LETTERS OR DESPATCHES OF HERNANDO CORTES, TO THE EMPEROR CHARLES V.
Dated at Segura de la Frontera, (Mexico,) Oct. 30th, 1520.
Most Noble, Powerful and Catholic Prince, Invincible Emperor, and our Sovereign Lord
BY a ship that I despatched from this New Spain of your Sacred Majesty, on the sixteenth of July, in the year 1519, I transmitted to your Highness a very full and particular report of what had occurred from the time of my arrival in this country to that date ; which I sent by the hands of Alonso Hernandez Puertocarrero and Francisco de Montejo, deputies of La Rica Villa de la Vera Cruz, the town I had founded in your Majesty’s name. Since that time, from want of opportunity, and being constantly engaged in making conquests and establishing peace, having no ships, nor any intelligence from the one I had sent, or the deputies, I have not been able till now to give your Majesty a further account of our operations; from which God knows how much
have suffered. I have been desirous that your Highness should be informed concerning the affairs of this country, because, as I have already mentioned in my former relation, such are its extent and importance, that the possession of it would authorize your Majesty to assume anew the title of Emperor, which it is no less worthy of conferring than Germany itself, which, by the grace of God, you already possess. But a detailed account of whatever presents itself deserving observation in these new regions would be almost endless; and I must beg your Majesty’s pardon if my relation is less complete than it should be, owing to my want of ability, and the peculiar circumstances in which I am now placed. I shall nevertheless use my best efforts to relate the truth as nearly as possible, and to inform your Majesty of what it is important at the present juncture you should know. I must also entreat your Majesty’s pardon if I should not mention every circumstance of any weight, or fail to give with great exactness the time and manner in which events may have occurred; or should I make mistakes in the names of the cities and towns, as well as provinces, that have professed their allegiance to your Majesty, and acknowledged themselves your subjects and vassals. For, in consequence of a disaster that has recently happened, of which I shall hereafter give your Highness a full account, I have lost all my papers, including the official records of my proceedings with the inhabitants of these countries, and many other things. In my former despatch, Most Excellent Prince, I gave a list of the cities and towns that had to that time voluntarily submitted to your authority, together with those I had reduced by conquest. I also mentioned having received information from the natives of a certain great
Lord, called MUTECZUMA, who, according to their computation of distances, dwelt ninety or a hundred leagues from the coast and the port where I had disembarked; and that, trusting in the greatness of God, and the confidence inspired by the royal name of your Highness, I proposed to go and see him wherever he might be. I also recollect having engaged to do more than was in my power in regard to the demand I intended to make of this personage; for I assured your Highness that he should be taken either dead or alive, or become a subject to the royal throne of your Majesty. With this determination I departed from the city of Cempoal, to which I gave the name of Sevilla, on the 16th of August, with fifteen horse and three hundred infantry, all in the best condition for war in which I was able, or the time permitted me to render them. I left in the town of Vera Cruz one hundred and fifty men and two horses, occupied in building a fort, which was already nearly finished ; and I also left the whole province of Cempoal, and all the mountainous region adjacent to the town, containing fifty thousand warriors, and fifty towns and fortresses, in peace and security, and firm in their allegiance to your Majesty, as they have remained to the present time. Although they were subjects of Muteczuma, yet according to the information I received, they had been reduced to that condition by force, within a short period ; and when they had obtained through me some knowledge of your Highness, and of your great regal power, they declared their desire to become vassals of your Majesty, and to form an alliance with me. They also begged me to protect them against that mighty Lord, who used violent and tyrannical measures to keep them in subjection, and took from them their sons to be slain and offered as sacrifices to his idols; with many other complaints against him, in order to avoid whose tyranny they embraced the service of your Majesty, to which they have so far proved faithful, and I doubt not will continue so, since they have been uniformly treated by me with favor and attention. Nevertheless, for the better security of our people who remained at Vera Cruz, I took with me several of their principal men, and some of an inferior order, who have been of no little service to me on my route.1.
I informed your Majesty, I believe, in my former despatch, that some of those persons that accompanied me, who had been servants and friends of Diego Velazquez, were jealous of what I had accomplished in the service of your Highness ; and even sought to create disaffection in our ranks, and compel me to abandon the country. The leaders in this business were four Spaniards, namely: Juan Escudero, Diego Cermeño, a pilot, Gonzalo de Ungria, also a pilot, and Alonso Peñate, who, as they voluntarily confessed, had determined to seize a brigantine then in port, put on board a large quantity of bread and pork, and after killing the master, to sail for the island of Fernandina, [Cuba,] for the purpose of informing Diego Velazquez that I had despatched a ship to your Majesty, with the names of those who had sailed in it, and the route it had taken, to enable him to send vessels in pursuit and capture it. This he afterwards attempted; as I have been informed that he despatched a caravel after the ship, which he would have taken if it had not passed
on the outside. They also confessed that others had been desirous of sending information to Diego Velazquez. Upon their confessions, I punished the delinquents as justice, the necessity of the case, and the service of your
Highness required. But besides those who from having been the servants and friends of Velazquez wished to leave the country, there were others that entered into the same views, on beholding the great number and power of the people of the country, while the Spaniards were so few and inconsiderable. Believing, therefore, that if I left the ships there they would mutiny, and all be induced to depart, leaving me almost alone, and by this means the great service rendered to God and your Majesty be made of no avail ; I determined, under the pretext that the ships were not seaworthy, to cause them to be stranded on the coast ; thus taking away all hope of leaving the country, I pursued my route with greater feelings of security, having no fears that after our backs were turned the people I had left at Vera Cruz would desert me.
Eight or ten days after the ships were stranded, having gone from Vera Cruz towards the city of Cempoal, which is four leagues distant, in order to proceed from thence on my route, I received intelligence from the former place that four ships had arrived on the coast, and that the captain I had left in command there had gone out to them in a boat, when he was told they belonged to Francisco de Garay, Lieutenant and Governor of the island of Jamaica, and had come on a voyage of discovery. The captain informed them that I had founded a colony in the country, in the name of your Highness, and built a town one league from where the ships lay; adding that he would accompany them to the place and apprise me of their arrival; and that if their ships were in want of repairs, they could be made in the harbor, to which he would pilot them in his boat; at the same time pointing out where it was. They replied, that they had already seen the harbor, having passed before it, and would do as he suggested. The captain then returned with his boat, but the ships had not followed, nor entered the harbor; they had, however, sailed along the coast, and the captain was at a loss to know their design; he had, therefore, made me acquainted with the circumstances. I immediately returned to Vera Cruz, where I learned that the ships lay at anchor on the coast three leagues below, and that no one had landed from them. I then went down to the shore with a number of men to reconnoitre the ships, and having got within about a league of them I met three of their men, amongst whom was one that styled himself a notary; he had taken the other two with him, as he told me, to witness a certain notification which the captain required him to serve on me, and which he had brought there for the purpose, setting forth a certain claim on his part; the substance of it was, that he had discovered this country and intended to colonize it; he therefore required that I should establish with him a line of demarcation; and that he proposed to make a settlement at a place five leagues down the coast near the former Nautical, a city twelve leagues from Vera Cruz, now called Almeria.3.
I answered, that the captain must come with his ships to the port of Vera Cruz, where we would talk together, and I should understand better the purpose he had in view: that if he was in want of any thing for his ships
or men, I would supply him as far as it was in my power; and since he had declared that he had come in the service of your Sacred Majesty, I added that I desired nothing more than to promote the service of your Highness to the utmost extent of my ability, and that by aiding him I believed I should do so. They replied, that neither their captain nor any of his people could be induced to come on shore at any place where I might be. Believing that they must have done some wrong in the country, as they feared to come into my presence, as soon as it was dark I took a position in the most secret manner near the sea-coast, opposite where the ships rode at anchor, and there I remained until nearly the middle of the next day, expecting the captain or pilot to come on shore, from whom I might ascertain what they had done, and what places they had visited, intending if I discovered that they had been guilty of any illegal acts, to send them to your Sacred Majesty ; but neither they nor any other persons landed from the ships. Finding that they would not come on shore, I caused the men who had sought to serve me with the notification, to exchange clothes with the same number of Spaniards in my party, and I sent the latter to the shore, and directed them to call aloud to the ships. As soon as they were discovered, a boat containing ten or twelve men, armed with cross-bows and handguns, came to land, and the Spaniards who had called to them, withdrew from the shore behind some bushes that grew about there, as if for shade. Four men leaped on shore from the boat, two cross-bowmen, and two musketeers, who were immediately surrounded by the Spaniards, and taken prisoners. One of them was master of a ship, who applied the match to his handgun and would have slain the captain
that had been stationed by me at Vera Cruz, if it had not pleased our Lord that the match should not give fire. The men who remained in the boat put off from the shore, but before they reached the ships the sails were already set, without waiting for them, or those on board desiring to know what had become of them. I was informed by the prisoners I had taken, that they had reached a river thirty leagues along the coast, after passing Almeria, where they had met with a favorable reception from the natives, who supplied them with provisions in the way of barter; and that they had seen some gold which the Indians brought, although in small quantities : they obtained in all about 3000 castellanos of gold in trade. That they did not land upon the coast, but approached the towns on the banks of the river so near as to be able to distinguish the people from the ships. That they had no stone edifices, but all their houses were of thatch, excepting that the ground on which they were built was raised to a considerable height by the labor of the hand. All of this I subsequently learned more fully from the great Lord Muteczuma, and from certain interpreters of that country that he had with him; whom, together with an Indian brought in those ships from that river, and taken prisoner by me, I sent with other messengers from Muteczuma, that they might induce the sovereign of the river, which is called Panuco, to enter the service of your Sacred Majesty. And he sent them back to me with a principal person, or as they termed him, the Lord of a town ; who gave me on his part certain cloth, precious stones, and feather-work, and said that he and all his people were willing to be the subjects of your Majesty and my allies. I made him presents of various articles from Spain, with which he was greatly pleased, so much so, that when he saw other ships of the above-mentioned Francisco de Garay, (of whom I shall hereafter give your Majesty some account,) the said Lord of Panuco sent to inform me that those ships were in another river, five or six days journey from thence; at the same time he gave them to understand that if the persons in the ships were countrymen of mine, he would give them whatever they wanted ; and accordingly carried them some women, together with chickens and other articles of food.4.
I was three days, most powerful Sire, in passing through the country and dominion of Cempoal, where I was well received and hospitably entertained by all the inhabitants. On the fourth day I entered a province called Sienchimalen, in which there is a very strong town, occupying a commanding situation on one side of a rocky sierra, accessible only by a single passage, which it is impossible to penetrate except on foot, and even then with great difficulty if the natives should wish to defend the pass. In the open country there are many villages and hamlets, consisting of two, three, or five hundred families, which contain altogether five or six thousand warriors; and these are under the authority of Muteczuma. They received me here very favorably, and supplied in the most liberal manner the necessary provision for my route. At the same time they informed me that they knew I was going to see Muteczuma their sovereign, and added that he was certainly my friend, having sent them instructions to give me a good reception, as in so doing they would promote his service. I made a suitable acknowledgment of their civility, saying that your Majesty had possessed some knowledge of Muteczuma, and had ordered me to visit him, but that I was going for no other purpose than to see him. And then I entered a mountain pass which is at the extremity of this province, to which we gave the name of the Pass of the Name of God, as it was the first we had met with in this region. It is so rough and steep
that there is not one so difficult in all Spain. I went through it in safety and without encountering any obstruction. At its foot there are other hamlets, belonging to a town and fort called Ceyconacan, which was also subject to Muteczuma. We were equally well received here as at Sienchimalen ; and the people told us, as the others had done, that such was the pleasure of Muteczuma. I made them also a similar acknowledgment for their kindness.
From thence I travelled three days through a country destitute of inhabitants, and, indeed, scarcely habitable on account of the sterility of the soil, the want of water, and the coldness of the climate ; God knows how much our people suffered there from hunger and thirst, especially during a violent storm of hail and rain which we encountered, when I thought many would perish with cold. We had already lost several Indians from the island of Fernandina, [Cuba,] who were not well clothed. At the end of these three days we met with another mountain pass, not, however, so steep as the former, and at its summit there was a tower, small almost as an oratory, and which contained several idols, and around it were more than a thousand cart-loads of wood compactly arranged, on account of which we gave it the name of the Pass of Wood. Below this pass, between
very rough mountains, there was a populous valley, whose inhabitants seemed to be poor; and after having marched two leagues through their country without knowing any thing of them, I reached a place somewhat more level, where the Lord of the Valley appeared to have his residence, as the houses were larger and better built than any we had before met with in the country, being all composed of hewn stone and apparently new; and they contained many very large and handsome halls and apartments elegantly finished. The people and valley
were called Caltanmi. I was well received and lodged here by the lord and his people. After having addressed him on the part of your Majesty, and stated the cause of my coming into these parts, I inquired of him if he was a subject of Muteczuma, or whether he belonged to an
other jurisdiction. He answered as if astonished at my question, by asking, “Who is not a subject of Muteczuma ?” As much as to say that he was the sovereign of the world. I replied by describing the great power and wide sway of your Majesty, to whom many other sovereigns more powerful than Muteczuma were subject, esteeming it for their advantage to be so ; and that thus Muteczuma and all the inhabitants of this country would find it to be ; that this would be required of them, and should they yield obedience, they would be honored and favored ; if not, they would be punished. And in order that I might have some evidence of his homage, I requested him to furnish me with some gold that I might send it to your Majesty. He replied that he had gold, but he must receive the orders of Muteczuma before he
parted with it; and if he commanded him he would give me the gold, his own person, and whatever else he possessed. In order not to compromise myself nor throw obstacles in the way of my designs or my journey, I dissembled as well as I could, and remarked to him that he would soon receive orders from Muteczuma to give me the gold, and whatever else he had.6.
There cache to meet me here two other Caciques, whose lands were in the same valley, the one four leagues below, and the other two leagues above. They gave me several chains of gold of small weight and value, and seven or eight slaves. Leaving them very well satisfied, I set off, after having remained there four or five days, and arrived at the residence of the Cacique mentioned as being two leagues distant in the upper part of the valley; it is called Yztecmastitán. The domains of this man are covered with inhabitants for three or four leagues without interruption, and are situated along the level ground of the valley on the banks of a small river that flows through it. His residence stands on a lofty eminence, protected by a larger fortress than is found in half of Spain, which is well defended by walls, barbicans and moats; on the summit of this high ground there is a population of five or six thousand, dwelling in good houses, and a somewhat richer people than those who inhabit the valley below. Here, likewise, I was well received, and the Cacique told me that he was a vassal of Muteczuma. I remained here three days, as well to recruit from the effects of our journey through the desert country, as to wait for four messengers, natives of Cempoal, that had accompanied me, whom I had sent froth Caltanmi to a very extensive province called Tascalteca, which they informed me was near this place, as it proved to be. I had also been informed by them that the natives of this province were their allies, but deadly enemies of Muteczuma ; and they desired me to form an alliance with them, because they were a numerous and powerful nation. Their country, they also added, bordered upon that of Muteczuma throughout its whole extent, with whom they were constantly at war; and it was thought they would be pleased with me, and take my part in case Muteczuma should endeavor to get the advantage of me. The messengers did not return during the eight days that I remained in the valley, and I asked some other Cempoallans who accompanied me why they did not return ? They answered that the place must be very far off, and that they could not get back yet on account of the distance. Seeing that they did not arrive, and being assured by several leading Cempoallans of the friendship and protection of the people of that province, I resolved to set out on my way thither.7.
On leaving the valley, I met with a large wall of dry stone about nine feet in height, which extended across the valley from one mountain to the other; it was twenty feet in thickness and surmounted throughout its whole extent by a breastwork a foot and a half thick, to enable them to fight from the top of the wall. There was but one entrance, about ten paces wide, where one portion of the wall was encircled by the other, in the manner of a ravelin, for about forty paces. Thus the entrance was circuitous, and not direct. Having inquired the object of this wall, I was informed that it was erected on account of this place being the frontiers of the province of Tascalteca, [Tlascala,] whose inhabitants were enemies of Muteczuma and always at war with him. The natives of this valley begged me, since I was going to visit Muteczuma their sovereign, that I would not pass through the territory of his enemies, as perchance they might prove unfriendly and do me much injury; and promised to conduct me through the dominions of Muteczuma without at any time leaving his jurisdiction, where we should be always well received. But the Cempoallans bade me do no such things ; assuring me that they had given this advice in order to divert me from the friendship of that province; and that the people of Muteczuma were all of a designing and treacherous character, and would lead me into places from which I should be unable to extricate myself. I followed the advice of the Cempoallans, as I had formed a more favorable opinion of them than of the others ; and, accordingly, I pursued the route to Tascalteca, proceeding with all the caution in my power. Taking six horsemen, I rode in advance half a league and more ; not thinking of what I was about to encounter, but for the purpose of reconnoitering the country, and ascertaining if there was any obstacle to my progress, that I might have time to concert the necessary measures and get the people in readiness.8.
AFTER having advanced four leagues, as we approached a hill two of the horsemen who rode before me espied several Indians wearing plumes, as was their custom in war, and provided with swords and shields, who as soon as they discovered the horsemen began to fly. When I had come up, I ordered them to be called back, with the assurance that they might return and have nothing to fear. I went towards them and found there were fifteen Indians, who, closing together, began to handle their weapons and call out to the rest of their people who were in the valley; and they fought with such determination that they finally killed two of our horses and wounded three others, together with two horsemen. Thereupon the others sallied forth, to the number of four or five thousand Indians. Eight of the cavalry had already joined me, exclusive of those whose horses had been killed, and we continued the conflict until reinforced by the Spaniards, for whom I had despatched one of the horsemen. In the mean time we had done them some injury, having killed fifty or sixty of their number without any corresponding loss on our part, although they fought with great courage and spirit, but as we were all on horseback we attacked them with safety to ourselves, and fell back in the same manner. When they saw our reinforcement approaching they retired, although our number was small,
and left us in possession of the field. After they had gone, there came several messengers, who informed us that they were the rulers of this province; they were also accompanied by two of the messengers that I had
sent, who assured me that these men knew nothing of what had taken place ; that it had proceeded from the common people, who had acted without authority from them ; and that they were grieved and would pay for the horses that had been killed, being desirous of becoming our friends; and that we should be well received by them as soon as an opportunity offered. I answered them that I acknowledged their kindness and would consider them as friends and proceed according to their advice. The same night I was compelled to sleep on the banks of a rivulet, one league in advance of the battleground, both on account of the lateness of the hour and the fatigue of the troops. I remained there with the utmost caution, stationing a watch and guard both of horse and foot until it was daylight, when I took up the line of march, having placed in order of battle the vanguard and main body, preceded by the runners. Having reached a small settlement just as the sun was rising, the two other messengers came in with lamentations, saying that they had been bound for the purpose of being put to death, but that they had made their escape in the night. And not two stones’ throw from them a great number of Indians began to appear, well armed and uttering loud cries, and commenced an attack upon our people, discharging many darts and arrows. I undertook to make a formal appeal to them through the interpreters that I had brought with me instead of a notary. But the more I delayed for the purpose of reasoning with them and inducing peace, the more eager they seemed to give us all the annoyance in their power. Seeing that they did not regard our overtures, we endeavored to defend ourselves as well as we could; and thus they drew us on while engaged in fighting, until we found ourselves
in the midst of more than one hundred thousand warriors, who surrounded us on all sides; the battle lasted the whole day until an hour before sunset, when they drew off: In this contest, with six pieces of ordnance, five or six handguns, forty archers and thirteen horse that remained with me, I did them much injury, without suffering from them any other inconvenience than the labor and fatigue of fighting and hunger. And it truly seemed that God fought on our side, since with such a multitude of the enemy opposed to us, who discovered so great courage and skill in the use of arms, of which they had many kinds, we nevertheless came off unhurt. The same night I took up my quarters in a tower of idols that stood on a hill; and before daylight I left in the camp two hundred men and all the artillery; and in order to attack the enemy, I sallied forth with the horse and a hundred all together with four hundred Indians who had accompanied me from Cempoal, and three hundred from Yztacinestilan. Before they had time to collect their forces I destroyed five or six small villages of a hundred houses each, and took four hundred prisoners, including men and women. I then returned to the camp, fighting my way, but without suffering any loss. Afterwards, at daylight, more than one hundred and fortynine thousand men, who covered the land, made an attack in so determined a manner upon our camp, that some of them forced an entrance and engaged the Spaniards at the point of the sword; when it pleased our Lord to afford us his aid to such a degree, that in four hours they no longer annoyed us in our camp, although they still continued their attacks. And thus we were engaged in fighting until evening, when the enemy at length drew off.
