Cortes' and Bernal Diaz's Motives for Writing Their Accounts of the Conquest

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Q: What were Cortes' and Bernal Diaz's motives for writing their accounts of the conquest? How did these motives color their narratives of the conquest?

Record keeping has been around since the beginning of time. Even before humans existed, the planet earth keeps detailed records of itself in rocks, trees, and ice. Writing of events has been very important in the process of capturing, storing, and sharing information. Writing also allows the document to be sent off to a far off land without the story being sent through multiple story tellers, losing and gaining valuable details making it something of a myth. People write differently depending on the recipient and what their motives are. As we look at the writings of


Cortes and Bernal Diaz, we will see how their writings were molded by different motivations. All must be carefully examined and analyzed for validity.

Some of the reasons for documentation are personal, political, economical, and social.


Cortes, the leader of the Spanish expedition, wrote some of the most popular documents which were published in Spain almost instantly and were read as the "official" story of the conquest of the new world (Schwartz 15). The main goal of the expedition was gold, and secondly to spread Catholicism to the newly discovered world. Cortes made many decisions which went against Spain's direct interests. When he wrote letters, they were to the king of Spain. In the reports he attempted to justify his actions and decisions, keeping everything about himself positive (Schwartz 15). He wrote in a way that would make him seem heroic and successful. While his writings did accomplish this, it was not always actually the case.

Another man who wrote about his experiences was Bernal Diaz del Castillo. He was a conquistador and a common man who had an exceptional memory for retaining details, which he used in documenting his narrative. He did not write his accounts until he was...
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