mexicans lived. Moctezuma II was cautious when it came to the appearance of foreigners on his land. He sent gifts like chocolate and gold, under the premonition that Cortes was a god. Since the Mexica were exceptionally religious, when they went to war with neighboring empires, their weapons were meant to wound, not kill. This was to take war prisoners who were sacrificed to the gods or were worked as slaves (Shi, Tindall 7). These weapons were no match for the guns, swords, shields, and bows the Spanish were equipped with, which were all made of iron. Although the Mexica were evidently more advanced in culture, architecture, and agriculture, the weapons that they used paled in comparison. The Spanish also owned horses and dogs. This was a surprise to the natives, since the only large land animals they had come in contact with in the South American continent were llamas and alpacas. This document shows how the Mexica were ill prepared for Spanish attack and invasion.

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Everything from the Spanish language the foreigners used and the clothes they wore were unusual to them. The capital city was Tenochtitlan, which was founded on an island (Shi, Tindall 7). Tenochtitlan was home to 250,000 people, so large that it rivaled many european cities. Cortes saw this empire as his greatest threat in the Americas. The Spanish brought with them not only six foot tall horses and large dogs, but also diseases like measles and smallpox. Because the Mexica had no prior exposure to these diseases, their immune systems weren’t able to fight them off. Cortes walked into Tenochtitlan and took Moctezuma as captive. After killing him, the Spanish returned to conquer the Mexica, and built a city on top of their remains.

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