The next day I again sallied forth–though in a different direction, before it was light, without being observed by the enemy–with the horse, a hundred foot, and the friendly Indians, when I destroyed more than ten towns, one of which contained about three thousand houses, where we encountered the town’s-people alone, the forces of the enemy not being present. As we carried the banner of the cross, and fought for our faith and in the service of your Sacred Majesty, God in his glorious providence gave us so great a victory, that we destroyed many people without ourselves receiving any injury. Early in the afternoon, when the forces of the enemy were yet assembled from all quarters, we returned victorious to our camp. The following day there came messengers from the leading men, saying that they wished to become the vassals of your Highness, and my allies, and begged that I would pardon their past errors. They brought with them a quantity of provisions, and certain ornaments of feathers, held in high esteem among them. l answered them, that they had done wrong, but I was willing to be their friend, and to overlook their past actions. The next day there arrived about fifty Indians, who appeared to be persons of high standing among their countrymen, and declared that they had come to bring us provisions; at the same time they examined carefully the passages leading to and from our camp, and certain huts we had erected for barracks. The Cempoallans came to me and said it was easy to see that these men were enemies, and had come as spies to find out how they could injure us, and assured me that their visit was for no other purpose. I then caused one of them to be taken aside without the knowledge of the others, and retiring with him and the interpreters, I endeavored to compel him by threats to disclose the truth. He then confessed that Sintengal, [Xicotencatl] who was the Captain General of this Province, had taken a position behind the hills that were in front of the camp, with a numerous force, for the purpose of attacking us that night ; as they said that they had already tried an attack by day without any good effect, and they now desired to make the attempt by night, when their people would not have occasion to fear our horses, guns, or swords ; that he had accordingly sent them to observe our camp and the means of access to it, and how they could best destroy the huts of straw. Afterwards I took aside another of the Indians, and made similar inquiries, when he confessed almost in the same words as the other ; and I did the same with five or six others, all of whom confirmed the former statements. Seeing this, I ordered the fifty to be seized, and their hands to be cut off, and sent them back to their leader with this message : that both by night and day, and whenever he might come, they would see what we were. I then fortified my tent according to the best of my power, and placed my men within the works in the best manner possible, and thus was on my guard until sunset. As soon as it was dark the enemy began to descend through two valleys, thinking that they would come upon us unawares, and surround us, in order to execute their purpose, not knowing that I was so well informed of their movements. It seemed to me that to suffer them to reach the camp might be attended with danger, because at night they would be less intimidated from not seeing our means of defence; and also that some of our men, not seeing the enemy, might be less resolute in fighting ; and I feared, too, that our works might be set on fire–in which case, besides the loss of our effects, none of our people could escape. I resolved, therefore, to sally forth to meet the enemy with all our cavalry, in order to arrest their progress, or by throwing them into confusion to prevent their reaching the camp. And thus it turned out, that when they perceived us advancing against them with our cavalry, they fled with haste and in silence behind the fields of maize with which the country was filled, and abandoned the provisions they had brought for the purpose of making a feast of rejoicing in case they had succeeded in utterly destroying us. Thus they fled, and we remained in security that night. After this occurrence, I continued several days in camp, going but a short distance beyond its immediate precincts for the purpose of stopping the approach of some Indians, who came shouting towards us to provoke a skirmish.10.
Having enjoyed some repose, I made another descent upon the enemy by night, after going the rounds of the guards in the first quarter. I took with me one hundred foot, our Indian allies, and the cavalry; but at the distance of a league from the camp five of my horses gave out, and finding it impossible to urge them forward, I sent them back. Although all of the men wished me to return, considering this as a bad omen, I nevertheless pursued my route, with the reflection that God is over all. Before daylight I attacked several towns, containing a large population ; but I did not destroy the houses lest the fire should alarm the other people who dwelt in the neighborhood. When the day had already dawned
I attacked another place, which was so large that it contained, according to an examination that I caused to be made, more than twenty thousand houses. As I came upon it by surprise, the inhabitants rushed unarmed into the streets, the women and children being in a state of nudity, and we had begun to attack them when I discovered that they made no resistance, and certain of their leaders came to beg that I would stop hostilities, as they were desirous of becoming the vassals of your Highness and my allies. They confessed that they had done wrong in not having before placed confidence in me, but declared that henceforth I should see them willing to execute whatever I commanded in your Majesty’s name, as your true and faithful liege subjects. Immediately there joined me more than four thousand persons unarmed, and at a fountain outside of the town they brought us an abundance of provisions. Thus I left them in peace and returned to our camp, where I found the people who had remained very much alarmed, imagining that I had encountered great danger, in consequence of the return of the horses the night before. But when informed of the victory which it had pleased God to grant us, and that we had made friends of so many of the inhabitants, they were greatly rejoiced. Notwithstanding, I assure your Majesty, that there was scarcely one of us who did not feel some apprehension on finding ourselves so far in the interior of the country, and in the midst of so numerous and powerful a people, without
hope of succour from any quarter. So desperate was our situation, that I heard with my own ears the remark made among our men, in almost a public manner, that I was a Peter Carbonero, who had brought them into dangers from which they could not escape. And I even
heard it said in a but where several lodged together, (being where they could not see me,) that I was without doubt a madman, and would plunge myself into difficulties from which I could not be extricated; that they should return to the sea, and if I chose to accompany them, well–but if not, they would leave me behind. And oftentimes I was entreated to return with renewed importunity, when I revived their courage by exhorting them to reflect, that they were the subjects of your Highness, and Spaniards had never been known to falter in their allegiance; that we had it in our power to acquire for your Majesty greater kingdoms and provinces than were to be found in any other part of the world. And besides, we were only doing what as Christians we were under obligations to do, by warring against the enemies of our faith–by which means we secured to ourselves glory in another world, and gained greater honor and rewards in this life than had fallen to the lot of any other generation at any former period; that they should also reflect that God was on our side, and that to him nothing is impossible, as they might see in the victories we had gained, when so many of the enemy were killed without any loss on our part. These and similar things I said to them, by means of which, and the royal favor of your Highness, they recovered their spirits, and were induced to do what I desired, in order to complete what I had already begun.11.
At ten o’clock on the following day, Sicutengal, [Xicotencatl], Captain General of this Province, with about fifty of the principal persons belonging to it, came to me and solicited on the part of himself and of Maoiscatzin, who is the most important personage of the whole province, and on behalf of many other caziques or chiefs, that I would admit them into the royal service of your Highness, and to my friendship, and would pardon their past errors, as they had not known us, nor understood who we were; adding that they had already exerted their utmost strength, both by day and night, to avoid becoming subjected any power whatever; for at no period had this province ever been so, nor did it now own, nor had it at any former time acknowledged, a master; that they had lived free and unrestrained from time immemorial to the present moment; that they had always successfully defended themselves against the great power of Muteczuma, and his father and ancestors, who had subjected the whole earth, but had never been able to reduce them to subjection, although they had hemmed them in on all sides, so that there was no passage left for them out of their own territory ; that they were deprived of the use of salt, because it was not produced in any part of their country, nor were they able to go and procure it elsewhere; and for the same reason they were destitute of cotton cloth, as the cotton plant does not grow with them on account of the coldness of the climate, as well as of many other things of which they were in want, by reason of their being confined within such narrow limits. Nevertheless, they preferred to suffer these privations, and considered it better for them, in order to enjoy their freedom and be subject to no one; and that in regard to myself, their feelings were the same; but that as they had already declared, they had tried their strength, and saw clearly that neither the force nor the skill that they had been able to command, profited them any thing, and they now sought to become the subjects of your Highness rather than perish and doom to destruction their houses, their women, and their children. I satisfied them by saying, that they well knew the losses they had sustained were entirely owing to themselves; that I had entered their territory in the belief that I was coming among friends, for the Cempoallans had assured me they were so, and wished to be so; and that I had sent in advance my messengers to inform them that I was coming, and of the pleasure their friendship would afford me; and that without returning me any answer, while I was approaching with apparent security, they had attacked me on the road, killed two of my horses, and wounded others; and moreover, after fighting with me they had sent messengers, saying, that what had taken place was contrary to their wishes and consent, certain communities having made the movement without their participation, but that they had reproved them for it, and desired my friendship. Believing this to be true, I had told them that it gave me pleasure, and that on the next day I would visit them in their abodes as friends; and yet they had attacked me while on the way, and fought against me the whole day until the approach of night, notwithstanding I had earnestly
desired peace. I also reminded them of all they had done to oppose my progress, and many other matters, which I omit to mention that I may not weary your
Highness. Finally, they remained, and acknowledged themselves as subjects and vassals of your Majesty, offering their persons and their estates for your royal
service. This they carried into effect, and have remained faithful to the present time ; and I believe they will always continue so, as your Majesty will hereafter see.
I remained in my quarters and camp for six or seven days, as I dared not trust them ; but when they invited me to visit a large city in which resided all the principal men of the province, who came to urge me to make them a visit, saying that I should be better received and more abundantly supplied with what was necessary there than in camp ; and when they expressed their mortification that I should be so poorly lodged, considering me as a friend, and themselves as well as myself subjects of your Highness: in compliance with their request I went to the city, which was six leagues from my quarters and camp. This city is so extensive and so well worthy of admiration, that although I omit much that I could say of it, I feel assured that the little I shall say will be scarcely credited, since it is larger than Granada, and much stronger, and contains as many fine houses and a much larger population than that city did at the time of its capture; and it is much better supplied with the products of the earth, such as corn, and with fowls and game, fish from the rivers, various kinds of vegetables, and other excellent articles of food. There is in this city a market, in which every day thirty thousand people are engaged in buying and selling, beside many other merchants who are scattered about the city. The market contains a great variety of articles both of food and clothing, and all kinds of shoes for the feet; jewels of gold and silver, and precious stones, and ornaments of feathers, all as well arranged as they can possibly be found in any public squares or markets in the world. There is much earthenware of every style and a good quality, equal to the best of Spanish manufacture. Wood, coal, edible and medicinal plants, are sold in great quantities. There are houses where they wash and shave the head as barbers, and also for baths. Finally, there is found among them a well regulated police; the people are rational and well disposed, and altogether greatly superior to the most civilized African nation. The country abounds in level and beautiful valleys, all tilled and sown, without any part lying unimproved. In its constitution of government that has existed until the present time, it resembles the states of Venice, Genoa, and Pisa; since the supreme authority is not reposed in one person. There are many nobles, all of whom reside in the city; the common people are laborers, and the vassals of the nobility, but each one possesses land of his own, some more than others. In war all unite and have
a voice in its management and direction. It may be supposed that they have tribunals of justice for the punishment of the guilty; since when one of the natives of the province stole some gold of a Spaniard, and I mentioned the circumstance to Magiscacin, the most powerful of the nobility, they made search for the thief, and traced him to a city in the neighborhood called Churultecal [Cholula], from whence they brought him prisoner, and delivered him to me with the gold, saying that I must have him punished. I acknowledged in suitable terms the pains they had taken in the matter, but remarked to them that since the prisoner was in their country, they
should punish him according to their custom, and that I chose not to interfere with the punishment of their people while I remained among them. They thanked me, and taking the man, carried him to the great market, a town crier making public proclamation of his offence; they then placed him at the base of a structure resembling a theatre, which stands in the midst of the market-place, while the crier went to the top of the building and with a loud voice again proclaimed his offence; whereupon
the people beat him with sticks until he was dead. We likewise saw many persons in prison who were said to be confined for theft and other offences they had committed. There are in this province, according to a report made by my orders, five hundred thousand inhabitants, besides those in another small province adjacent to this, called Guazincango, who live in the same manner not subject to any native sovereign, and are not less the vassals of your Highness than the people of Tascalteca [Tlascala].
During the time I was at war with this province, Most Catholic Sire, and while I was yet in camp, there came to me six lords, the principal vassals of Muteczuma, with about two hundred men in their train, and assured me that they came on the part of Muteczuma to inform me that he desired to become a subject of your Highness, and my friend; and to satisfy me of the sincerity of his professions, he would yield to your Highness every year a tribute of gold and silver, precious stones, slaves, and cotton cloth, and such other things as he had ; that he would give all this, but that he desired I would not visit his dominions, because the country was very barren and destitute of the necessaries of life, and he should regret the privations that I and those who came with me would have to endure. He sent to me by the same persons almost a thousand pesos of gold, and large pieces of cotton cloth of the kind they wore. They remained with me during a great part of the war, until its close, and saw what the Spaniards were capable of doing; they also knew the terms on which this province made peace with us, and the professions of allegiance to your Majesty on the part of the nobles and the whole land, as it appeared ; but they showed no signs of pleasure at these things, and labored in every possible way to prejudice me against this people, saying that there was no confidence to be placed in what they told me, nor any sincerity in their professions of friendship, which were only made to lull me into security, so that they could betray me with impunity. On the other hand, the inhabitants of this province would often caution me not to trust these vassals of Muteczuma, for they were traitors, and always acted treacherously and artfully, by which means they had subjugated the whole earth; and they warned me as true friends, and as persons who had long known
those men, to beware of them. I was not a little pleased on seeing their want of harmony, as it seemed favorable to my designs, and would enable me to bring them more easily into subjection., according to the common saying, De Monte, & c.. I likewise applied to this case the authority of the Evangelist, who says, “Every kingdom divided against itself shall be rendered desolate;” and I dissembled with both parties, expressing privately my acknowledgments to both for the advice they gave me, and giving to each of them credit for more friendship towards me than I experienced from the other.
After I had been twenty days or more in this city,
certain nobles, messengers of Muteczuma, who bad been with me for some time, desired that I should visit a city six leagues distant from Tascaltecad, called Churultecal, [Cholula,] because its inhabitants were friends of Muteczuma, their sovereign, and that we should there learn his pleasure, whether I should be permitted to enter his dominions, and that some of their number in the mean time would go and confer with him for the purpose of informing him what I had said and return with his answer. Although they knew that messengers from Muteczucna had come to communicate with me, I promised them I would go and would set out on a particular day, which I designated. As soon as it was known to the Tlascalans that I had consented to accompany them to that city, the nobles came to me with much sorrow, and said that I must by no means go there, for they had formed treacherous designs to destroy me and my people in that city, and that for this purpose Muteczuma had despatched from his country (a part of which was adjacent to that city) fifty thousand men whom he kept in garrison two leagues from the city, as they showed, and that they had blocked up the royal road by which they were accustomed to go and made a new one full of pits, and sharp stakes driven into the good and covered up, for the purpose of disabling the horses ; that they had placed obstructions in many of the streets, and heaps of stones on the flat roofs of their houses, that after we had entered their city in seeming security they might take us by surprise and do with us as they pleased ; that if I wished to have proofs of the correctness of their statements, I might notice that none of the nobles of that city had come to see me or to speak with me, although I was so near, but that a deputation had come for that purpose
from Guasincaugo, which was farther off, and that I might send for the former and learn why they had not seen fit to come. I thanked them for their caution, and requested that they would furnish me with persons to send on this errand, to see why the people of that city had not come. They did so, and I sent to ask the nobles of Cholula to make me a visit, as I wished to confer with them on behalf of your Majesty, and to set forth the causes of my arrival in this quarter. The messengers departed and gave my message to the nobles of that city, and there came back with them two or three persons of no great importance, who said they had come on behalf of those lords, as they were ill, and that I might say what I desired to them. The Tlascalans assured me it was all a farce, and that the messengers were people of little standing, adding that I must not think of going there unless the nobles of the city came to see me. I addressed myself to these messengers, and said that having been sent as the ambassador of so powerful a prince as your sacred Majesty, I could not recognise such persons as them, and that even their greatest men were scarcely worthy of receiving my attention; therefore the latter must, within, three days, appear before me to profess allegiance to your Highness and submit themselves as your vassals, with the warning that if they did not come before I had passed their borders, I should march against them and destroy them as rebels who refused to submit to the government of your Majesty. And to this end I sent them a requisition, subscribed with my name and by the hands of a notary, with: a full description of your sacred Majesty’s royal person and of my arrival, stating to them that all these countries, and other lands of even greater extent, belonged to your Highness ; that those
who chose to become your subjects were honored and favored, but those who rebelled were punished as justice required. The next day nearly all of the nobles of that city came, and declared to me, that if they had not appeared before, the reason was that the people of this province were their enemies, and that they dared not enter their territory, as it was dangerous for them ; and that they fully believed the Tlascalans had spoken of them in such a way as to prevent my giving them credit, for they had spoken as enemies and not according to the truth; that I should visit their city, where I would learn the falsity of what those persons had told me and the truth of their own statements; that from henceforth they would do homage as vassals of your sacred Majesty, and would ever remain so, rendering service and contributing whatever your Highness should command them; to all which the notary, through my interpreters, took their formal acknowledgment. I determined to go with them, as well for the purpose of showing no weakness as because from their city I thought it would be easier to communicate with Muteczuma, since it adjoins his dominions, as I have already stated, and the people of both places were in the habit of coming and going to and from that city, there being no examination or search of travellers.
When the Tlascalans saw my determination it grieved them much, and they repeatedly said to me, that I had committed an error ; but that since they had become the vassals of your Majesty and my friends, they would accompany me and give me their assistance in whatever was required. But when I protested against their going, and begged that they would think of it, as there was no necessity for it, they nevertheless followed me with a force of one hundred thousand men well versed in war, and attended me within two leagues of the city, when upon my urgent entreaty they returned, leaving with me, however, five or six thousand men. I slept near a rivulet, which was two leagues from the city, in order to send back the people that they might give no offence in the city, and likewise because it vas already evening and I did not wish to enter the city at night. The next morning the people came forth from the city to receive me on the road, with many trumpets and kettle-drums, and a great number of priests, clothed in their customary robes, and singing as they are wont to do in their temples. In this solemn manner they escorted us into the city and assigned us excellent quarters, in which all my people were comfortably lodged. They also supplied us with provisions, though not in a bountiful manner. On the road we fell in with many of those marks of which we had been forewarned by the Tlascalans ; for we found the royal road blocked up and a new one opened, and also pits, though not many, and several streets of the city obstructed, and many piles of stones on the tops of the houses. These things placed us more on our guard and led us to exercise greater caution.16.
