Focus Paper #1
The Broken Spears
The book The Broken Spears, by Miguel Leon-Portilla, presents an account of the Conquest of Mexico from the point of view of the some of the indigenous people who survived those events. The passages used, written in the native language of the victims, provide us a brief description of the encounters with the Spaniards that were not seen in the documented history of the conquest. Native priests and wise men had documented the welcoming of Cortes and his men as the arrival of their God Quetzalcoatl and other deities, the reaction to the march of these “gods” on several cities within the Aztec state, and the manner in which the Spaniards conquered this once, independent, well-structured, pre-Columbian American civilizations. In the introduction to the book, it describes the development of a new state in Central Mexico during the 9th century known as the “Toltec Empire”. Toltec is a synonym for artist. As stated in the Cultural Stages of Ancient Mexico section of the introduction, the Toltec people were described as “superb artisans, devout worshipers, skillful tradesmen- extraordinary persons in every way.” Under the protection of their God, Quetzalcoatl, the Toltecs had extended their civilization and influenced regions down into the Yucatan and Central America. Their God soon departed, headed eastward, and promised that “someday he would return from across the sea.” The Aztecs, a civilization that settled in the region during the middle of the 13th century, claimed to be from Toltec nobility and believed the arrival of the Spaniards to be ”Quetzalcoatl and other Gods returning from overseas.” In the ten years leading up to the arrival of the Spaniards, the Aztecs were witness to eight omens that, whether told by the Codex Florentio or the Historia de Tlaxcala, were believed to be the foretelling of that very arrival. Thus, when news of the arrival reached them, the King, Motecuhzoma, immediately sent out his messengers...
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