Broken Spears Essay

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The Nahua Interpretation of Spanish Conquest
It is very difficult to explain defeat without seeming to make excuses. Such was the task of the Nahua chroniclers whom learned to write their language and produced the codices that were used in The Broken Spears. These accounts were put together by Native Americans roughly thirty years after the conquest based on Nahua oral history. These are not direct first hand accounts and cannot be accepted as specific historical evidence. What can be understood from this is the influences that were prevalent in their interpretations and the value they associated to the different factors that determined the Aztec fate. Their attribution to “The Giver of Life” is clear, while their account of the influence of their King, Motecuhzoma and the Tlaxcaltecas give examples of mortal influences that conflict with the supernatural aspect in the conquest. This cleavage in their historical account demonstrates their logic in constructing a working narrative which simultaneously blames everything and nothing at the same time – a grand and complex web of colors and emotions that can effective convey their sentiment of betrayal.

The Nahua presentation of the various omens which foreshadowed the Spanish Conquest signifies the clearest example of their world-view as it applies to history. These “Omens” shed light on their appreciation for time and history as being functioning parts of God’s will. The preordained nature of these eight omens validates their faith and acceptance in the “Giver of Life.” Even Motecuhzoma, the most powerful figure in Aztec society could appreciate their significance as he, “took it as a great and bad omen when he saw the stars mamalhuatzli.” (6) The validity of the omens is further solidified by the testimony of Munoz de Camargo who as a Spaniard had a very different perspective than the native Aztecs, but could appreciate the attention they received as he writes how, “This great marvel caused so much dread and...
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