I met there several envoys of Muteczuma, who had come to confer with those that had been with me ; and they told me that they had only come to ascertain what the others had done and agreed upon, in order that they might return and report to their master. They accordingly departed, after having conferred with their countrymen, and the principal one of those that had been with me returned at the same time. During the three days that I was there, they provided very poorly for our wants, and each day worse than the former one ; and the nobles and principal men of the city very seldom
came to see or to speak to me. Being somewhat perplexed by this treatment, a female interpreter that I had, who was a native of this country, and whom I obtained at Putunchún on the Rio Grande, (as I have already mentioned in my former despatch,) was informed by another female, a native of this city, that a numerous force of Muteczuma lay very near the city, and that the inhabitants had carried out their wives and children and wearing apparel, as an attack was meditated that would destroy us all ; and that if she wished to save herself, she
should go with her, as she could protect her. My interpreter told this to Geronimo de Aguilar, another interpreter, whom I had obtained in Yucatán, of whom l also wrote to your Highness, and he gave me the information ; when I took one of the natives of the city, and drew him aside privately so that no one saw me, and interrogated him on the subject; this man confirmed all that the Indian women and the natives of Tlascala, had stated, Judging from this information, as well as the signs that I had observed, I determined to anticipate their movements, in order to prevent being taken by surprise ; and I sent for the nobles of the city, to whom I said that I wished to speak with them, and shut them in a room by themselves. In the mean time, I caused our people to be put under arms, and ordered them, when a gun was fired as a signal, to attack a crowd of Indians that had collected near my quarters, many of whom had entered within it. After I had shut up the nobles, –I left them well secured, and mounting a horse, I caused the signal gun to be fired, and we made such execution that in two hours more than three thousand of the enemy perished.
And that your Majesty may know how well prepared they were, before I sallied forth from our quarters they had occupied all the streets with their forces and posted men in readiness for the attack, although as we took them by surprise they were easily routed, especially as they were without their leaders, whom I had already made prisoners; and I set fire to several towers and strong houses, from which they defended themselves and attacked us. Thus I scoured the city, fighting my way and leaving my quarters well secured, being of great strength, for five hours, until I had driven all the people out of the city, from different points, in which I was assisted by five thousand Indians of Tascaltecal, and four hundred of Cempoal. On my return to our quarters, I addressed myself to the captive nobles, and demanded why they had wished to betray and destroy me ? They answered, that it was not their fault, as the men of Culúa, [Mexico,] who were the vassals of Muteczuma, had urged them to it, and that Muteczuma was to have had within the distance of a league and a half from the city, as it afterwards appeared, a force of fifty thousand men for that purpose. But as they saw that he had deceived them, if I would allow one or two of their number to depart, they would collect the people of the city and cause the women and children to return with their effects; and they begged that I would pardon their mistake, declaring that henceforth they would never deceive me, but prove true and loyal vassals of your Highness, and my friends. After I had said a great deal to them in regard to their error I suffered two of them to go, and the next day the whole city was filled with men, women and children, in as much security as if nothing had occurred ; and subsequently I set at liberty all the other chiefs upon
their promise to serve your Majesty in the most loyal manner. At the expiration of about fifteen or twenty days I left the city and country, so peaceful and populous that nothing seemed to be wanting to it, either in its markets or the domestic trade which it had enjoyed before. I also brought about a friendship between the people of Churultecal [Cholula] and of Tascaltecal, [Tlascala,] which had formerly existed until within a short period, when Muteczuma by presents had enticed the former into an alliance with him and rendered them enemies to one another. This city of Churultecal is situated on a plain and contains about twenty thousand houses within the body of the town, and as many more in the suburbs. It is an independent state, and has its boundaries well defined; not yielding obedience to any sovereign, but governed in the same way as Tascaltecal. The inhabitants are better clothed than the Tlascalans in some respects, as the superior classes of citizens all wear cloaks over their other dress; similar in shape, material, and bordering, to those of Africa, but unlike them in being provided with pockets. Since the late troubles they have been and continue true and obedient vassals of your Majesty, performing whatever is required of them in your royal name, and I believe they will remain so hereafter. This state is very fertile under cultivation, as there is much land, most of which is well watered; and the exterior of the city is more beautiful than any in Spain, as it contains many towers, and is situated upon a plain. And I assure your Majesty, that I have counted from a mosque or temple four hundred mosques and as many
towers, all of which are of mosques in this city. This city is more suitable for the Spaniards to inhabit than any of the towns we have yet seen, as it has unoccupied
lands and water for cattle, which none of the others have that we have seen ; and the multitude of people who dwell in the other places is so great, that there is not a hand’s-breadth of land which is not cultivated; nevertheless, in many of these places they suffer from want of bread, and there are many poor people who ask alms of the rich in the streets, and at the houses and markets, as is done by the mendicants in Spain and other civilized countries.17.
I SPOKE to the envoys of Muteczuma who were with me concerning the treachery that had been practised in Cholula, and said I had been informed by the leaders that it was done through the advice of Muteczuma ; but that it did not appear to me it could have been the act of so great a sovereign as he was to send his messengers and noble persons to me, declaring that he was my friend, as he had done, and at the same time seeking means to attack me through others, in order that he might avoid censure in case the design did not succeed. But since it was so, and he did not keep his word, nor adhere to the truth, I told them I should change my own purpose ; that until then it had been my intention to visit his country as a friend, to see and talk with him, and hold much peaceful intercourse with him ; but that now I should enter his dominions in the guise of war, doing all the injury that was in my power, as an enemy; that I was sorry to adopt this course, as I preferred to have his friendship, and to take counsel of him in whatever I had to do in this land. The envoys replied, that they had now been with me a long time, and that they had known nothing of any such understanding with the Cholulans, more than had been declared in that city since its submission, and they could not believe that it had taken place by the advice or command of Muteczuma ; and they entreated that before I renounced his friendship and made war upon him, I would inform myself of the truth, and suffer one of their number to go and confer with him, as he could return very soon, the distance from this city to where Muteczuma resides being but twenty leagues. I told them that this would be agreeable to me, and I allowed one of them to go, who returned from thence in six days, accompanied by the other envoy who had gone previously. They brought me ten pieces of gold plate, fifteen hundred pieces of cotton cloth, a great number of fowls, and a beverage, in common use among them, which is called panicap; and they informed me that Muteczuma had been much troubled on account of what had occurred at Churultecal, but that I must not believe it had been done by his advice or command, as he would prove to me with certainty that it was not so ; that the troops in the garrison near the city were, indeed, his, but that they bad moved without his orders, at the instigation of the Cholulans, since there were two of his provinces bordering upon Cholula, that had an alliance with that state on account of their proximity to it to aid one another; one of them was called Acancigo, and the other Izcucan, [Acazingo and Izucar] and that in this way they had gone there, and not by his orders; that I should see by his actions whether what he had sent to communicate to me was true or not ; but nevertheless, that he begged me not to trouble myself to visit his country, as it was a barren region, and the people were in a suffering condition ; and that he would send to me, wherever I was, to ascertain my wants, which he would supply in the most bountiful manner. I answered that I could not dispense with visiting his dominions, as I was obliged to transmit an account of them, as well as of himself, to your Majesty ; that I fully believed what he had stated, by his envoys;
nevertheless, since I should not relinquish my purpose of seeing him, that it would be better it should be done in a friendly manner, and that no obstacles be thrown in my way, as otherwise it would be attended with injury to himself, and I should much regret any such occurrence. As soon as he saw that it was my determined desire to visit him and his country, he sent to say that it was well; that he should expect me in the great city where he was, and that several of his people would join me, as soon as I had entered his territory. These persons desired me to take a certain route, on which they might contrive to have an attack made upon me, as it afterwards appeared ; since a number of Spaniards whom I afterwards sent through the country saw how it was ; I should have found on that route so many bridges and difficult passes, that as I went through it they would have been able to execute their designs with safety to themselves. But as God has ever seen fit to guide your sacred Majesty from your infancy in the right way, and as I and those who accompanied me, were engaged in the royal service, another route was pointed out to us, somewhat rough, indeed, but not so dangerous as the other, and this I took.
Eight leagues from the city of Cholula are two very lofty and remarkable mountains; in the latter part of August their summits are covered with snow; and from the highest, by night as well as by day, a volume of smoke arises, equal in bulk to a spacious house ; it ascends above the mountain to the clouds as straight as an arrow, and with such force, that although a very strong wind is always blowing on the mountain, it does not turn the smoke from its course. As I have desired to render your Highness a very minute account of every thing in this part of the world, I wished to ascertain the cause of this phenomenon, as it appeared to me, and I despatched ten of my companions, such as I thought suitable for this purpose, with several natives of the country for guides, charging them to use every endeavor to ascend the mountain and find out the cause of that smoke, whence and how it was produced. They went, and struggled with all their might to reach the summit, but were unable on account of the great quantity of snow that lay on the mountain, and the whirlwinds of ashes that swept over it, and also because they found the cold above insupportable; but they reached very near the summit, and while they were there, the smoke began to issue forth with so much force and noise that it seemed as if the whole Sierra was crumbling to the ground ; so they descended, and brought with them a considerable quantity of snow and icicles, that we might see them, as it was something quite new in this region on account of its being in so warm a latitude, according to the opinion of our pilots, who place it in 200, which is the same parallel as the Island of Espanola, where the heat is at all times extreme. While on their way to the mountain, the party discovered a road, and inquired of their Indian companions where it led, who told them to Culua, [Mexico,] and that it was a good road, while the other, which the Culuans wished us to take, was not a good one. The Spaniards followed this road until they began to ascend the mountain, between which and the other elevation it passed; and from it they discovered the plains of Culua, and the great city of Temixtitan, [Mexico,] and the lakes in that province, of which I shall hereafter give your Highness an account; they returned overjoyed on having discovered so good a road, and God knows how much joy I felt on the occasion. Having obtained all the information I could from the Spaniards who had returned from their visit to the mountain, as well as from the natives, concerning the road they had discovered, I addressed myself to the envoys of Muteczuma, who accompanied me as guides to their country, and said to them,
that I would take the new route instead of that which they had recommended, as it was shorter. They answered that I was right, that the new route was shorter and more level, and that the reason they had not pointed it out to me was, that we should have to pass one day through the territory of Guasucingo, [Guajozingo,] whose inhabitants were their enemies, and would not furnish supplies, as was done in the territory of Muteczuma ; but that since I preferred that route, they would cause provisions to be sent in that direction. And thus we set forth, not without some apprehension that they would persist in their endeavors to entrap us ; but as we had already declared what route it was our intention to take it (lid not seem to me worth while to change our plan, or to return on our steps, lest they should imagine that our courage failed us. On the day that I left the city of Cholula, I advanced four leagues to some villages in the state of Guasucingo, where we were well received by the natives, who gave me a number of female slaves, some cotton cloth, and, several small pieces of gold, amounting altogether to very little, as the people are not well supplied with it, on account of their belonging to the league and party of the Tlascalans, and being so closely hemmed in on all sides by the territory of Muteczuma, that they could have no trade with any other province but their own; whence they lived very poorly. The next day I entered the pass between the two mountains already mentioned, and in descending it we discovered the province of Chalco, in the territory of Muteczuma, two leagues from us, and when we had reached the inhabited parts, we found a newly constructed building for our quarters, and so large that all my men and myself were comfortably lodged in it, although I had with me more than four thousand Indians, natives of the provinces of Tascaltecal, Guasucingo, Churultecal, and Cempoal, for all of whom there was an abundant supply of provisions; and there were large fires in all the lodging rooms, with a plenty of wood, as it was very cold on account of the proximity of the two mountains, which were covered with snow.19.
There came to me at this place several persons, apparently of some rank, among whom was one that I was told was a brother of Muteczuma. They brought me gold to the value of 3,000 pesos, and said on behalf of that sovereign, that he had sent me this present, and at the same time requested that I would retrace my steps, and not think of visiting his city, as the country was ill supplied with provisions, and the road that led to it was bad ; and that the city was all on the water, so that I could net enter it except in canoes, and with many other
inconveniences that would obstruct my course. They added, that I might have all that I asked, which Muteczuma, their sovereign, had commanded them to give me; and that they would agree to pay me every certain sum (certum quid), which they would carry to the sea, or wherever I wished. I received them kindly, and spoke to them of our Spain, of which they had heard much, addressing myself especially to the one who was said to be a brother of Muteczuma. In answer to their official communication, I said that if it was in my power to return, I would do so to oblige Muteczuma; but that I had come into this country by the command of your Majesty, and that I was particularly charged to render an account of Muteczuma and his great city, of the fame of which your Highness had long since heard that they might assure him from me, that I was extremely desirous he should take my visit to him in good part, since it would be productive of no injury, but rather of advantage to his person and country; that after I had seen him, if it was still his wish not to have my company, I would then return ; and that we should be better able to agree in person, as to the homage he should render to your Highness, than through the agency of others, however trustworthy they might be. With this answer they returned. Judging from the appearance of our quarters, and the arrangements made respecting them, it struck me that the Indians intended to attack us that night ;but on perceiving this, I took such precautions as, coming to their knowledge, changed their determination; and they drew off that night very secretly a large force, which they had placed in the mountains adjacent to our camp, as was observed by many of our scouts and sentinels.20.
As soon as it was clay I set out for a town two leagues distant, called Amaqueruca,. in the province of Chalco, which contains a population, including the villages within two leagues of it, of more than twenty thousand inhabitants. In this place they quartered us in the excellent houses of the governor. Many persons, apparently of a superior rank, here waited upon me, and announced that Muteczuma, their sovereign lord, had sent them to receive me at this place, with orders to provide every thing necessary to supply our wants. The governor of this province and town presented me with forty slaves and 3000 Castellanos, and during the days that I was there supplied us with an abundance of provisions. The next day–accompanied by the envoys of Muteczuma who received us here–I departed and reached for the night a small place four leagues distant, situated partly upon a great lake, and partly upon a rough, rocky mountain, where we were well lodged. Here likewise they would have tried our strength, but that they desired to do so without danger to themselves, as it seemed, by attacking us in the night, when they expected to take us
by surprise. But as I was well informed of their intentions, they found that I had anticipated their designs. That night I placed a strong guard, who took and killed fifteen or twenty spies that came in canoes on the lake, or descended the mountain to see whether I was prepared to resist an attack. Thus few of them returned to give the information they were sent to obtain; and finding us always upon our guard, they concluded to change their plans, and to suffer us to proceed in safety. The next morning when I was about leaving that place, there arrived ten or twelve of the most distinguished personages, as I afterwards learned, and among them a
young man of about twenty-five years of age, to whom all showed particular marks of respect; and after he had alighted from a litter in which he came, the others began to remove stones out of his path, and to clear up the ground before him. As soon as they arrived they announced that they had come on the part of Muteczuma, their liege lord, who had sent them to accompany me, and begged that I would pardon him for not coming himself to receive me, which he was unable to do on account of indisposition ; but that the city was now near at hand, and as I was still determined to visit it, he would receive us there, when I should learn his willingness to do homage to your Highness. But, nevertheless, he entreated that if it was possible, I would not go to the city, for I should meet with much trouble and want, and he would be ashamed not to be able to provide for me there in the manner he wished. The envoys also earnestly insisted on the same thing, and were extremely importunate; at the same time assuring me that they would protect us on the route if I persisted in proceeding. I made them a courteous reply, and calmed their anxiety by the mildest language in my power, giving them to understand that my visit would not be attended with injury, but advantage to Muteczuma. And thus they took their leave, after I had made them presents of some things that I had brought with me. I soon followed them, being accompanied by many persons who appeared to be of great consideration, as I afterwards learned was the case. As I was pursuing the road that led along the shore of the great lake, at the distance of a league from the place of our departure, I discovered upon the surface
of the water a small town, that might contain from one to two thousand inhabitants, well fortified and defended with towers, as it appeared on the outside, but without any entrance. A league farther on we came to a causeway of the width of a spear’s length, running two thirds of a league into the lake, which led to a city that, although small, was the most beautiful we had yet seen, composed of well-constructed houses and towers, having the foundations laid with great regularity and wholly in the water. In this city, which contains about two thousand inhabitants, we were well received, and entertained with a handsome repast. The chief magistrate and other persons of rank came to see me, and requested that I would pass the night there. But some of Muteczuma’s people who were with me advised me not to stop, but to go on to another city, three leagues distant, called Iztapalapa, belonging to a brother of Muteczuma, and I accordingly did so. The road from the city where we had our repast, the name of which does not now occur to me, was by another causeway, which is a full league in length to terra firma. Having arrived at the city of Iztapalapa, the cacique came to receive me at some distance from the town, together with another dignitary of a great city about three leagues off, called Calnaacan, [Culhuacán] accompanied by many other distinguished personages, who were expecting my arrival there, and presented me with 3 or 4000 Castellanos, some slaves, and cotton cloth, giving me altogether a very agreeable reception.21.
The city of Iztapalapa contains twelve or fifteen thousand houses ; it is situated on the shore of a large salt lake, one-half of it being built upon the water, and one half on terra firma. The governor or chief of the city has several new houses, which, although they are not yet finished, are equal to the better class of houses in Spain –being large and well constructed, in the stone work, the carpentry, the floors, and the various appendages necessary to render a house complete, excepting the reliefs and other rich work usual in Spanish houses. There are also many upper and lower rooms–cool gardens, abounding in trees and odoriferous flowers; also pools of fresh water, well constructed, with stairs leading to the bottom. There is also a very extensive kitchen garden attached to the house, and over it a belvidere with beautiful corridors and halls; and within the garden a large square pond of fresh water, having its walls formed of handsome hewn stone ; and adjacent to it there is a promenade, consisting of a tiled pavement so broad that four persons can walk on it abreast, and four hundred paces square, or sixteen hundred paces round; enclosed on one side towards the wall of the garden by canes, intermingled with vergas, and on the other side by shrubs and sweet-scented plants. The pond contains a great variety of fish and water-fowl, as wild ducks, teal, and others so numerous that they often cover the surface of the water. The next day after my arrival at this city I departed on my route, and having proceeded half a league, I entered upon a causeway that extends two leagues through the centre of the salt lake, until it reaches the great city of Temixtitan, [Mexico,] which is built in the middle of the lake. This causeway is as broad as two spears’ length, and well constructed, so that eight horsemen can ride on it abreast; and within two leagues, on either side of this causeway, there are three cities, one of which, called Alesicalsingo, is built for the most part on the lake, and the two others, called Nyciaca and Huchilohuchico, are situated along its borders, with many houses on the water. The former of these cities contains about three thousand families, the second more than six thousand, and the third four or five thousand ; in all of them are well built houses and towers, especially the residences of the governors and principal men, and the mosques or temples, in which they have their idols. In these cities there is a considerable trade in salt, which is manufactured from the water of the lake, and from a deposit on the grounds washed by the lake, which they boil in some way, and make into loaves, selling it to the natives and persons out of the district or province.22.
I pursued my course over the abovementioned causeway, and having proceeded half a league before arriving at the body of the city of Temixtitan, I found at its intersection with another causeway, which extends from this point to terra firma, a very strong fortress with two towers, surrounded by a double wall, twelve feet in height, with an embattled parapet, which commands the two causeways, and has only two gates, one for
entering, and the other for departure. There came to meet me at this place nearly a thousand of the principal inhabitants of the great city, all uniformly dressed according to their custom in very rich costumes; and as soon as they had come within speaking distance, each one, as he approached me, performed a salutation in much use among them, by placing his hand upon the ground and kissing it ; and thus I was kept waiting about an hour, until all had performed the ceremony. Connected with the city is a wooden bridge ten paces wide, where the causeway is open to allow the water free ingress and egress, as it rises and falls ; and also for the security of the city, as they can remove the long and wide beams of which the bridge is formed, and replace them whenever they wish; and there are many such bridges in different parts of the city, as your Highness will perceive hereafter from the particular account I shall give of it.
