Select 2 dueling documents How did the Spaniards and Aztecs remember first contact?



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How did the Spaniards and Aztecs remember first contact?

Step Two:

Who- first meeting between Spaniard and Aztecs

What- Description of how the first encounter went

Where-aboard the Cortes ship

When- when the giant white flags came into the harbor

Why- because you could see the reaction from both sides

So what-


Thinking Critically- How did the Aztec and the Spaniards communicate? Bernal Diaz says that Dona Maria understood the language. In doc 2 I think Cortes just knew what the natives were saying because from the beginning they lavished him with gifts . They thought he was a god.

Why does Diaz pay so little attention to the gifts the emissaries brought Cortes? May have been because they didn’t understand the meaning of all the items. Im surprised he didn’t the gold.

Why might the painters be absent from the Nahua account? It could be that it never took place.

What principles of critical thinking should be kept in mind when reading such documents? You have to have an open mind. When the Spaniards arrived they saw their way of life as the right and only way of living. And saw the indigenous people as a lower class then them. The Aztecs had a revelation that a white God was to come and a white man appeared. They did confuse him with who they thought it was and welcomed him.

After reviewing all the dueling documents I chose the one titled “How the Spaniards and the Aztec remember first contact.” I was born in a Latin American country and lived there for the first few years of my life before moving to the United States and had heard a little about how the Spaniards had encountered the Natives of the “New World” that had been discovered. Yet it was interesting to read both points of view with an open mind. Although they have some similarities they are mostly different. In the document compiled by Bernal Diaz, he recalls how the Aztecs boarded Cortes’ boat and asked for the chief. They of course asked in their native language but Diaz claims a woman by the name of Dona Marina understood their language. The natives gave Cortes gifts to show their respect. A conversation is had between the natives and Cortes as Dona Marina translates. The natives asked “What their purpose was?” Cortes responded by saying that they had come to trade with them and that their visit was not threatening. Days later a painter was brought to Cortes. He made paintings of their horses, his dogs, boats, army, food, and weapons. The native then took all there paintings back to their leader.

The second testimony of that same first encounter is made by a missionary named Fray Bernardino de Sahagun. Upon meeting Cortes on his boat they made a gesture for him come meet and eat with Moteuccoma (the leader in Mexico). Then they dressed him up and adorned him with cloaks, necklaces, bands, a vest and a head band that were all adorned with feathers , special stones, mirrors, and gold. After all this Cortes ordered that they be tied up. He then had the cannons go off and after the natives lost consciousness at this spectacle, Cortes set them free. The native messengers went back to their leader Moteucooma to tell him what had transpired, but he would not hear it if it until an Aztec ritual was performed on the messengers. The messengers then proceeded to tell Moteuccoma what had happened like the cannons going off and about the animals and soldiers. After hearing what the messengers had to say Moteuccoma was very afraid.

These dueling documents have a great historical significance in a number of ways. The main historical significance is the fact that practically all of Latin America speaks Spanish, with the exception of Brazil because it was conquered by Portugal. Had the Spaniards not landed in Hispanola Latin America may not be what it is today, Latin. We don’t know who would of landed and /or what language would have been spoken here now. It would have been a completely different world than what we see today.

These documents have demonstrated how one’s culture influences what one thinks of others. The Spaniards believed that their way of life was the correct way to live and any other way was inferior and of course incorrect. They came upon a land where the natives lived and had established themselves, but because they didn’t dress, eat or speak in the same manner as them they were a lesser people and needed to be taught the right way to live. He took it upon himself to be seen as a higher power. He was in charge and made sure they knew it like when he tied up the natives and fired his cannons. He didn’t seem to show any cause for concern, he was determined to conquer this new land, no matter what was at stake. On another thought it does amaze me how the Spaniards somehow had someone that understood the natives’ language even though it was a new land and an unexplored territory. How could anyone have ever heard much less learned the Aztec’s language well enough to communicate with them? If the Spaniards really understood the Aztec’s language then they would have known and recognized in their version of their first encounter exactly why the gifts were given and why Cortes decided not to go see their leader as the Aztec people requested. Instead their document has no reference to Cortes either declining or accepting the messengers’ invitation to see their chief or leader.

Diaz states that the natives brought back painters who made portraits of Cortes, his captains, the army, etc. Based on the natives account it seemed that they were afraid of Cortes because he had weapons that fired at his command and rode on tall deer with the company of huge creatures. How would the natives just come and make paintings of all these people and their things? Also if these paintings were of such importance to the Aztec, it would not be absent from the natives account of events. If these paintings were so important to the Aztecs, you would think that they would show the paintings and tell stories of how their first encounter went with the new and odd visitors.

In the second document Fray Bernardino de Sahagun’s version of the events seemed to be more from an anthropologist’s point of view because he wrote as if he had seen the Aztec’s culture in action and it was as though he actually lived among the Aztec people. The gifts that were given to Cortes were of great significance, he was being welcomed as a god. He was given great importance from the beginning and Cortes used that to his advantage. This is one of reasons why he was able to conquer this civilization so easily because they feared him and gave him his place as a god amongst them. This author’s document is aimed to show how important tradition and culture was to the Aztec at all situations, whether it is a good one or a potential threat. It surprised me how little attention Diaz paid in mentioning the gifts that were lavished upon Cortes. Clearly Diaz didn’t understand the meaning of the items and/or was not given the correct translation of what they were or meant. I was especially surprised that he didn’t make any mention about the gold that adorned some of these gifts.



These dueling documents allow one to see two different points of view of the same significant event. This first encounter seemed like the start of conquests in this new land. Europeans came over and started conquering any civilization that they came upon for their own gain. It started with Cortes and continued throughout time in which many great nations were lost and formed. It wasn’t only wars and disputes over land that killed off the natives, but Europeans also brought over many diseases that destroyed the natives too.


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