Document Analysis: The Second Letter of Henan Cortés to Charles V
The Second letters to Charles V were written by Hernan Cortés of Spain in 1520. The letters were sent to Charles V to justify Cortés actions of attacking the Aztec's against his superiors order. The letters that Cortés wrote details the lifestyle, and culture of the Aztec's and how worshipped pagan gods. This document is a set of letters that Hernan Cortés wrote detailing his experiences within the area known today as Mexico. These documents allow readers to see the Aztec culture through the eyes of Cortés during his conquest in Mexico. As a result of this, there is a bias against the Aztecs in the letters since Cortés was a very religious Christion. This article was intended mainly for the Emperor, but the details Cortés put into explaining the power of Aztecs would eventually be used to present the achievements of Cortés. [1: Arkenberg, Cortés. "Hernan Cortés: From Second Letter to Charles V, 1520." Internet History Sourcebooks. January 1, 1998. Accessed November 13, 2014. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1520cortes]
In 1485, Hernan Cortés was born in Spanish kingdom of Castile and would later on die in 1547 at the age of 62. Cortés would go to become a Spanish Conquistador and would eventually lead a campaign that would end in the creation of New Spain or future Mexico. His most well-known achievement would be his ability to conquer the Aztec empire in 1521. Cortés did have an education since he studied at the University of Salamanca to become a lawyer but would drop out after two years, to chase after the tales and stories of the new world. As a result, Cortés education allows the Second letter to Charles V to illustrate the society of the Aztecs in a sharp way. Cortés was also very intelligent in the way he wrote the letters to CharlesV.Cortés was trying to justify his actions for attacking the Aztecs, and the emphasis he puts on the Aztecs, pagan beliefs would appeal to the Christian Emperor Charles V. Another point where Cortés was smart about writing the document was commenting on the wealth of Montezuma the King of the Aztecs. This type of writing on about how great a king Montezuma was attempted to touch on the jealously that Charles V might have that a pagan king can have such wealth and power. [2: Hernan Cortés and Anthony Pagden, In Letters from Mexico (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), 11. ][3: Cortés, and Pagden, In Letter from Mexico, xli]
An essential thing to determine was what reason did Cortés have for creating this document. The reason that Cortés created these letters was to justify his actions of heading to the region of Mexico against the wishes of the governor of Cuba who was Diego Velázquez. The region of Mexico was something that fell under Velázquez authority so when Cortés decided to try and conquer Spain this was a threat to his power within the region. As a result, Cortés wrote to Charles V to justify his actions of conquering the region that would be named Mexico. Furthermore, Cortés within his document begins to portray himself as the perfect image for the emperor in this new region. An example of this would be when Cortés writes about "purifying the chapels in which they had stood, as they were all polluted with human blood, shed ill the sacrifices. In the place of these I put images of Our Lady and the Saints, which excited not a little feeling in Montezuma and the inhabitants." This particular action of placing images of the Saints on pagan idols was something that would have portrayed Cortés as the perfect representation of the Emperor. The significance of religion was a key factor to promote his conquest to the emperor since the conversions of natives was beginning to gain considerable prominence within the new world. As a result Cortés made sure to explain the Aztec culture, religious believes to support this idea that these pagans required Christianisation. Cortés continues to support his point of the...
Bibliography: Hernan Cortés, and Anthony Pagden, In _Letters from Mexico_ (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), 11.
Jerome S. Arkenberg. "Hernan Cortés: From Second Letter to Charles V, 1520." Internet History Sourcebooks. January 1, 1998. Accessed November 13, 2014. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1520cortes
Please join StudyMode to read the full document