When we had passed the bridge, the Señor Muteczuma came out to receive us, attended by about two hundred nobles, all barefooted and dressed in livery, or a peculiar garb of fine cotton, richer than is usually worn ; they came in two processions in close proximity to the houses on each side of the street, which is very wide and beautiful, and so straight that you can see from one end of it to the other, although it is two thirds of a league in length, having on both sides large and elegant houses and temples. Muteczuma came through the centre of the street, attended by two lords, one upon his right, and the other upon his left hand, one of whom was the same nobleman who, as I have mentioned, came to meet me in a litter ; and the other was the brother of Muteczuma, lord of the city of Iztapalapa, which I had left the same day; all three were dressed in the same manner, except that Muteczuma wore shoes, while the others were without them. He was supported on the arms of both, and as we approached, I alighted and advanced alone to salute him; but the two attendant lords stopped me to prevent my touching him, and they and he both performed the ceremony of kissing the ground; after which he directed his brother who accompanied him to remain with me; the latter accordingly took me by the arm, while Muteczuma, with his other attendant, walked a short distance in front of me, and after he had spoken to me, all the other nobles also came up to address me, and then went away in two processions with great regularity, one after the other, and in this manner returned to the city. At the time I advanced to speak to Muteczuma, I took off from myself a collar of pearls and glass diamonds, and put it around
his neck. After having proceeded along the street, one of his servants came bringing two collars formed of shell fish, enclosed in a roll of cloth, which were made from the shells of colored prawns or periwinkles, held by them in high estimation; and from each collar depended eight golden prawns, finished in a very perfect manner,
about a foot and a half in length. When these were brought, Muteczuma turned towards me and put them round my neck; he then returned along the street in the
order already described, until he reached a very large and splendid palace, in which we were to be quartered, which had been fully prepared for our reception. He there took me by the hand and led me into a spacious saloon, in front of which was a court, through which we
entered. Having caused me to sit down on a piece of rich carpeting, which he had ordered to be made for his own use, he told me to wait his return there, and then went away. After a short space of time, when my people were all bestowed in their quarters, he returned with many and various jewels of gold and silver, featherwork, and five or six thousand pieces of cotton cloth,
very rich and of varied texture and finish. After having presented these to me, he sat down on another piece of carpet they had placed for him near me, and being seated he discoursed as follows:–24.
“It is now a long time since, by means of written records, we learned from our ancestors that neither myself nor any of those who inhabit this region were descended from its original inhabitants, but from strangers who emigrated hither from a very distant land; and we have also learned that a prince, whose vassals they all were, conducted our people into these parts, and then returned to his native land. He afterwards came again to this country, after the lapse of much time, and found that his people had intermarried with the native inhabitants, by whom they had many children, and had built towns in which they resided; and when he desired them to return with him, they were unwilling to go, nor were they disposed to acknowledge him as their sovereign ; so he departed from the country, and we have always heard that his descendants would come to conquer this land, and reduce us to subjection as his vassals ; and according to the direction from which you say you have come, namely, the quarter where the sun rises, and from what you say of the great lord or king who sent you hither, we believe and are assured that he is our natural sovereign, especially as you say that it is a long time since you first had knowledge of us. Therefore be assured that we will obey you, and acknowledge you for our sovereign in place of the great lord whom you mention, and that there shall be no default or deception on our part. And you have the power in all this land, I mean wherever my power extends, to command what is your pleasure, and it shall be done in obedience thereto, and all that we have is at your disposal. And since you are in your own proper land and your own house, rest and refresh yourselves after the toils of your journey, and the conflicts in which you have been engaged, which have been brought upon you, as I well know, by all the people from Puntunchan to this place; and I am aware that the Cempoallans and Tlascalans have told you much evil of me, but believe no more than you see with your own eyes, especially from those who are my enemies, some of whom were once my subjects, and having rebelled upon your arrival, make these statements to ingratiate themselves in your favor. These people, I know, have informed you that I possessed houses with walls of gold, and that my carpets and other things in common use were of the texture of gold ; and that I was a god, or made myself one, and many other
such things. The houses you see are of stone and lime
and earth.” And then he opened his robes and showed
his person to me, saying, “You see that I am composed of flesh and bone like yourselves, and that I am mortal, and palpable to the touch,” at the same time pinching his arms and body with his hands ; “I see,” he continued,
how they have deceived you. It is true I have some things of gold, which my ancestors have left me ; all that
I have is at your service whenever you wish it. I am now going to my other houses where I reside; you will be here provided with every thing necessary for yourself and your people, and will suffer no embarrassment,
as you are in your own house and country.” I answered him in respect to all that he had said, expressing my acknowledgments, and adding whatever the occasion seemed to demand, especially endeavoring to confirm him in the belief that your Majesty was the sovereign they had looked for; and after this he took his leave, and having gone, we were liberally supplied with fowls, bread, fruits, and other things required for the use of our quarters. In this way I was for six days amply provided with all that was necessary, and visited by many of the nobility.
I mentioned, most Catholic Sire, at the commencement of this letter, that at the time I departed from the city of Vera Cruz in quest of this Señor Muteczuma, I left there one hundred and fifty men to erect a fort, which had been already begun ; and I also stated that I had left many towns and fortified places in the neighborhood of that city in subjection to the royal dominion of your Highness, and the inhabitants secure and decided in their allegiance to your Majesty. While I was in the city of Churultecal, [Cholula,) I received letters from the commander, whom I had stationed in my place at Vera Cruz, informing me that Qualpopoca, lord of the city of Almeria, had sent messengers to announce that he desired to become a subject of your Highness, and if he had not appeared before, and still did not appear, to render that homage which it was his duty to yield, and to offer himself with all his territories as a vassal to your Majesty, the reason was, that he would be compelled to pass through his enemies’ country, which he had not done in consequence of his apprehension of an attack from them; but that if I would despatch to him four Spaniards, they might accompany him, and the people through whose lands they would have to pass, knowing for what purpose they came, would not molest them ; and thus he would be able to come to us at once. The captain, believing that Qualpopoca was sincere in what he said, as many others had done the same thing, sent four Spaniards to him; but when he had got them into his power, he ordered them to be put to: death, in such a way that it might not appear to have been done through his means ; and thus two of them were killed, while the others effected their escape across the mountains, though wounded. Thereupon the captain marched against the city of Almeria with fifty Spaniards, two horsemen, and two pieces of fire-arms, and a force of from eight to ten thousand friendly Indians, with which he fought the inhabitants of that city and killed many of them, driving the
rest away, and burning and, destroying the city. The Indians who had accompanied him, being enemies to the Almerians, aided in the attack with great spirit and vigor. Qualpopoca himself, together with the other caciques, his allies, who had come to his assistance, escaped by flight, and some prisoners who were taken in the city gave information as to the people engaged in its defence, and the cause of their killing the Spaniards that had been sent to them. They said that Muteczuma had ordered Qualpopoca and the others who had come there as his vassals, (for such they were,) that when I left the city of Vera Cruz, they should fall upon those who had rebelled and entered the service of your Highness ; and that they should devise every means of destroying the Spaniards I had left there, so that they might not aid or favor us ; and that accordingly, in consequence of these orders, they had done so.26.
Six days having passed, most powerful Prince, since I entered the great city of Temixtitan, and having seen some things in it, though but a few compared with what there was to be seen and noted, it seemed to me, judging from these things, and from what I had observed of the country, that it would subserve the interests of your Majesty and our own security if Muteczuma was in my power, and not wholly free from restraint; in order that he might not be diverted from the resolution and willing spirit which he showed in the service of your Majesty, especially as we Spaniards were somewhat troublesome and difficult to please; lest feeling annoyed on any occasion, he should do us some serious injury without occasioning any tumult and even might cause all memory of us to perish, in the exercise of his great power. It also appeared to me that if he was under my control, all the other countries that were subject to him would be more easily brought to the knowledge and service of your Majesty, as afterwards actually happened. I resolved, therefore, to take him and place him in my quarters, which were of great strength ; and revolving in my mind how this could be effected without disturbance, I recollected what the officer whom I had left in command at Vera Cruz, had written me concerning the occurrences in the city of Almeria, which I have already related, and which, as he was informed, had all taken place in pursuance of orders from Muteczuma. Having used the precaution to station guards at the corners of the streets, I went to the palace of Muteczuma, as I had before often done to visit him ; and after conversing with him in a sportive manner on agreeable topics, and receiving at his hands some jewels of gold, and one of his own daughters, together with several daughters of his nobles for some of my company, I then said to him , that I had been informed of what had taken place in the city of Nautecal or Almeria, and of the fate of the Spaniards, who had been killed there ; that Qualpopoca alleged in defence of his conduct, that whatever he had done was in pursuance of orders from him, which, as his vassal, he could not disregard ; that I did not believe it was so, but nevertheless, in order to clear himself from the imputation, it seemed to me proper that he should send for Qualpopoca and the other principal men of that city, who had been concerned in the slaughter of the Spaniards, that the truth of the matter might be known, and those men punished, by which means he would satisfy your Majesty of his loyal disposition beyond all dispute; lest instead of the rewards which your Majesty would order to be given him, the reports of there outrages might provoke your Majesty’s anger against him, on account of his having commanded the injury to be done; since I was well satisfied that the truth was contrary to what those men had declared.” 27.
Immediately Muteczuma ordered certain of his followers to be called, to whom he gave a small stone resembling a seal, which be wore upon his arm, and ordered them to go to the city of Almeria, which is sixty or seventy leagues from Mextitán, [Mexico,] and conduct Qualpopoca hither; and having ascertained what others were concerned in the murder of the Spaniards, to have them come likewise; that if they refused to come voluntary, they should be brought as prisoners ; and if they resisted, they should call upon the communities adjacent to that city, which he indicated to them, for an armed force to assist in taking the offenders ; and that they should by no means return without them. These persons
had departed at once, and when they had gone, I said to Muteczuma, that I was pleased with his diligente in this matter, since I should have to render an account to your Majesty of the Spaniards who had been killed. As for what remained of my duty in the premises, I must have him in my quarters until the truth was more clearly ascertained, and himself shown to be free from blame ; and I begged him to suffer no uneasiness on this account, as he would not be treated as a prisoner, but left in the full possession of his liberty ; that no obstacle should be interposed to his enjoying the service of his followers, who would continuo to be at his command ; that he might select an apartment, such as would please him, in the palace I occupied, where he would be at his case; that he might rest assured that nothing should be allowed to give him pain or inconvenience ; and that in addition to his own servants, my companions would cheerfully obey all his commands. Much conversation and discourse followed in regard to this arrangement, too long to be described at length, and even to be repeated to your Majesty, being not only prolix, but scarcely material to the case; and, therefore, I shall say no more
than that, finally, he expressed his willingness to go with me. He immediately gave orders to have the apartment he wished to occupy put in order for his use, which was well situated and handsomely fitted up; and this being done, many nobles came to him, stripped of their robes, which they carried hanging upon their arms, and bare-footed, bringing a litter, not in the best order, on which, with tears in their eyes, they placed him in deep silence; and in this manner we proceeded to the quarters which I occupied, without exciting any commotion in the city, although some signs of a disturbance began to appear. But as soon as Muteczuma heard of it, he sent orders forbidding any movement; and thus all remained quiet as before, and continued so during the whole time that Muteczuma was my prisoner, since he was entirely at his ease, with the same attendance that he had been accustomed to in his own palace, which was very large and splendid, as I shall hereafter relate ; and I and my companions did every thing in our power to gratify his wishes.28.
Fifteen or twenty days after his imprisonment, the messengers arrived that Muteczuma had sent in quest of Qualpopoca and the others concerned in the murder of the Spaniards ; and they brought with them that chief and his sons, together with fifteen persons who were said to be men of rank, and implicated in the affair. Qualpopoca was brought on a litter, much in the style of a governor, as in fact he was. They were delivered into my hands, and I caused them to be placed under a strong guard ; and when they acknowledged that they had killed the Spaniards, I directed them to be asked if they were the vassals of Muteczuma ? Qualpopoca replied: “If I have any other sovereign, who is it ?” as
much as to say that he had no other, and that they were his vassals. I also inquired if what had been done by
them was by his command ? They answered, no; although afterwards, when the sentence of death by burning was about to be executed upon them, they all with one voice declared that Muteczuma had sent to command it to be done, and that they had acted in pursuance of his orders. So they were publicly burned in a square of the city, without creating any disturbance ; and on the day of their execution, as they confessed that Muteczuma had directed them to kill the Spaniards, I caused him to be put in irons, which threw him into great consternation. On the same day, however, after having spoken to him, I caused his irons to be removed, and left him quite satisfied ; and from that time I exerted myself to gratify his wishes, and render him contented by all means in my power. I publicly announced and declared to all the natives of the country, as well to the governors as to the people who came to me, that your Majesty’s service would be promoted by Muteczuma’s remaining at the head of his government, only acknowledging your Majesty’s superiority, and that your Majesty would be pleased by their obeying and respecting Muteczuma as their sovereign, as they had done before my arrival in the country. Such was the kindness of my treatment towards him, and his own contentment with his situation, that when at different times I tempted him with the offer of his liberty, begging that he would return to his palace, he as often replied that he was well pleased with his present quarters, and did not wish to leave them, as he wanted nothing that he was accustomed to enjoy in his own palace ; and that in case he went away, there would be reason to fear the
importunities of the local governors, his vassals, might lead him to act against his own wishes, and in opposition to your Majesty, while he desired in every possible manner to promote your Majesty’s service ; that so far he had informed them what he desired to have done, and was well content to remain where he was ; and should they wish to suggest any thing to him, he could answer that he was not at liberty, and thus excuse himself from attending to them. Several times he asked permission to visit his pleasure-houses for the purpose of recreation, both within the city and without, and in no instance was his request denied. He often made an excursion, attended by five or six Spaniards, one or two leagues out of the city, and always returned in fine spirits to his quarters where I had placed him ; and whenever he went out, he made many presents of jewels and cotton cloth, both to the Spaniards by whom he was accompanied, and to his own people, who followed him in such numbers that there were never less than three thousand men in his retinue, most of whom were nobles and persons of distinction ; and he always gave many banquets and entertainments to those who accompanied him, which they considered worth relating.29.
When I discovered that Muteczuma was fully devoted to the service of your Highness, I requested him that, in order to enable me to render a complete account to your Majesty of the productions of the country, he would point out to me the mines from which gold was obtained ; to which he consented with the greatest readiness, saying that it would give him pleasure to do so. He immediately sent for several of his public servants, and assigned them to four provinces, two to each province, in which he said the gold was obtained ; and he asked
me to allow some of the Spaniards to go with them, that they might observe the manner in which gold was procured ; and I accordingly deputed two Spaniards for the same number of his own men. One party of them went to a province called Cuzula, eighty leagues from the great city of Temixtitan, whose inhabitants are vassals of Muteczuma, where they were shown three rivers, from all of which they brought me specimens of gold, of a good quality, although procured with little trouble, and without any other instruments than those used by the Indians. On their route they passed through three provinces, that, according to the report of the Spaniards, contained very fine land, many villages and cities, with much scattered population, and buildings equal to any in Spain. They mentioned particularly a house and castle, the latter larger, of greater strength, and better built than the castle of Burgos ; and the people of one of these provinces, called Tamazulapa, were better clothed than those of any other we had seen, as it justly appeared to them. Another party of our envoys went to a province called Malinaltebeque, [in Oaxaca,] which is also seventy leagues from the great city, but more towards the seacoast. They brought me specimens of gold from a great river that passes through it. The other party visited a region beyond this river, inhabited by a people speaking a different language from those of Culua, and called Tenis; whose chief ruler is named Coatelicamar. His territory is situated on a lofty and rough mountainous range, with a population inured to war, who fight with spears of twenty-five to thirty
palms length ; he is independent of Muteczuma. The
messengers with the Spaniards did not dare enter this province, as it was not subject to Muteczuma, without first notifying the governor, and asking his permission, announcing that they had come with certain Spaniards to see the gold mines that were in his country, for whom they requested a favorable reception in my name and that of Muteczuma, their lord. Coatelicamar answered, that he was very willing the Spaniards should enter his province and see the mines, with any thing else they pleased ; but that the Culuans, who were subjects of Muteczuma, must not do so, as they were his enemies. The Spaniards were somewhat at a loss whether to go alone or not; their companions advised them not to go, as they would be put to death, alleging that it was for the purpose of being able to destroy them, that he would not consent to the Culuans accompanying them. At length, however, they resolved to go alone, and were well received by the governor and his people, who showed them seven or eight mines from which they said gold was procured; and in their presence some of the Indians got out a quantity of the precious metal, of which specimens were brought to me. Coatelicamar sent by these Spaniards several messengers, offering himself and his land to the service of your Majesty, and accompanying his professions with presents of gold and cotton cloth. The other party of envoys visited a province called Tuchitebeque, on the same route, towards the sea, twelve leagues from the province of Malinaltebeque, where I have already said gold was found, and there they were shown two other streams, from which also they obtained specimens of gold.30.
The Spaniards who went to the Province of Malinaltebeque, informed me that it contained every convenience for establishing farming stations, and procuring gold; on this account I requested Muteczuma to establish a plantation there for your Majesty. He accordingly set to work for this purpose with so much diligence, that within two months from the time I spoke to him on the subject, sixty fanegas of maize, and ten of beans were planted, together with two thousand cacoa trees, which bear a fruit resembling the almond, that is sold after being ground, and is held in such estimation, that it is used as money throughout all the country, and employed in purchases in the markets and every where else. He had also erected four very good houses, in one of which beside the apartments there was a pool of water, in which they placed five hundred geese, there held in high estimation, as they make a profitable use of their feathers, which they strip of every year and weave into thin
cloth. They also placed there fifteen hundred domestic fowls ; and altogether the improvements were valued by Spaniards who saw them at different times, exclusively
of the soil, at 20,000 pesos of gold. I likewise inquired of Muteczuma if there were on the coast of the sea any river or bay into which ships could enter, and lie with safety. He answered that he did not know, but that he would cause a chart of the coast to be painted, showing the rivers and bays, and that I might send Spaniards to examine them, for which purpose he would despatch suitable persons with them as guides ; and he did so. The next day they brought me a chart of the whole coast, painted on cloth ; on which appeared a river that
discharged into the sea, with a wider mouth, according to the chart, than any others; this seemed to be between the mountains called Sanmyn, which extend to a bay until then believed by the pilots to separate the land at a province called Mazamalco. Muteczuma told me that I might select whom I would wish to send, and that he would provide the means for their examining and ascertaining every thing ; I immediately designated ten men, and among them several pilots and persons acquainted with the sea. Being furnished with the provision he made for them, they departed, and proceeded along the coast from the port of Chalchilmeca, called San Juan, inhere I first landed, for sixty leagues and upwards, without finding any river or bay where ships could enter; although there were many large ones on the coast, which they sounded in canoes; and in this manner they arrived at the province of Quacalco abovementioned, [Mazamalco,] where was the river represented on the
chart. The governor of this province, named Tuchintecla, received them well, and furnished them with canoes to explore the river. They found two fathoms and a half of water at its entrance, in the shallowest part, and ascending twelve leagues, the least depth they found was five or six fathoms ; judging from their observations, it was thought that the river continued for thirty leagues
of the same depth. There were numerous and large towns on its banks, and the whole province was level, and well fortified, rich in all the productions of the earth, and containing a numerous population, who are not vassals or subjects of Muteczuma, but rather his enemies.
The governor of the country, when the Spaniards arrived there, ordered that the Mexicans should not enter his territory, because they were his enemies ; and when our people returned to me with this account, he sent several persons in their company, by whom he transmitted to me jewels of gold, skins of tigers, feathers, precious stones, and cotton cloth; and they informed me from him, that Tuchintela, their sovereign, had heard of me a long time ago, for the people of Putunchán, or the river of Grijalva, who were his friends, had told him of my passing through their country, and making war upon them, because they opposed my entrance into their town; and how afterwards we left them as friends and vassals of your Majesty. He also offered himself and his whole province to the service of your Majesty, and begged me to receive him as a friend, on condition that the Mexicans should not enter his country, giving me liberty to examine all it contained, and of choosing whatever I pleased for your Majesty’s use, of which he would yield an annual tribute.31.
