|DBQ 1 – Aztecs vs. Spanish
Speeches of Montezuma and Cortes
Then he [Montezuma] stood up to welcome Cortés; he came forward, bowed his head low and addressed him in these words: "Our lord, you are weary. The journey has tired you, but now you have arrived on the earth. You have come to your city, Mexico. You have come here to sit on your throne, to sit under its canopy.…When Motecuhzoma[Montezuma] had finished, La Malinche translated his address into Spanish so that the Captain could understand it. Cortés replied in his strange and savage tongue, speaking first to La Malinche: "Tell Motecuhzoma that we are his friends. There is nothing to fear. We have wanted to see him for a long time, and now we have seen his face and heard his words. Tell him that we love him well and that our hearts are contented."
Then he said to Motecuhzoma: "We have come to your house in Mexico as friends. There is nothing to fear."
La Malinche translated this speech and the Spaniards grasped Motecuhzoma's hands and patted his back to show their affection for him....
Massacre in the Main Temple
During this time, the people asked Motecuhzoma how they should celebrate their god's fiesta. He said: "Dress him in all his finery, in all his sacred ornaments."
During this same time, The Sun [Cortes] commanded that Motecuhzoma and Itzcohuatzin, the military chief of Tlatelolco, be made prisoners. The Spaniards hanged a chief from Acolhuacan named Nezahualquentzin. They also murdered the king of Nauhtla, Cohualpopocatzin, by wounding him with arrows and then burning him alive…On the second day they began to sing again, but without warning they were all put to death. The dancers and singers were completely unarmed…The Spaniards attacked the musicians first, slashing at their hands and faces until they had killed all of them. The singers-and even the spectators- were also killed. This slaughter in the Sacred Patio went on for three hours.
- From Miguel LeonPortilla, ed., The Brohen Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico (Boston: Beacon Press, 1962), pp. 6466
1. Who was Cortes and who was Montezuma?
2. Who did Montezuma think Cortes was?
3. Do you think Cortes took advantage of this belief? How do you think he did it?
4. Why do you think the Spanish acted in such a cruel manner?
5. Why did the Aztecs tolerate this behavior before they started to fight back?
DBQ 2 – Las Casas on Native Americans
God made all the peoples of this area, many and varied as they are, as open and as innocent as can be imagined. The simplest people in the world - unassuming, long-suffering, unassertive, and submissive - they are without malice or guile, and are utterly faithful and obedient both to their own native lords and to the Spaniards in whose service they now find themselves…and over the years I have time and again met Spanish laymen who have been so struck by the natural goodness that shines through these people that they frequently can be heard to exclaim: 'These would be the most blessed people on earth if only they were given the chance to convert to Christianity.'…
It was upon these gentle lambs, imbued by the Creator with all the qualities we have mentioned, that from the very first day they clapped eyes on them the Spanish fell like ravening wolves upon the fold, or like tigers and savage lions who have not eaten meat for days. The pattern established at the outset has remained unchanged to this day, and the Spaniards still do nothing save tear the natives to shreds, murder them and inflict upon them untold misery, suffering and distress, tormenting, harrying and persecuting them mercilessly…When the Spanish first journeyed there, the indigenous population of the island of Hispaniola stood at some three million; today only two hundred survive…further thirty or so islands in the region of Puerto Rico are also now uninhabited and left to go to rack and ruin as a direct result of the same practices.
- Bartolome de Las Casas A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies (1542)
1. Who was Bartolome de las Casas?
2. How is his view and treatment of Native Americans different from the first document?
3. What does this document show about the population of Native Americans after the Spanish arrived?
Document 3 – Columbus and the Natives
These Arawaks of the Bahama Islands were much like Indians on the mainland, who were remarkable (European observers were to say again and again) for their hospitality, their belief in sharing. These traits did not stand out in the Europe of the Renaissance, dominated as it was by the religion of popes, the government of kings, the frenzy for money that marked Western civilization and its first messenger to the Americas, Christopher Columbus. Columbus wrote:
As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts.
The information that Columbus wanted most was: Where is the gold? He had persuaded the king and queen of Spain to finance an expedition to the lands, the wealth, he expected would be on the other side of the Atlantic-the Indies and Asia, gold and spices. For, like other informed people of his time, he knew the world was round and he could sail west in order to get to the Far East…
Now, from his base on Haiti, Columbus sent expedition after expedition into the interior. They found no gold fields, but had to fill up the ships returning to Spain with some kind of dividend. In the year 1495, they went on a great slave raid, rounded up fifteen hundred Arawak men, women, and children, put them in pens guarded by Spaniards and dogs, then picked the five hundred best specimens to load onto ships. Of those five hundred, two hundred died en route…
But too many of the slaves died in captivity. And so Columbus, desperate to pay back dividends to those who had invested, had to make good his promise to fill the ships with gold. In the province of Cicao on Haiti, where he and his men imagined huge gold fields to exist, they ordered all persons fourteen years or older to collect a certain quantity of gold every three months. When they brought it, they were given copper tokens to hang around their necks. Indians found without a copper token had their hands cut off and bled to death.
The Indians had been given an impossible task. The only gold around was bits of dust garnered from the streams. So they fled, were hunted down with dogs, and were killed. – Howard Zinn A People’s History of the United States
1. What was the goal of Columbus when he “discovered” the Americas in 1492?
2. Why do you think the atrocities (crimes, misgivings) committed by Columbus and Spanish are overlooked or not mentioned today?
3. Do you think some other country would have treated the Native Americans better? Explain.
4. Do you think this type of crimes would happen again today in the world? Explain.