When I was informed by the Spaniards that the province they had visited, was in a situation to be colonized, and that they had discovered a harbor in it, I was much gratified; since from the time that I had first set foot in this country, I had constantly sought to find some harbor upon its coast, where I might found a settlement, but I had not been able to discover one, nor is there any on all the coast, from the river San Antonio, which is next the Grijalva, to that of Panuco, which is down the coast, where certain Spaniards under Francisco de Garay, went for the purpose of establishing a colony, as I shall hereafter relate to your Majesty. In order to satisfy myself in relation to the province, the harbor, and the good will of the natives, I resolved to send thither certain of my company, who would be able to judge of the country from their observation and experience. They went in company with the messengers that the Lord Tuchintecla had sent to me, carrying several things that I sent to him as presents. Having arrived there, they were well received by him, and applied themselves to survey and sound the port and river, and to examine the sites the place afforded for a town. They afterwards brought me a full and correct report of their observations, and declared that every thing requisite for a settlement was to be found there. The governor himself was gratified, and expressed a great desire to become a vassal of your Majesty. As soon as they had returned, I despatched a captain with one hundred and fifty men for the purpose of tracing, planning and settling the town, and erecting a fortress, as the governor had consented to it, and offered whatever was necessary, or they might require for the purpose; and he even built six houses on the spot selected for the town, and said that he was very well pleased that we should go there to found a colony, and dwell upon his land.32.
I have, in the preceding pages, most powerful Sire, stated that at the time I entered the great city of Temixtitan, a great lord had met me on my route who came on behalf of Muteczuma; and according to what I afterwards learned, he was a near relative of that monarch, possessing a province next to that of Muteczuma, and called Haculuacan. The capital of it was a very large city, adjacent to the salt lake; it is six leagues distant from the city of Temixtitan, as the canoes go by the lake, and
ten leagues by land. The name of the city was Tezcuco, and it contained about thirty thousand families. There are in it, Sire, splendid houses, mosques, or temples, and oratories of great magnitude, and well finished. The markets are also very extensive ; and besides this city, there are two others, one three leagues from Tezcuco, called Acuruman, and the other six leagues, called Oturnpa. Each of these contains three or
four thousand families. This province and seignory of Haculuacán has numerous other villages and hamlets, and excellent lands, well cultivated. It borders on one side upon that of Tascaltecal, of which I have already
spoken to your Majesty. The governor, who is named Cacamazin, after the imprisonment of Muteczuma, rebelled, both against your Majesty, to whom he professed allegiance, and against Muteczuma. Although he was several times summoned to come and render obedience to your Majesty’s commands, he never would. Beside the requisitions I made of him, Muteczuma also sent his commands to him, to which he answered, that if they wanted any thing of him they should go to his country, where they should see what he was, and what service he was obliged to perform. I was told that he had a large force of armed men in readiness at a moment’s warning. As neither by demonstrations nor requisitions was I able to induce him to yield, I spoke to Muteczuma, and asked his advice what it was best for us to do, in order that we might not leave his rebellion unpunished. He answered,
that should we resolve on war, it would be attended with much danger, as he was a great lord, and possessed much strength and many people; and he could not be attacked without the risk of great destruction of life. But that there were several of the principal persons of Cacamazin who resided in Mexico at his charge, and that he would speak to them on the subject, in order to induce some of Cacamazin’s followers to come to Mexico, and thus being secured, they might favor our attempt, and their master be taken without risk. And so it turned out; Muteczuma laid his plans in such a manner, that a number of his leading men persuaded Cacamazin to meet them in the city of Tezcuco, for the purpose of taking measures in relation to the affairs of the state, (in which their station entitled them to a voice,) and who were grieved by the course he was pursuing, which would involve the ruin of the country. Accordingly they assembled in a splendid palace of Cacamazin, situated near the shore of the lake, which was built in such a manner that canoes could pass under it, and from thence issue forth upon the lake. At that place a number of boats were stationed, properly manned and equipped, in case Cacamazin should offer any resistance when taken. While he was consulting with his chiefs, they seized him, and before it was discovered by his attendants, they secured him in a boat, and launched out upon the lake, directing their course to the great city, which, as I have already stated, was six leagues distant. Having arrived there, they placed him on a litter, as his condition required, and they had been accustomed to do, and brought him to me; I immediately caused him to be put in irons, and to be carefully guarded. Having advised with Muteczuma, I conferred the government of the province on
his son, called Cucuzcasin, in the name of your Majesty; and I directed all the communities and lords of the province to obey him as their ruler, until your Majesty should order otherwise. Accordingly, from that time he was recognized and obeyed as their sovereign, in the same manner as Cacamazin had been ; and he also obeyed all the commands that I imposed on him in your Majesty’s name.
A few days after the imprisonment of Cacamazin, Muteczuma called together all the governors of the neighboring cities and states, and when they were assembled, he sent an invitation to me to join them ; on my arrival, he addressed them as follows ; “My brethren and friends, you know that for a long period you, your fathers, and ancestors have been the subjects and vassals of my predecessors and myself, and that both by them and me you have been always well treated and honored. You have also done all that is due from good and loyal vassals to their liege lords ; and I also believe that you have heard from your ancestors, that they were not natives of this land, but that they came to it from a great distance, under the conduct of a sovereign whose subjects they all were ; he left them here, but after a considerable time he returned, and found that our ancestors had become numerous and well established in this country, having intermarried with the women of the land, by whom they had many children. On this account they were unwilling to go back with him, or to acknowledge him as their sovereign ; whereupon he went away, saying that he would return, or send so great a force as would compel them to submit to him. You knew well that we have always looked for him; and according to what this captain has told us of the king and lord, who has sent him here, and also considering the quarter from which he says he has come, l hold it certain, and you must be of the same opinion, that this is the sovereign that we have expected ; especially as he informs us, that he had some knowledge of us there. And since our predecessors did not render their just service to their sovereign lord, let us perform our duty; and let us render thanks to our gods, that he, who was so long expected by them, has come in our day. I must, therefore, entreat, since all this is well known to you, that hereafter, instead of regarding me as your sovereign, you will recognise and obey that great king, as he is our natural ruler, and receive this his captain in place of him ; and all the tributes and services which till now you have rendered to me, you will hereafter render and yield to him, as I likewise contribute and yield all that he requires of me ; and thus besides performing your duty, you will gratify and oblige me.”34.
All this he said weeping, with more tears and sighs than becomes a man to exhibit; and likewise all the princes who were present wept so much, that for a long time they were unable to answer. And I assure your sacred Majesty that there was not a Spaniard who heard the discourse, that did not feel great compassion. After their grief had abated, they answered, that they recognized him as their sovereign, and had engaged to do whatever he might command ; and that on this account, as well as for the reasons he had assigned, they were willing to act as he required ; and that, from henceforth forever, they declared themselves the vassals of your Majesty, and all, and each for himself, would there promise, and did promise, to do and fulfil all that was commanded in the name of your Majesty as became good and loyal vassals ; and to aid with tribute and services as they had heretofore done for Muteczuma, and as was their duty, together with whatever else might be required of them in the name of your Majesty. All this passed in the presence of a public notary, and was confirmed by a formal act; as well as by the testimony of many of our countrymen whom I had requested to be present.
After this solemn act and acknowledgment on the part of these lords towards your Majesty, I one day spoke to Muteczuma and said that your Highness needed gold for certain works that he had ordered to be completed, and I wished him to send some of his people, and I would send some of mine, to the lands and abodes of those lords who had submitted themselves on that occasion, to ask them to supply your Majesty with some part of what they possessed ; since besides the necessity your Majesty had for the gold, it would serve as a beginning of their fealty, and your Highness would form a better opinion of their disposition to render him service by such a demonstration; and I also requested that he himself would give me what gold he had, as well as other things, in order that I might transmit them to your Majesty. He immediately requested that I would designate the Spaniards whom I wished to send on this business, and he distributed them two by two, and five by five, among many provinces and cities, the names of which I do not recollect, the records having perished, as they were numerous and different, some eighty, some one hundred leagues from the great city of Temixtitan ; and with them he sent some of his own people, and directed them to go to the governors of provinces and cities, and say that I commanded each one of them to give a certain proportion of gold, which he prescribed. Accordingly all those caciques to whom he sent contributed freely what he demanded of them, as well jewels as plates and leaves of gold and silver, and whatever else they possessed ; and melting down all that admitted it, we found that the fifth part belonging to your Majesty amounted to 32,400 pesos of gold and upwards, without reckoning the jewels of gold and silver, the feather-work, and precious stones, together with many other valuable articles that I set apart for your sacred Majesty, worth more than 100,000 ducats. These besides their monied value, were of so costly and curious workmanship, that considering their novelty and wonderful beauty, no price could be set on them ; nor is it probable that any one of all the princes of the world to whose knowledge they might come, could produce any articles of equal splendor. It may seem to your Majesty like a fabulous story, but it is true, that all the natural objects, both on sea and land, of which Muteczuma has any knowledge, are imitated in gold and silver, as well as in precious stones and feathers, in such perfection that they appear almost the same. He gave me numerous specimens of many of these for your Highness, besides other things of which I had given him drawings, which he caused to be wrought in gold, such as images, crucifixes, medals, jewels, and necklaces, together with many other articles, of which he had imitations made. They assigned to your Majesty a fifth part of the silver, amounting to one hundred marks and upwards, which at my request the natives worked up into large and small dishes, porringers, cups, and spoons; and they made them as perfectly as they could understand their form
from our description. Beside these, Muteczuma gave me a large quantity of his cotton stuff, which, considering it was cotton without silk, could not be equalled in the whole world, either in texture, or in the variety and beauty of the colors, or in the workmanship. It comprised male and female apparel of remarkable elegance; ornamental hangings for bed-chambers, superior beyond comparison to those made of silk ; together with other fabrics of cotton, as tapestries, designed for halls and temples; counterpanes, composed of feathers interwoven with cotton, and extremely beautiful ; and many other articles, so numerous and ingenious, that I am unable to describe them to your Majesty. He also presented me with a dozen serbatans, used by himself for shooting, made with such admirable skill that they also exceed my power of description. There were depicted on them a great variety of birds, animals, trees, flowers, and various other objects; the rims and extremities, of the width of a span, as well as the centre, were inlaid with gold, and curiously carved. To these he added a pouch of gold net-work, intended to contain the pellets or little balls, usually formed of clay, but which he said he would give me of gold ; and also moulds of the same precious metal, for making the pellets ; together with an infinite variety of other things.
IN order, most potent Sire, to convey to your Majesty a just conception of the great extent of this noble city of Temixtitan, and of the many rare and wonderful objects it contains ; of the government and dominions of Muteczuma, the sovereign ; of the religious rites and customs that prevail, and the order that exists in this as well as other cities appertaining to his realm : it would require the labor of many accomplished writers, and much time for the completion of the task. I shall not be able to relate an hundredth part of what could be told respecting these matters; but I will endeavor to describe, in the best manner in my power, what I have myself seen ; and imperfectly as I may succeed in the attempt, I am fully aware that the account will appear so wonderful as to be deemed scarcely worthy of credit ; since even we who have seen these things with our own eyes, are yet so amazed as to be unable to comprehend their reality. But your Majesty may be assured that if there is any fault in my relation, either in regard to the present subject, or to any other matters of which I shall give your Majesty an account, it will arise from too great brevity rather than extravagance or prolixity in the details ; and it seems to me but just to my Prince and Sovereign to declare the truth in the clearest manner, without saying any thing that would detract from it, or add to it.37.
Before I begin to describe this great city and the others already mentioned, it may be well for the better understanding of the subject to say something of the configuration of Mexico, in which they are situated, it being the principal seat of Muteczuma’s power. This Province is in the form of a circle, surrounded on all sides by lofty and rugged mountains ; its level surface comprises an area of about seventy leagues in circumference, including two lakes, that overspread nearly the whole valley, being navigated by boats more than fifty leagues round. One of these lakes contains fresh, and the other, which is the larger of the two, salt water. On one side of the lakes, in the middle of the valley, a range of highlands divides them from one another, with the exception of a narrow strait which lies between the highlands and the lofty sierras. This strait is a bow-shot wide, and connects the two lakes ; and by this means a trade is carried on between the cities and other settlements on the lakes in canoes without the necessity of travelling by land. As the salt lake rises and falls with its tides like the sea, during the time of high water it pours into the other lake with the rapidity of a powerful stream ; and on the other hand, when the tide has ebbed, the water runs from the fresh into the salt lake.
This great city of Temixtitan [Mexico] is situated in this salt lake, and from the main land to the denser parts of it, by whichever route one chooses to enter, the distance is two leagues. There are four avenues or entrances to the city, all of which are formed by artificial causeways, two spears’ length in width. The city is as large as Seville or Cordova ; its streets, I speak of the principal ones, are very wide and straight; some of these, and all the inferior ones, are half land and half water, and are navigated by canoes. All the streets at intervals have openings, through which the water flows, crossing from one street to another ; and at these openings, some of which are very wide, there are also very wide bridges, composed of large pieces of timber, of great strength and well put together; on many of these bridges
ten horses can go abreast. Foreseeing that if the inhabitants of this city should prove treacherous, they would possess great advantages from the manner in which the city is constructed, since by removing the bridges at the entrances, and abandoning the place, they could leave us to perish by famine without our being able to reach the main land–as soon as I had entered it, I made great haste to build four brigantines, which were soon finished, and were large enough to take ashore three hundred men and the horses, whenever it should become necessary.
This city has many public squares, in which are situated the markets and other places for buying and selling. There is one square twice as large as that of the city of Salamanca, surrounded by porticoes, where are daily assembled more than sixty thousand souls, engaged in buying and selling ; and where are found all kinds of merchandise that the world affords, embracing the necessaries of life, as for instance articles of food, as well as jewels of gold and silver, lead, brass, copper, tin, precious stones, bones, shells, snails, and feathers. There are also exposed for sale wrought and unwrought stone, bricks burnt and unburnt, timber hewn and unhewn, of different sorts. There is a street for game, where every variety of birds found in the country are sold, as fowls, partridges, quails, wild ducks, fly-catchers, widgeons, turtle-doves, pigeons, reedbirds, parrots, sparrows, eagles, hawks, owls, and kestrels ; they sell likewise the skins
of some birds of prey, with their feathers, head, beak, and claws. There are also sold rabbits, hares, deer, and little dogs, which are raised for eating and castrated. There is also an herb street, where may be obtained all sorts of roots and medicinal herbs that the country affords. There are apothecaries’ shops, where prepared medicines, liquids, ointments, and plasters are sold; barbers’ shops, where they wash and shave the head ; and restaurateurs, that furnish food and drink at a certain price. There is also a class of men like those called in Castile porters, for carrying burthens. Wood and coals are seen in abundance, and brasiers of earthenware for burning coals ; mats of various kinds for beds, others of a lighter sort for seats, and for halls and bedrooms. There are all kinds of green vegetables, especially onions, leeks, garlic, watercresses, nasturtium, borage, sorel, artichokes, and golden thistle ; fruits also of numerous descriptions, amongst which are cherries and plums, similar to those in Spain ; honey and wax from bees, and from the stalks of maize, which are as sweet as the sugar-cane; honey is also extracted from the plant called maguey, which is superior to sweet or new wine ; from the same plant they extract sugar and wine, which they also sell. Different kinds of cotton thread of all colors in skeins are exposed for sale in one quarter of the market, which has the appearance of the silk-market at Granada, although the former is supplied more abundantly. Painters’ colors, as numerous as can be found in Spain, and as fine shades; deerskins dressed and undressed, dyed different colors; earthenware of a
large size and excellent quality; large and small jars, jugs, pots, bricks, and an endless variety of vessels, all made of fine clay, and all or most of them glazed and painted ; maize, or Indian corn, in the grain and in the form of bread, preferred in the grain for its flavor to that of the other islands and terra-firma ; patés of birds and fish ; great quantities of fish, fresh, salt, cooked and uncooked ; the eggs of hens, geese, and of all the other birds I have mentioned, in great abundance, and cakes made of eggs;, finally, every thing that can be found throughout the whole country is sold in the markets, comprising articles so numerous that to avoid prolixity, and because their names are not retained in my memory, or are unknown to me, I shall not attempt to enumerate them. Every kind of merchandise is sold in a particular street or quarter assigned to it exclusively, and thus the best order is preserved. They sell every thing by number or measure, at least so far we have not observed them to sell any thing by weight. There is a building in the great square that is used as an audience house, where ten or, twelve persons, who are magistrates, sit and decide all controversies that arise in the market, and order delinquents to be punished. In the same square there are other persons who go constantly about among the people observing what is sold, and the measures used in selling; and they have been seen to break measures that were not true.40.
This great city contains a large number of temples, or houses for their idols, very handsome edifices, which are situated in the different districts and the suburbs ; in the principal ones religious persons of each particular sect are constantly residing, for whose use beside the houses containing the idols there are other convenient habitations. All these persons dress in black, and never cut or comb their hair from the time they enter the priesthood until they leave it ; and all the sons of the principal inhabitants, both nobles and respectable citizens, are placed in the temples and wear the same dress from the age of seven or eight years until they are taken out to be married; which occurs more frequently with the first-born who inherit estates than with the others. The priests are debarred from female society, nor is any woman permitted to enter the religious houses. They also abstain from eating certain kinds of food, more at some seasons of the year than others. Among these temples there is one which far surpasses all the rest, whose grandeur of architectural details no human tongue is able to describe ; for within its precincts, surrounded by a lofty wall, there is room enough for a town of five hundred families. Around the interior of this enclosure there are handsome edifices, containing large halls and corridors, in which the religious persons attached to the temple reside. There are full forty towers, which are lofty and well built, the largest of which has fifty steps leading to its main body, and is higher than the tower of the principal church at Seville. The stone and wood of which they are constructed are so well wrought in every part, that nothing could be better done, for the interior of the chapels containing the idols consists of curious imagery, wrought in stone, with plaster ceilings, and wood-work carved its relief, and painted with figures
of monsters and other objects. All these towers are the burial places of the nobles, and every chapel in them is
dedicated to a particular idol, to which they pay their devotions.41.
There are three halls in this grand temple, which contain the principal idols ; these are of wonderful extent and height, and admirable workmanship, adorned with figures sculptured in stone and wood ; leading from the halls are chapels with very small doors, to which the light is not admitted, nor are any persons except the priests, and not all of them. In these chapels are the images or idols, although, as I have before said, many of them are also found on the outside; the principal ones, in which the people have greatest faith and confidence, I precipitated from their pedestals, and cast them down the steps of the temple, purifying the chapels in which they had stood, as they were all polluted with human blood, shed in the sacrifices. In the place of these I put images of Our Lady and the Saints, which excited not a little feeling in Muteczuma and the inhabitants, who at first remonstrated, declaring that if my proceedings were known throughout the country, the people would rise against me ; for they believed that their idols bestowed on them all temporal good, and if they permitted them to be ill-treated, they would be angry and withhold their gifts, and by this means the people would be deprived of the fruits of the earth and perish
with famine. I answered, through the interpreters, that they were deceived in expecting any favors from idols, the work of their own hands, formed of unclean things; and that they must learn there was but one God, the universal Lord of all, who had created the heavens and the earth, and all things else, and had made them and us; that He was without beginning and immortal, and they were bound to adore and believe him, and no other
creature or thing. I said every thing to them I could to divert them from their idolatries, and draw them to a
knowledge of God our Lord. Muteczuma replied, the others assenting to what he said, That they had already informed me they were not the aborigines of the country, but that their ancestors had emigrated to it many years ago; and they fully believed that after so long an absence from their native land, they might have fallen into some errors ; that I having more recently arrived must know better than themselves what they ought to believe ; and that if I would instruct them in these matters, and make them understand the true faith, they would follow my directions, as being for the best.” Afterwards, Muteczuma and many of the principal citizens remained with me until I had removed the idols, purified the chapels, and placed the images in them, manifesting apparent pleasure ; and I forbade them sacrificing human beings to their idols, as they had been accustomed to do ; because, besides being abhorrent in the sight of God, your sacred Majesty had prohibited it by law, and commanded to put to death whoever should take the life of another. Thus, from that time, they refrained from the practice, and during the whole period of my abode in that city, they were never seen to kill or sacrifice a human being.
The figures of the idols in which these people believe surpass in stature a person of more than the ordinary size; some of them are composed of a mass of seeds and leguminous plants, such as are used for food, ground and mixed together, and kneaded with the blood of human hearts taken from the breasts of living persons, from which a paste is formed in a sufficient quantity to form large statues. When these are completed they make them offerings of the hearts of other victims, which they sacrifice to them, and besmear their faces with the blood. For every thing they have an idol, consecrated by the use of the nations that in ancient times honored the same gods. Thus they have an idol that they petition for victory in war ; another for success in their labors; and so for every thing in which they seek or desire prosperity, they have their idols, which they honor and serve.43.
This noble city contains many fine and magnificent houses; which may be accounted for from the fact, that all the nobility of the country, who are the vassals of Muteczuma, have houses in the city, in which they reside a certain part of the year ; and besides, there are numerous wealthy citizens who also possess fine houses. All these persons, in addition to the large and spacious apartments for ordinary purposes, have others, both upper and lower, that contain conservatories of flowers. Along one of the causeways that lead into the city are laid two pipes, constructed of masonry, each of which is two paces in width, and about five feet in height. An abundant supply of excellent water, forming a volume equal in bulk to the human body, is conveyed by one of these pipes, and distributed about the city, where it is used by the inhabitants for drinking and other purposes. The other pipe, in the mean time, is kept empty until the former requires to be cleansed, when the water is let into it and continues to be used till the cleansing is finished. As the water is necessarily carried over bridges on account of the salt water crossing its route, reservoirs resembling canals are constructed on the bridges, through which the fresh water is conveyed. These reservoirs are of the breadth of the body of an
ox, and of the same length as the bridges. The whole
city is thus served with water, which they carry in canoes through all the streets for sale, taking it from the aquaduct in the following manner: the canoes pass under the bridges on which the reservoirs are placed, when men stationed above fill them with water, for which service they are paid. At all the entrances of the city, and in those parts where the canoes are discharged, that is, where the greatest quantity of provisions is brought in, huts are erected, and persons stationed as guards, who receive a certum quid of every thing that enters. I know not whether the sovereign receives this duty or the city, as I have not yet been informed ; but I believe that it appertains to the sovereign, as in the markets of other provinces a tax is collected for the benefit of their cacique. In all the markets and public places of this city are seen daily many laborers and persons of various employments waiting for some one to hire them. The inhabitants of this city pay a greater regard to style in their mode of living, and are more attentive to elegance of dress and politeness of manners, than those of the other provinces and cities ; since, as the Cacique Muteczuma has his residence in the capital, and all the nobility, his vassals, are in the constant habit of meeting there, a general courtesy of demeanor necessarily prevails. But not to be prolix in describing what relates to the affairs of this great city, although it is with difficulty I refrain from proceeding, I will say no more than that the manners of the people, as shown in their intercourse with one another, are marked by as great an atttention to the proprieties of life as in Spain, and good order is equally well observed; and considering that they are a barbarous people, without the knowledge of God, having no intercourse with civilized nations, these traits of character are worthy of admiration.44.
In regard to the domestic appointments of Muteczuma, and the wonderful grandeur and state that he maintains, there is so much to be told, that I assure your Highness, I know not where to begin my relation, so as to be able to finish any part of it. For, as I have already stated, what can be more wonderful, than that a barbarous monarch, as he is, should have every object found in his dominions imitated in gold, silver, precious stones, and feathers; the gold and silver being wrought so naturally as not to be surpassed by any smith in the world ; the stone work executed with such perfection that it is difficult to conceive what instruments could have been used ; and the feather work superior to the finest productions in wax or embroidery. The extent of Muteczuma’s dominions has not been ascertained, since to whatever point he despatched his messengers, even two hundred leagues from his capital, his commands were obeyed, although some of his provinces were in the midst of countries with which he was at war. But as nearly as I have been able to learn, his territories are equal in extent to Spain itself, for he sent messengers to the inhabitants of a city called Cumatan, (requiring them to become subjects of your Majesty,) which is sixty leagues beyond that part of Putunchwn watered by the river Grijalva, and two hundred and thirty leagues distant from the great city ; and I sent some of our people a distance of one hundred and fifty leagues in the same direction. All the principal chiefs of these provinces, especially those in the vicinity of the capital, reside, as I have already stated, the greater part of the year in that great city, and all or most of them have their oldest sons in the service of Muteczuma. There are fortified places in all the provinces, garrisoned with his own men, where are also stationed his governors and collectors of the rents and tribute, rendered him by every province ; and an account is kept of what each is obliged to pay, as they have characters and figures made on paper that are used for this purpose. Each province renders a tribute of its own peculiar productions, so that the sovereign receives a great variety of articles from different quarters. No prince was ever more feared by his subjects, both in his presence and absence. He possessed out of the city as well as within, numerous villas, each of which had its peculiar sources of amusement, and all were constructed in the best possible manner for the use of a great prince and lord. Within the city his palaces were so wonderful that it is hardly possible to describe their beauty and extent ; I can only say that in Spain there is nothing equal to them.45.
There was one palace somewhat inferior to the rest, attached to which was a beautiful garden with balconies extending over it, supported by marble columns, and having a floor formed of jasper elegantly inlaid. There were apartments in this palace sufficient to lodge two princes
of the highest rank with their retinues. There were likewise belonging to it ten pools of water, in which were kept the different species of water birds found in this country, of which there is a great variety, all of which are domesticated ; for the sea birds there were
pools of salt water, and for the river birds, of fresh water. The water is let off at certain times to keep it pure, and is replenished by means of pipes. Each species of bird is supplied with the food natural to it, which it feeds upon when wild. Thus fish is given to birds that usually eat it; worms, maize, and the finer seeds, to such
as prefer them. And I assure your Highness, that to the birds accustomed to eat fish there is given the enormous quantity of ten arrobas every day, taken in the salt lake. The emperor has three hundred men whose sole employment is to take care of these birds; and there are others whose only business is to attend to the birds that are in bad health.
Over the pools for the birds there are corridors and galleries, to which Muteczuma resorts, and from which he can look out and amuse himself with the sight of them. There is an apartment in the same palace in which are men, women and children, whose faces, bodies, hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes are white from their birth. The emperor has another very beautiful palace, with a large court-yard, paved with handsome flags, in the style of a chess-board. There were also cages, about nine feet in height and six paces square, each of which was half covered with a roof of tiles, and the other half bad over it a wooden grate, skilfully made. Every cage contained a bird of prey, of all the species found in Spain, from the kestrel to the eagle, and many unknown there. There was a great number of each kind; and in the covered part of the cages there was a perch, and another on the outside of the grating, the former of which the birds used in the night time, and when it rained; and
the other enabled them to enjoy the sun and air. To all
these birds fowls were daily given for food, and nothing else. There were in the same palace several large halls on the ground floor, filled with immense cages built of heavy pieces of timber, well put together, in all or most of which were kept lions, tigers, wolves, foxes, and a variety of animals of the cat kind, in great numbers, which were also fed on fowls. The care of these animals and birds was assigned to three hundred men. There was another palace that contained a number of men and women of monstrous size, and also dwarfs, and crooked and ill-formed persons, each of which had their separate apartments. These also had their respective keepers. As to the other remarkable things that the emperor had in his city for his amusement, I can only say that they were numerous and of various kinds.47.
He was served in the following manner. Every day as soon as it was light, six hundred nobles and men of rank were in attendance at the palace, who either sat, or walked about the halls and galleries, and passed their time in conversation, but without entering the apartment
where his person was. The servants and attendants of these nobles remained in the court-yards, of which there were two or three of great extent, and in the adjoining street, which was also very spacious. They all remained in attendance from morning till night; and when his meals were served, the nobles were likewise served with equal profusion, and their servants and secretaries
also had their allowance. Daily his larder and winecellar were open to all who wished to eat and drink. The meals were served by three or four hundred youths, who brought on an infinite variety of dishes; indeed, whenever he dined or supped, the table was loaded with every kind of flesh, fish, fruits, and vegetables, that the
country produced. As the climate is cold, they put a chafing-dish with live coals under every plate and dish, to keep them warm. The meals were served in a large hall, in which Muteczuma was accustomed to eat, and the dishes quite filled the room, which was covered with Gnats and kept very clean. He sat on a small cushion curiously wrought of leather. During the meals there were present, at a little distance from him, five or six elderly caciques, to whom he presented some of the food. And there was constantly in attendance one of the servants, who arranged and handed the dishes, and who received from others whatever was wanted for the supply of the table. Both at the beginning and end of every meal, they furnished water for the hands; and the napkins used on these occasions were never used a second time; this was the case also with the plates and dishes, which were not brought again, but new ones in place of them; it was the same also with the chafing-dishes. He is also dressed every day in four different suits, entirely new, which he never wears a second time. None of the caciques who enter his palace have their feet covered, and when those for whom he sends enter his presence, they incline their heads and look down, bending their bodies; and when they address him, they do not look him in the face , this arises from excessive modesty and reverence. I am satisfied that it proceeds from respect, since certain caciques reproved the Spaniards for their boldness in addressing me, saying that it showed a want of becoming deference. Whenever Muteczuma appeared in public, which was seldom the case, all those who accompanied him, or whom he accidentally met in the streets, turned away without looking towards him, and others prostrated themselves until he had passed. One
of the nobles always preceded him on these occasions, carrying three slender rods erect, which I suppose was to give notice of the approach of his person. And when they descended from the litters, he took one of them in his hand, and held it until he reached the place inhere he was going. So many and various were the ceremonies and customs observed by those in the service of Muteczuma, that more space than I can spare would be required for the details, as well as a better memory than I have to recollect them ; since no sultan or other infidel lord, of whom any knowledge now exists, ever had so much ceremonial in their courts.
I REMAINED in this great city for the purpose of providing whatever the service of your Sacred Majesty required, and was engaged in establishing peace and an acknowledgment of your authority amongst numerous provinces and districts, containing a vast population, many large cities, towns, and castles, and in the discovery of mines; ascertaining and seeking information of whatever relates to the local affairs of the countries belonging to the jurisdiction of Muteezuma, as well ash others bordering thereupon and known to him. The extent and wonderful productiveness of these regions area quite incredible; and both Muteczuma and the native inhabitants promote my views with as much readiness and goodwill as if they had recognized your Sacred Majesty as their natural lord and sovereign; and they do with the same cheerfulness all things that I command them in your Majesty’s name.49.
In these concerns and others of no less advantage to the service of your Royal Highness, I was employed from the eighth of November, 1519, till the beginning of the present month of May, [1520,] when, being quietly established in this metropolis, sending out parties of Spaniards in various directions, promoting the peace and settlement of the country, and awaiting with impatience the return of the ships with your Majesty’s answer to my former despatch, in order to forward by them what I now send, together with all the gold and jewels that I had been able to amass for your Majesty–there came
to me certain of the native inhabitants, vassals of Muteczuma, from the sea-coast, and informed me that eighteen vessels had arrived before the port or bay of St. Juan, near the mountains of St. Martin; that they knew not who they were, for as soon as they espied them they had come to bring me the intelligence. Besides these Indians, there came to me likewise a native of the island of Fernandina, bringing a letter from a Spaniard whom I had stationed on that part of the sea-coast, in order that if the ships arrived he might give them some account of me, and of the town in the vicinity of that port, with a view to their safety. In this letter he says–”That on such a day there hove in sight before the harbor of St. Juan a single ship; that he had looked as far as he could see along the coast, and had been unable to descry any other, and he believed it was the vessel I had despatched to your Sacred Majesty, since it was time for it to arrive. In order to satisfy me of this, he was waiting for the ship to come up into the harbor to inform himself about it, and then to come and bring me the account.”
As soon as I had read this letter I despatched two Spaniards by different routes, in order that they might not miss any messenger that should come from the ship. I directed them to proceed to the harbor in question, and ascertain what ships had arrived, where they came from, and what they had brought ; and then to return with the greatest possible speed to bring me the intelligence. I also despatched another messenger to the town of Vera Cruz, to inform the authorities of what was known respeting these ships, that they might get additional information and communicate it to me; and another to the captain whom I had sent with one hundred and fifty men to form a settlement at the port of Cuacucalco, to whom I wrote that he should remain wherever the messenger might meet him, and not proceed until he had again heard from me, as I had received intelligence of the arrival of certain ships in the port; but it afterwards appeared that he knew of their arrival at the time when he received my letter.51.
After these messengers were gone, fifteen days passed before I heard any thing more, or received any answer from them, which not a little surprised me. But at the expiration of that time, other Indians, also vassals of Muteczuma, came, from whom I learned that the ships in question had already cast anchor in the port of San Juan, and the people had landed from them ; that they brought with them eighty horses, eight hundred men, and ten or twelve pieces of ordnance, all which were depicted on the paper of the country to be shown to Muteczuma. They also reported that the Spaniard whom I had stationed on the coast, and the other messengers that I had sent, were with the new comers, and that they had informed those Indians, (who brought the intelligence) that the leader of the party would not suffer them to return to me, of which they wished me to be informed. As soon as this was known, I determined to send a priest I had brought with me, with letters from myself and the Alcaldes and Regidores of the town of Vera Cruz, then in the city, addressed to the captain and others arrived at that port, informing them fully of the success that had attended me in this country ; that I was in possession of many cities, towns, and fortified places, which had been taken and subdued, and were now in peaceful subjection to your Majesty, the chief ruler of the country being a prisoner in my hands ; that I was then in the great city, describing its character, and the gold and jewels which I held for your Majesty ; and that I had transmitted to your Majesty an account of this country. And I begged them to inform me who they were, and that if they were native subjects of the kingdoms and dominions of your Holiness, they would write me whether they had come to this land by the command of your Majesty to found colonies and abide here, or intended to proceed farther, or to return home again ; or if they were in distress, I would supply them with every thing in my power. But should they not belong to your Highness’ dominions, I begged that they would notwithstanding inform me whether they had suffered any disaster, as I would do all in my power for their relief. If it were otherwise, I desired them, on behalf of your Majesty, that they would at once depart from your territory without landing upon it–intimating that if they did not, I should march against them with all the forces under my command, both Spanish and native, and capture or put them to death, as intruders upon the realm and dominions of the king my master.52.
The priest having departed with this despatch, there arrived five days after at the city of Temixtitan, twenty Spaniards, of the number of those whom I had stationed at the town of Vera Cruz, who brought with them a priest and two lay brothers taken in that place; from the latter I learned that the fleet and men in that port were acting under the orders of Diego Velazquez, [Governor of Cuba,] and were commanded in person by one Panfilo Narvaez, an inhabitant of the island Fernandina [Cuba] ; that they had brought eighty horses, several pieces of artillery, and eight hundred foot soldiers, amongst whom were eighty musketeers and one hundred and twenty bowmen ; that Narvaez had come in the capacity of Captain General and Lieutenant Governor over these countries, by the appointment of Diego Velazquez, from whom he had received your Majesty’s orders ; and that the messengers I had sent, and the man I had stationed on the coast, had been taken by Narvaez, and were not suffered to depart–by whom he had been informed of the town I had built twelve leagues from that port, and of the people residing there, as well as of the party I had sent to Cuacucalco, in the province called Tuchitebeque, thirty leagues from the port; and likewise of all that I had accomplished in the country in the service of your Highness ; the cities and towns I had conquered and reduced to a state of peaceful subjection, especially the great city of Temixtitan ; the gold and jewels that the country afforded ; and all things else showing the success of my operations. In consequence of their statements, Narvaez had sent these persons to Vera Cruz for the purpose of inducing the people who were there to join his standard and declare against me. They also brought with them more than a hundred letters, that Narvaez and his people had sent to those at Vera Cruz, desiring them to place confidence in whatever the priest and those with him should say ; promising, on behalf of D. Velazquez and himself acting in his name, that if they did so, they should be well rewarded ; but that they who acted otherwise would be subjected to severe treatment. These and other things contained in the letters the priest and those with him reported. Almost at the same moment there arrived a Spaniard of the party that l had sent to Cuacucalco, who brought me letters from the commander there, one Juan Velazquez
de Leon, informing me that the expedition in question was commanded by Panfilo de Narvaez, acting in the name of Diego Velazquez; and forwarding a letter which Narvaez had sent by an Indian to him, as a relative of Diego Velazquez, and brother-in-law of Narvaez ; in which Narvaez stated that he had learned by some messengers of mine that he was at that place with a party of men, and bade him come directly to him with his men ; for by so doing he would act with propriety, and perform his duty to his relatives ; that he was fully of the belief that I had controlled him by force ; these and other things were contained in the letter of Narvaez to Captain Juan Velazquez. That officer, however, feeling that the service of your Majesty was of stronger obligation, not only refused to accept the offers of Narvaez, but immediately set out, after having despatched the letter to me, and came to join me with all his force.
Afterwards I informed myself by this priest and the others with him respecting many things, especially of the intentions of Diego Velazquez and Narvaez ; that they had been induced to despatch this expedition against me on account of my having sent a report of my operations and of the country to your Majesty instead of Diego Velasquez, and that they had come with a deadly purpose to destroy me and many of those under my command, –whom they had already marked as their intended victims. I also ascertained that the Licentiate Figueroa, President of the Royal Audience in the island of Española, and the judges and officials of your Highness residing there, when it came to their knowledge that the said Diego Velasquez had got ready a fleet for this avowed purpose, and it being apparent to them that the consequences would be injurious to your Majesty’s service, despatched the Licentiate Lucas Vazquez de Ayllon, one of their number, with an order from them, requiring and commanding Diego Velazquez to stop the sailing of the expedition. On his arrival Ayllon found Diego Velasquez with all his fleet at the extreme point of the island Fernandina, ready to set sail, when he immediately required both the commander and all those engaged with him to desist from the enterprise, as injurious to the service of your Highness, imposing heavy penalties in case of disobedience; notwithstanding which, and in open violation of the requisitions and orders of the Licentiate, the fleet had been despatched by Velasquez. Thinking to be able to avert the mischief likely to be the result of this expedition, the evil design of which was well known to him and others, Ayllon had also embarked and arrived with it.54.
I sent this priest with a letter to Narvaez, in which I informed him I had learned by the priest and those who had come with him, that he had the command of the force which had arrived in the ships, whereat I was much pleased, since otherwise I might have supposed the expedition an unfriendly one, as the messengers despatched by me had not returned; nevertheless I was surprised, that, as he knew I was here in the service of your Highness, he had not written or sent a messenger, apprising me of his arrival; especially when he knew that the information must afford me pleasure, as well on account of our old friendship, as from the circumstance that he came in the service of your Highness, which I was most desirous of promoting; but, on the contrary, had sent secret agents with bribes to induce the men under my command, and in the service of your Majesty, to throw off their allegiance and join him, as if we were
infidels, and they Christians, or they vassals of your Highness, and we traitors. I therefore begged him that henceforth he would take no steps before he had informed me of the cause of his coming. I added that I had heard he was entitled Captain General and Lieutenant Governor by Diego Velazquez, and that he had caused himself to be so proclaimed on his arrival in this country ; that he had constituted alcaldes and regidores, and administered justice, which proceedings were injurious to your Highness’ service, and in violation of all the laws ; since this country, appertaining to your Majesty, and being settled by your subjects, possessed a judicial tribunal for the administration of justice, and that he ought not to assume those duties without being first acknowledged by the people, even if he had brought the commands of your Majesty. And I begged and required of him that if he had brought any such orders he should present them to me, and to the municipal authorities of Vera Cruz ; when they would be obeyed both by them and me, as the commands of our king and natural lord, and duly executed so far as conduced to your Majesty’s royal service. For I was in the great city, and held the sovereign a prisoner in it; I also had in my possession a large amount of gold and jewels, belonging to your Highness, as well as to myself and my companions, which I dared not leave, lest on my departure from the city the people should rebel, and I should lose all the gold and jewels, and the city itself; especially since if I lost the city, I should also lose possession of the whole country.
I also gave the same priest a letter for the Licentiate Ayllon ; who, as I afterwards learned, when the priest arrived at the port, had been arrested by Narvaez, and I also gave the same priest a letter for the Licentiate Ayllon ; who, as I afterwards learned, when the priest arrived at the port, had been arrested by Narvaez, and sent back a prisoner, two vessels having been employed for that purpose.56.
The day on which the priest departed there came a messenger from the people at Vera Cruz, who brought me intelligence that all the natives of the country had risen in rebellion, and joined Narvaez, especially those of the city of Cempoal and its dependencies ; and that not one of them could be induced to perform any service in the town, either in the garrison or otherwise, because, as they said, Narvaez had told them I was a traitor, and that he had come to seize me and all my companions, but that having taken us prisoners he should leave the country. They added, that Narvaez had a large force, while mine was but small; that he had many horses and a great deal of artillery, while I had little of either; and that their motto was, ” viva quien vence” long live the victorious! I was also informed by the same messenger that, according to the report of the Indians, Narvaez was about to occupy the city of Cempoal with his army, and having already informed himself of its distance from Vera Cruz, the people of that place believed, from the accounts they had received of his wicked purposes, that he intended to attack them, aided by the Indians of Cempoal, and they gave me to understand that they should abandon the town rather than contend with him, and to avoid reproach take refuge in the mountains under the protection of a chief who is a vassal of your Highness and a friend to us; there they intended to remain until I sent them directions what to do.57.
As I perceived the great mischief that was about to result from this matter, and as the country had risen in support of Narvaez, it appeared to me, that by going myself where he was, I should be able to quell the movement; since, when the Indians saw me in person they would not dare to show symptoms of disaffection. I also thought that I might bring about an arrangement with Narvaez, by which so great a cause of scandal as had arisen might be of effectually checked. Therefore I set out on the same day, leaving the garrison well supplied with maize and water, and containing five hundred men with several pieces of cannon. Taking the rest of the people that I had there, about seventy in number, I pursued my journey, accompanied by some of the principal personages of the court of Muteczuma ; to the latter, before I left, I had much to say, and amongst other things, that he should reflect that he was a vassal of your highness, and that he was now about to receive from your Majesty a reward for the services he had rendered; and that I left entrusted to his care a number of my Spaniards, together with all the gold and jewels which he had given me in compliance with the orders of your Highness; that I was going to meet the people who had arrived in the country, to ascertain who they were, as I had not yet been informed, but believed they must be bad men, and not vassals of your Highness.” He then promised to supply whatever was necessary, and to take good care of what I had left belonging to your Majesty; and added that his people who accompanied me would take me by a route that led entirely within his territory, and would provide every thing I might want; begging me to inform him if we met with any troublesome persons on the road, that he might immediately despatch a sufficient force to attack and drive them away. All this I listened to with pleasure, and declared that, in consideration of these services, your Highness would command me to bestow on him great
rewards; and I gave many jewels and much cotton cloth to him and his son, and to several caciques who were then with him.58.
In the city called Chururtecal, [Cholula,] I met with Juan Velazquez, the captain whom, as I have already mentioned, I sent to Ctlacuacalco, who was returning with all his people; some of them, being indisposed, I sent to the city, and with the captain and the rest of the party I continued my route. Fifteen leagues beyond the city of Chururtecal, I fell in with a religious padre of my company, whom I had sent to the port to ascertain what people had arrived there in the fleet. He brought me a letter from Narvaez, in which he stated that he had brought a commission to take possession of the country for Diego Velazquez ; that I must instantly repair to the place where he was, for the purpose of yielding obedience thereto ; and that he had established there a town with alcaldes and regidores for its government. I also learned from the same priest that they had taken the Licentiate Ayllon, and his secretary and alguazil, and sent them away in two ships; that they had offered him money with which he might induce some of my people to pass over to the service of Narvaez ; and had caused a review to take place before him and certain Indians that were with him, of their whole force, both foot and horse, discharging the artillery pieces on board the ships and on shore in order to strike terror into them, saying to the priest: “See, how can you stand against us if you do not act according to our wishes ?” He also told me that there was a native cacique with Narvaez, who was a vassal of Muteczuma, being the governor over all his territory along the sea-coast; and he knew that this man had addressed Narvaez on behalf of Muteczuma, and given him some trinkets of gold ; and that Narvaez had in return made him certain small presents. He also stated that Narvaez had despatched messengers from thence to Muteczuma, saying that he would set him at liberty, and would seize me and all my companions, and immediately depart and abandon the country; and that he was not in quest of gold, but only sought to make prisoners of me and my men; after effecting which he should leave his dominions and his people in perfect freedom. Finally, I ascertained that it was his intention to assume jurisdiction over the country without seeking any public acknowledgment of his authority ; and that in case I and those of my party did not choose to recognize him as our commander and judge in the name of Diego Velazquez, he would march against us for the purpose of exterminating us by war; to which end he had formed an alliance with the natives of the country, especially with Muteczuma by means of his messengers.
When I saw so manifestly the great extent of injury that would ensue to your Majesty’s service from the measures taken by this person, especially on being informed of the great force he had brought with him, and of his orders from Diego Velazquez to hang me and certain of my companions, who were marked for this fate, as soon as he should get us into his power–I did not hesitate to approach him, with the belief that I could make him understand the great disservice he was doing your Highness, and divert him from the mad design and injurious purpose with which he had come. I thus pursued my course, and when fifteen leagues distant from the city of Cempoal, in which Narvaez was encamped, there came to me the priest already men
tioned, who had been previously sent to me from Vera Cruz, (by whom I had written to Narvaez and the Licentiate Ayllon,) together with another priest, and one Andrew de Duero, an inhabitant of the island of Fernandina, who had also arrived with Narvaez ; who, in answer to my letter, informed me, on the part of Narvaez, that I must yield obedience to him as my commander, and deliver the country into his power, as otherwise I should suffer great injury, Narvaez having a large force, and I only a small one; that besides the many Spanish troops he had with him, most of the people of the country were in his favor; and that if I would give him possession of the country, he would surrender the ships to me, and all the provisions I might require, and allow me and all who wished to leave with me, to embark, taking every thing that we wished to carry away, without interposing the slightest obstacle in any respect. And one of the priests informed me that Diego Velazquez had authorized them to make this arrangement with me, having for this purpose given to Narvaez and the two priests a joint commission, so that they could adjust matters as I might please.60.
I answered them that I had seen no orders from your Highness directing me to deliver up the country, and that if Narvaez had brought any, he should present them to me, and to the proper tribunal of Vera Cruz, according to the regulations and customs of Spain, where I would. repair in readiness to obey them ; but that until this was done, no inducement of interest or favor would prevail upon me to comply with his wishes; that I and my companions would rather die in defence of the country which we had gained, and possessed in a secure and tranquil state, and that we could not turn traitors, or forfeit our loyalty to our sovereign. Many other considerations influenced the to decline their proposals, and I dedared that I would listen to nothing but an order from your Highness, imposing the duty upon me–which they never chose to show me. In conclusion, these priests, Andrew de Duero, and myself agreed, that Narvaez, attended by ten persons, and I with as many others, should have a peaceable interview, when he should make known to me his instructions, if he had brought any, to which I should give my answer; for this purpose I, on my part, sent a passport signed by myself, and he likewise gave me another in return, subscribed with his name; which, however, as it seemed to me, he had no idea of observing; for it was planned that the interview should be so arranged as to enable them. to despatch me at once; and two of the ten persons who were to come with him, were selected to execute this purpose, while the others were to engage with my attendants. Thus they said if I was killed, the object would be accomplished; as in truth it would have been, if God, who interposes in such cases, had not thwarted the design by granting me certain notice of it at the same time that the pass was brought to me. This plot being discovered, I wrote a letter to Narvaez, and another to the three commissioners, in which I stated to them that I had learned their treacherous design, and refused to have the interview in the manner agreed upon.
Immediately after this occurrence, I sent certain requisitions and orders to Narvaez, demanding of him that, if he had brought any orders from your Highness, he should give me notice of them, and that until he did so he must not assume the title of commander or magistrate, nor intermeddle with any of the duties connected with those offices, under a certain penalty which I imposed upon him. I likewise, in the same manner, commanded all persons who were with Narvaez, that they should not treat, nor obey, the said Narvaez as captain or magistrate ; but on the other hand, that within a certain time which I indicated in the order, they should appear before me, that I might be able to instruct them what they should do in the service of your Highness; declaring, that if they did otherwise, I would proceed against them as traitors and perfidious subjects in rebellion against their king, and plotting to usurp his lands and dominions, to give them to persons to whom they did not belong, and who were destitute of all claim and just right thereto. And that to carry this order into execution, in case they did not appear before me, nor perform what was enjoined in said order, I should proceed to arrest and imprison them conformably to the law.62.
As an answer to my proceedings, Narvaez caused the notary and one other person by whom I had sent my notices, to be apprehended, together with several Indian, who had gone with them, all of whom were detained until another messenger arrived from me, to inquire what had become of the others. He then caused all his force to pass in review before them, and uttered threats against them and me, if we did not deliver up the land. Seeing this, and that there was no way in which I could avoid so great a calamity, and that the natives of the country were becoming restless, and growing more so from day to day, commending myself to God, and disregarding all fear of the loss that might ensue–reflecting that if I died in the service of my king, and in the defence and protection of his dominions, to prevent their being usurped, sufficient glory would accrue to me and my companions –I gave orders to Gonzalo de Sandoval, alguazil mayor, to arrest the said Narvaez and those persons who styled themselves alcaldes and regidores ; and for this purpose I placed eighty men under his command to proceed with him to make the arrest; taking myself one hundred and seventy others, (the whole number being two hundred and fifty,) without artillery or horse, but on foot, I followed the alguazil mayor to support him, in case the said Narvaez and the rest should choose to resist the execution of his process.63.
On the same day that the alguazil mayor and myself arrived with our party near the city of Cempoal, where Narvaez had quartered his army, he received information of our approach, and sallied out with eighty horse and five hundred foot, leaving the rest of his force within their quarters in the great temple of the city, which was strongly fortified. Having marched out within a league of the place where we were, and not finding us, he concluded that the Indians who had given the alarm had deceived him, and returned to the city, taking the precaution to have his whole force in readiness, and posting two men about a league from the city to give notice of our approach. As I was desirous of avoiding as much as possible all offensive appearances, it seemed to me that it would be best to go by night, without being discovered, if practicable, directly to the quarters of Narvaez, (with the situation of which we were all well acquainted,) and seize him at once ; for I thought that as soon as he was taken prisoner there would be no further trouble. The others with him would then yield obedience to the laws, especially those who had been forcibly pressed into the service by Diego Velazquez, or threatened by him with the loss of their Indian slaves in the Island of Fernandina.64.
On Easter day, a little after midnight, I marched for the quarters of Narvaez, and before I met with the men he had posted outside of the city, the scouts I had sent forward took one of them prisoner, but the other made his escape; from the former I received information of the state of things in the city. I then hastened as much as possible to prevent the one who had escaped from arriving before me, and giving notice of my approach; but notwithstanding my exertions, he was half an hour in advance of me. When I reached the city Narvaez had all his men in full armor, and the horses caparisoned, in complete readiness, and two hundred men guarded every square. We moved so silently that when we were at last discovered, and the alarm was given, I had entered the square in which were the quarters occupied by the whole army, and had taken possession of three or four towers, besides the other strong buildings that stood in the square. In one of these towers where Narvaez was quartered, the staircase was defended by nineteen matchlocks ; but we mounted it with such rapidity that they had not time to put fire to more than one of the pieces, which, it pleased God, did not go off, nor occasion any injury. So our men ascended the tower until they reached the apartment of Narvaez, where he and about fifty of his men fought with the alguazil mayor and the rest that had gone up, and although the latter called upon them many times to surrender to your Highness, they refused until the building was set on fire, when they at last gave in.65.
While the alguazil mayor was employed in taking Narvaez, I with the rest of our force, who came to their assistance, guarded the ascent of the tower, and caused the artillery to be seized and used for our defence. Thus
without the loss of more than two men, who were killed by the discharge of a gun, all those that we wished to arrest were taken, and the rest deprived of their arms, promising obedience to your Majesty’s officers of justice; declaring that until then they had been deceived, having been told that Narvaez had orders from your Majesty, and that I had been guilty of rebellion in this country, and was a traitor to your Majesty, together with many other things of a similar character. As soon as they learned the truth, and understood the bad motives and ruinous purposes of Diego Velazquez and Narvaez, they were struck with the wickedness of the plot, and all expressed their joy that God had seen fit to bring it to an
end. And I assure your Majesty that if God had not mysteriously interposed, and the victory had been on the side of Narvaez, there would have been a greater destruction of life than has taken place among Spaniards for a long period in proportion to the numbers engaged. He would have without doubt executed the design that he had formed, and which Diego Velazquez had commanded, which was to hang me and many of my companions, so that no one would have survived to call them to account. I was afterwards informed by the Indians, that they had reflected in case I was taken by Narvaez, as he had assured them would happen, that it could not be done without serious loss to both parties, and that many Spaniards would fall on both sides. In the mean time they resolved to destroy the men I had left in the city of Mexico, whom they had accordingly attacked. And they intended afterwards to make a united assault on all that remained in the country, so that they and their lands might be set free, and the memory of the Spaniards consigned to oblivion. Your Highness may be assured that
if they had accomplished their design, it would have required more than twenty years to subdue and recover a country, which is now already ours and peaceably secured.66.
Two days after the capture of Narvaez–as it was impossible to support so many people in that city, especially as it was already in part destroyed by Narvaez and his party, who had plundered it, the inhabitants having fled, leaving their houses desolate–I despatched two captains each with two hundred men, the one to build a town in the port of Cuicicacalco [Guazacualco], where I had before sent a party for the same purpose, as I have informed your Highness ; and the other to a certain river, which the ships of Francisco de Garay were said to have visited, that I might take secure possession of it. I also sent two hundred men to Vera Cruz, where I caused the ships to proceed in which Narvaez had arrived.67.
I REMAINED at Cempoal with the rest of the men to provide for the interests of your Majesty. I also despatched a messenger to the city of Temixtitan, by whom I made known to the Spaniards I had left there the success of my enterprise. This messenger returned from thence in twelve days, and brought me letters from the alcalde whom I had left in authority, in which he informed me that the Indians had attacked the garrison on all sides, and set fire to it in many places ; that they had sunk mines about it, placing our people in imminent danger; all of whom would perish, unless Muteczuma should command the hostile operations to cease; that at the present moment they were closely invested, and although the fighting had been discontinued, yet no one was suffered to go two steps from the garrison. It was added, that a great part of their supplies had been forcibly seized, and that the enemy had burned the four brigantines I had built there ; and finally, that our people were in extreme distress, and begged me to come to their aid with the greatest possible haste. Seeing to what extremities they were reduced, and that if I did not instantly fly to their relief, not only would their lives be sacrificed, together with all the gold, silver, and jewels, of which we had become possessed, as well the portion appertaining to your Highness, as that assigned to the army and myself; but that it would also involve the loss of the greatest and noblest city in the whole new world, and with it every thing we had gained, since was the chief seat of the empire, to which all the rest yielded obedience–I therefore forthwith despatched messengers to the officers I had sent away with parties of men, informing them what I had heard from the capital, and directing that wherever they might be, they should turn about at once, and make their way back by the shortest possible route to Tlascaltecal, where I would join them with all the artillery in my power and with seventy horse; and when they had arrived, on reviewing my force, I found it consisted of seventy horse and five hundred foot. With these troops I departed in the greatest haste for the capital; on the whole route, not a single person owing allegiance to Muteezuma came out to receive me, as was the case on former occasions ; the entire country seeming to have lost its population on account of some disaster. AIy suspicions were excited by this appearance of things ; I feared that our countrymen who were left in the city had all been murdered, and that the people of the country had assembled in one mass, waiting to attack me in some narrow pass, where they might have the advantage of me.68.
Under these apprehensions I proceeded with great precaution until I reached the city of Tesnacan, [Tescuco,.] which, as I have already informed your Majesty, lies on the coast of that great lake. Here I inquired of some of the people concerning the Spaniards who were left in the capital, and I learned that they were alive. I then bade them bring me a canoe, as I wished to despatch one of my men to ascertain the truth, and that in the mean while, during his absence, they should leave with me one of their citizens who appeared to exercise some authority, as the principal men of the place whom I had seen on former occasions had all disappeared. This person
caused a canoe to be brought, and sent several Indians to accompany my messenger, while he himself remained with me.
When the messenger was about departing for the city of Temixtitan, he perceived another canoe crossing the lake, and waited until it had reached the shore; in this came one of the Spaniards who had been left in the city, from whom I learned that they were all living, except five or six who had been killed by the Indians. The rest were still closely– confined to their quarters, which they were not allowed to leave for a moment, and were not even supplied with the necessaries of life except at a very high price. But since they had heard of my approach to the city, their treatment had improved, and Muteczuma said that he only waited for my arrival to give them permission to go about the city as usual. In company with this Spaniard came also a messenger from Muteczuma, who sent me word that he presumed I knew what had occurred in the city, and feared I should be deeply incensed against him, and return with the intention of making him suffer for what had been done; but he begged me to entertain no such feelings towards him, as he regretted as much as I did the occurrences in question, which had taken place without his agency or consent. He also said many other things to appease my anger, and desired me to return to my quarters in the city as before, promising to execute my commands in every respect as he had been wont to do. I answered his message by saying that I should return without taking offence against him for what had happened, as I was fully aware of his friendly feelings, and should do as he requested.70.
On the following day, which was the eve of St. John the Baptist, I proceeded on my route, and at night lodged three leagues from the great city. The next day after hearing mass I resumed the march, and about noon entered the city; seeing but few persons, and observing the gates removed from the cross streets, I did not like the appearance of things, although I thought that the people were alarmed at what had taken place, and that when I should be re-established in the city all would be quiet again. I marched directly to the fortress, in which, and in the great temple adjoining it, all my troops were quartered; those in the fortress received us with as great joy as if we had restored their lives to them, which they had already considered as lost; and we passed that day and the following night in extreme joy, believing that peace had again returned.71.
The next day, after mass, I sent a messenger to the town of Vera Cruz, to carry the good news that the Christians were alive, and that I had entered the city, which was quiet. The messenger returned in half an hour after his departure, covered with bruises and injuries, crying aloud that all the Indians of the city were in arms, and that they had raised the bridges; and soon after an attack was made upon us by so great a multitude of people on all sides, that neither the streets nor the roofs of the houses were visible, on account of the crowd, from whom proceeded the most violent outcries and terrible shouts that could be conceived. Stones thrown, by slings fell in such numbers upon the garrison that it seemed as if they came down like rain from the clouds; and darts and arrows were so thick that the houses and squares were filled with them, and almost prevented our walking about. I sallied forth at two or three different points, where they were engaged stoutly with our men ; and at one time, when a captain had led forth 200 men, they fell upon them before he had time to form them in order, and killed four of their number,
besides wounding the captain and several others. I was also wounded, and many of the Spaniards who were with me engaged in another quarter. We destroyed few of the enemy, because they took refuge beyond the bridges, and did us much injury from the roofs of houses and terraces, some of which fell into our possession and were burned. But they were so numerous and strong, and so well defended and supplied with stones and other arms, that our whole force was not sufficient to take them, nor to prevent the enemy from attacking us at their pleasure.
The attack on the fortress or garrison was made with such violence that they succeeded in setting fire to several parts of it, and a considerable portion of it was burned without our being able to prevent it, until we cut away the walls and levelled a portion of the building with the ground, by which we obstructed the progress of the fire, and extinguished it. And had it not been for the great caution that I used in posting musketeers, archers, and several pieces of artillery, they would have scaled our walls in broad daylight without our being able to resist them. Thus we fought all that day until the darkness of night enveloped us, and even then they continued to assail us with noises and alarms till daylight. That night I directed the breaches caused by the fire to be repaired, together with all other parts of the garrison that seemed to require it; and I arranged the quarters, determining who were to remain in them the neat day, and who were to be engaged without; at the same time I caused suitable care to be taken of the wounded, who amounted to more than eighty in number.73.
As soon as it was daylight, the enemy renewed the combat with still greater vigor than the day before, for the number of them was so immense that there was no need of levelling the guns, but only to direct them against the mass of Indians. And although the fire-arms did much injury, for we played off thirteen arquebuses besides matchlocks and crossbows, they produced so little impression that their effect scarcely seemed to be felt ; since where a discharge cut down ten or twelve men, the ranks were instantly closed up by additional numbers, and no apparent loss was perceived. Leaving in the garrison a sufficient force for its defence, and as large as I could spare, I sallied forth with the rest, and took from the enemy several bridges, setting fire to a number of houses and destroying the people who defended them ; but they were so numerous, that although we did them much injury, the effect was still imperceptible. Our men were compelled to fight all day long without cessation, while the enemy were relieved at intervals by fresh forces, and still had a superabundance of men. But we had none of our Spanish force killed on this day, although fifty or sixty were wounded, and we continued the contest till night, when we withdrew wearied into the garrison.74.
Seeing the great mischief done us by the enemy in wounding and slaying our people, while they were either unharmed, or if we caused them any loss, it was immediately repaired by their great numbers, we spent all that night and the next day in constructing three engines of timber, each of which would contain twenty men,
covered with thick plank to protect them from the stones that were thrown from the terraces of houses. The persons to be conveyed in the machines were musketeers and archers, together with others provided with spades, pickaxes, and bars of iron, to demolish the barricades erected in the streets, and pull down the houses. While we were building these machines, the enemy did not cease their attacks ; and so resolute were they, that when we sallied forth from our quarters, they attempted to enter them, and we had trouble enough to resist their progress. Muteczuma, who was still a prisoner, (together with his son and many other persons of distinction, who had been secured at the beginning of operations,) now came forward and requested to be taken to the terrace of the garrison, that he might speak to the leaders of his people and induce them to discontinue the contest. I caused him to be taken up, and when he reached a battlement projecting from the fortress, and sought an opportunity to address the people who were fighting in that quarter, a stone thrown by some one of his own subjects struck him on the head with so much force that he died in three days after. I then gave his dead body to two Indians who were amongst the prisoners, and taking it upon their shoulders, they bore it away to his people; what afterwards became of it I know not. The war, however, did not cease, but increased in violence and desperation every day.
On the same day a cry was heard in the quarter where Muteczuma had been wounded, some of the enemy calling to me to approach there, as certain of their captains wished to confer with me. I accordingly did so, and we passed amongst them ; when after a long parley I asked them to discontinue their attacks, since they had no good reason for it, having received many benefits from me, and having always been treated well. Their answer was, that I must depart and leave the country, when the war would immediately cease; otherwise they were
all resolved to die, or to destroy us. This they did, as it appeared, to induce me to leave the fortress, that they might cut us off at pleasure on our departure from the
city, when we were between the bridges. I answered them that they need not suppose I asked for peace from fear, but that I was pained to be under the necessity of injuring them, and destroying so fine a city as
theirs. They replied that they should not cease their attacks until I departed from the city.
After the engines were completed, immediately on the following day, I sallied forth to gain possession of certain terraces and bridges; and placing the engines in front they were followed by four pieces of artillery, with many bowmen and shield bearers, and more than three thousand native Tlascalans, who had come with me as auxiliaries, subordinate to the Spanish troops. Having reached a bridge, we brought the engines near to the walls of the terraces, together with scaling ladders, by means of which we ascended them. But the multitude of people was so great that defended the bridge and the terraces, and such showers of heavy stones were thrown from above, that the movements of the engines were disconcerted, and a Spaniard killed and many others wounded, without our being able to make any progress, although we struggled hard for it, and fought from morning till mid-day, when we returned sad enough to our quarters.77.
The enemy were so much encouraged by this unsuccessful movement on our part, that they advanced almost to our doors, and took possession of the great temple, to the loftiest and most considerable tower of which nearly five hundred Indians, apparently persons of rank, ascended, taking with them a large supply of bread, water and other provisions, and a great quantity of stones. Most of them were armed with lances of large size, having points formed of flint, broader and not less sharp than ours; and from this position they did much mischief to the people in the garrison, as it was very near. The Spanish soldiers attacked this tower two or three times, and attempted to ascend it; but it was very lofty, and the passage up difficult on account of its having more than a hundred steps, and those above were well supplied with stones and other means of defence, and favored by our not having succeeded in gaining possession of the neighboring terraces ; in consequence of these circumstances, every time our soldiers attempted the ascent, they came rolling down, many of them severely wounded, and the other portions of the enemy’s force seeing this, took courage and penetrated to the very garrison without fear. Being sensible that if they continued their assaults while in possession of the tower, besides doing us much harm, they would be encouraged in the prosecution of the war, I sallied forth from the garrison, although lame in my left hand from a wound I had received in the engagement on the first day; and having tied a shield to my arm, I advanced to the tower, attended by a number of Spanish soldiers, and caused it to be surrounded at its base by a sufficient number of men, as was quite practicable. This precaution was not a useless one, as the troops stationed around the tower were attacked on all sides by the enemy, who increased in numbers to favor those within ; in the mean time I began to ascend the stairs, followed by certain Spaniards. While they who were above disputed the ascent with great courage, and even overturned three or four of my followers, by the aid of God and his glorious Mother, for whose house this tower had been designated, and whose image had been placed in it, we succeeded in ascending, and engaged with the enemy on the upper area, until I compelled them to leap down to a lower terrace that surrounded it, one pace in width. Of three terraces the tower had three or four, about sixteen feet one aboye the other. Some of the enemy fell to the very bottom, who, besides the injury received from the fall, were slain by the Spanish soldiers stationed around the base. Those who remained on the upper terraces fought so desperately that we were more than three hours engaged with them before they were all
despatched ; thus all perished, not one escaping. And your sacred Majesty may be assured, that so arduous was the attempt to take this tower, that if God had not broken their spirits, twenty of them would have been sulficient to resist the ascent of a thousand men, although they fought with the greatest valor, even unto death. I caused this tower and the others within the temple to be burned, from which they had removed the images we had placed in them.
The fierceness of the enemy was somewhat abated by the capture of this position ; and while they relaxed their exertions throughout the city to a considerable degree, I directed my attention to the neighboring terrace, and called to the chiefs who had hefore conferred with me, but were now somewhat dismayed by what they had witnessed. They immediately appeared, when I said to them that they saw their inability to maintain their
ground ; that we should every day do them much injury, destroy many lives, burn and lay waste the city ; and that we should persevere until nothing was left of it or them. They answered, that they were well aware much harm would befal them, and that many of them would lose their lives ; but that they were still determined to make an end of us, even if they should all perish in the attempt ; that I might see how the streets, public squares and terraces were filled with people, woho were so numerous that they had made a calculation that if twenty-five thousand of them should fall to one of ours, we would be first exterminated, so small was our number compartid with theirs ; that all the causeways leading into the city had been destroyed, (which was so far true that only one of them remained,) and thus we had no way of escape but by water; that they knew well we had few provisions and but little fresh water, and that ere long we should perish ,with hunger, even if they
did not kill us. They were, indeed, quite right, in saying that had Nve nothing else to contend with, hunger and
want would soon put an end to our lives. We exchanged many other words, each party sustaining his own side. As soon as it was dark, I sallied forth with a number of Spaniards, and as I found the people were taken by surprise, we obtained possession of one street, in which we burned more than tliree hundred houses. While the enemy were assembling in that quarter in its defence, I speedily turned into another street, where I also burned several houses, especially certain terraces that adjoined our quarters, from which we had experienced much annnyance. Thus the events of that night struck great
terror into the enemy ; and during the same night I caused the engines that had created confusion in our
ranks the day before, to be repaired and got in readiness.79.
In order to follow up the victory God had granted us, I sallied forth at break of day into the same street where they had routed us the day before, and I found the enemy not less prepared for defence than they were on the former occasion. But as our lives and honor were now at stake, and as that street led to a causeway that remained unbroken, extending to the main land, although interrupted by eight bridges very large and high, and the street itself was filled with lofty terraces and towers; we put forth so much resolution and spirit, that, with the aid of our Lord, we secured that day four of the bridges, and burned all of the terraces, houses and towers, as far as the last of these bridges. They had erected during the previous night, on all the bridges, many strong breastworks of unburnt bricks and clay, so that neither the guns nor the crossbows made any impression on them. We filled up the space occupied by the four bridges with the unburnt bricks and the earth from the breastworks, together with a great quantity of stones and timber from the burnt houses, although this was not effected without danger, and many Spaniards were wounded. The same night I used much precaution in guarding the bridges, lest the enemy should succeed in recovering them.80.
The next day in the morning, I made another sally from our quarters, and God gave us again success and victory, although the enemy appeared in great numbers, and defended the bridges, protected by strong entrenchments and ditches which they had formed during the night; we took them all, and covered them up; and some of our horsemen followed at the heels of the fugitives in the heat of victory, and pursued them to the main land. While I was employed in repairing the bridges and filling them up, messengers came to me in great haste, reporting that the enemy had attacked the garrison, and at the same time had sued for peace, several of their leaders being in waiting to see me. I immediately went with two horsemen to see what they wanted. These men assured me that if I would engage not to punish them for what they had done, they would raise the blockade, replace the bridges that had been destroyed, and restore the causeways, and that hereafter they would serve your Majesty as they bad before done. They also requested that I would bring them a priest of theirs whom I had taken prisoner, who was, as it were, the commander-in-chief of their religion. He came and addressed them, and brought about an arrangement between me and them ; and it appeared that they immediately despatched messengers to inform the captains and the people who were in the camp, that the attacks on the garrison and all other offensive operations should cease. Upon this being done we took leave of them, and I went to the garrison to procure some food.81.
While I was beginning to take some refreshment, information was brought me in great haste, that the Indians had attacked the bridges which we had taken the same day, and had killed certain Spaniards. God only knows with what feelings I received this intelligence, since I had thought that we had nothing more to trouble us after having gained the possession of the avenue leading out of the city. I mounted in the greatest possible haste, and galloped the whole length of the street, followed by a few horsemen; and without stopping a moment I dashed in amongst the Indians, put them to flight whilst I regained the bridges, and pursued them to the main land. As the infantry were wearied, wounded and panic-struck, they did not follow me, and I saw the dangerous situation in which I was placed from being unsupported by them. On this account after having passed the bridges, when I sought to return I found them in possession of the enemy, and sunk to a great depth where we had filled them up ; and both sides of the causeway were covered with people, on the land and water, who galled us with stones and arrows to such a degree, that if God had not been pleased to interpose mysteriously in our behalf, it would have been impossible for us to escape thence; and, indeed, it was rumored amongst the people in the city that I was dead. When I reached the last bridge neat the city, I found all the cavalry that had accompanied me fallen in, and one horse without a rider; and as in this situation I could not pass, I rushed alone against the enemy, and thus opened a passage by which the horsemen could extricate themselves. After this I found the bridge free, and passed over, although with some trouble, as I had to leap my horse, in one place, Dearly six feet from one side to the other ; but as I and my horse were well protected by armor, the enemy did us no harm more than to cause our bodies a little pain.82.
Thus the enemy that night came off victorious, having regained possession of four of the bridges. The other four I left well guarded, and returned to the garrison, where I constructed a bridge of timber that could be carried by forty men. Seeing the dangerous situation in which we were now placed, and the very serious injury that the Indians were doing us every day; and fearing that they would also destroy the remaining causeway, as they had done the others, and when that was effected death would be our inevitable fate; and moreover, having been often entreated by all my companions to abandon the place, the greater part of whom were so badly wounded as to be disabled from fighting, I determined to quit the city that night. I took all the gold and jewels belonging to your Majesty that could be removed, and placed them in one apartment, where I delivered it in parcels to the officers of your Highness, whom I had designated for this purpose in the royal name; and I begged and desired the alcaldes, regidores, and all the people, to aid me in removing and preserving this treasure; I gave up my mare to carry as much as she could bear; and I selected certain Spaniards, as well my own servants as others, to accompany the gold and the mare, and the rest the magistrates above mentioned and myself distributed amongst the Spaniards, to be borne by them. Abandoning the garrison, together with much wealth belonging to your Highness, the Spaniards and myself, I went forth as secretly as possible, taking with me a son and two daughters of Muteczuma and Gacamacin, cacique of Aculuacan, with his brother, whom I had appointed in his place, and several other governors of provinces and cities that I had taken prisoners.83.
Arriving at the bridges, (now broken up,) which the Indians had left, the bridge that I carried was thrown over where the first of them had been, without much difficulty, as there was none to offer resistance, except some watchmen who were stationed there, and who uttered so loud cries that before we had arrived at the second an immense multitude of the enemy assailed us, fighting in every direction, both by land and water. I sallied across with great speed, followed by five horsemen and a hundred foot, with whom I passed all the (broken) bridges swimming, and reached the main land. Leaving the people who formed this advance party, I returned to the rear, where I found the troops hotly engaged; it is incalculable bow much our people suffered, as well Spaniards as our Indian allies of Tascaltecal, nearly all of whom perished, together with many native Spaniards and horses, besides the loss of the gold, jewels, cotton cloth, and many other things we bad brought away, including the artillery. Having collected all that were alive, I sent them on before, while with three or four horse and about twenty foot that dared to remain with me, I followed in the rear, incessantly engaged with the Indians, until we at length reached a city called Tacuba, [Tlacopan,] beyond the causeway, after encountering a degree of toil and danger, the extent of which God only knows. As often as I turned against the enemy, I met a shower of arrows and darts and stones, and there being water on both sides, they assailed us without exposing themselves, and without fear; for when we attacked them on the causeway, they immediately leapt into the water, receiving little hurt, except some few, who, when the multitude was so great as to trample upon one another, fell and perished. Thus with great labor and fatigue I brought off all this portion of our force without any of the Spaniards or Indians being wounded or slain, except one of the horse that bad gone with me to the rear, where they fought with no less fury than in front or on the flanks, although the hottest part of the fight was in the extreme rear, where our men were constantly exposed to fresh attacks from the inhabitants of the city.84.
Having reached the city of Tacuba, I found all our people gathered together in the square, not knowing where to go; I gave immediate directions to march into the country, before the inhabitants should collect in greater numbers in the city, and that they should take possession of the terraces, as the enemy would be likely to do us much injury from them. Those who had led the van saying, that they knew not in which direction to leave the city, I bade them remain with the rear, while I took command of the van until I had led them out into the open fields,
where I waited till the rest came up. When the rear arrived, I saw that they had suffered some loss, and that some of the Spaniards and Indians had fallen, and that they had left on the road much gold which the Indians bad seized. I remained there until all our people had
arrived, closely pursued by the enemy. I kept the enemy at bay until the infantry had taken possession of a hill on which there was a tower with a strong building, which they took without suffering any loss, and I maintained my position, not suffering the enemy to advance, until the hill was taken; and God only knows the toil and fatigue with which it was accomplished; for of twenty-four horses that remained to us, there was not one that could move briskly, nor a horseman able to raise his arm, nor a foot soldier unhurt who could make any effort. When they had reached the building, we fortified ourselves in it; and the enemy invested it, remaining till night without allowing us an hour of rest.
In this defeat it was ascertained that one hundred and fifty Spaniards lost their lives, together with forty-five mares and horses, and more than two thousand Indians, our auxiliaries ; amongst the latter were the son and daughters of Muteczuma, and the other caciques whom we had taken prisoner’s. The same night about midnight, thinking that we were not perceived, we sallied forth from the building very secretly, leaving in it many lighted fires, without knowing our route, nor where to go, except that one of the Tascaltecalt Indians who guided us, promised to lead us to his country, if the enemy did
not embarrass the route. But guards had been stationed around who noticed our movements, and gave the alarm to the multitudes of people dwelling in that vicinity, of whom great numbers were collected, who pursued us until day-light, when five horsemen who went before as runners attacked some squadrons of people on the road, and killed a number of them; these fled, supposing that there was a greater number of horse and foot than appeared. When I saw that the number of the enemy was increasing on all sides, I made a disposition of our force, and out of those remaining unhurt I formed squadrons, and placed them in front and rear, and on the flanks; I put the wounded in the centre; and I also arranged the
position of the horse. During the whole of that day we were engaged in fighting in every direction, so that during the whole night and clay we did not advance more than three leagues. It pleased our Lord when the night came to show us a tower and a good house on a hill, where we entrenched ourselves; and that night the eneleft us undisturbed, except that near the dawn of day there was a sudden alarm that only sprung from the
constant apprehension we all had of the multitude of people that was continually at our heels.86.
The next day I set out at one o’clock in the order referred to, watching with great caution my front and réar, and the enemy constantly followed us on both sides of our route, uttering loud cries and calling upon the people of all that region, which is very populous. Our cavalry, although few in number, attacked them, but did them little harm, since, as the country was rough and uneven, they betook themselves to the hills for refuge. In this manner we marched that day around several lakes, until we arrived at a populous place where we expected to have a collision with the people of the town; but when we reached it, we found it deserted, and the people fled to other places in the neighborhood. I remained there that day and the next, as our people, both the wounded and those unhurt, were extremely wearied and exhausted with hunger and thirst; and the horses were also in the same condition; we found there a quantity of maize, which we eat, and took supplies of it, both boiled and roasted, for our march. The next day we resumed our route, still pursued by the enemy, who annoyed us in front and rear, uttering loud cries and making slight attacks on the way. We continued our course, following the guidance of the Indian of Tascaltecal ; in the course of which we were compelled to endure much toil and fatigue, as we often lost our way ; and it was already evening when we arrived at a plain where were several small houses, in which we lodged with little enough to eat. The next day we resumed our march, starting at an early hour of the morning, with the enemy still hanging upon our rear; after some skirmishing, we arrived at a considerable town two leagues distant, on the right of which there were a number of Indians, posted on the summit of a small hill. Thinking to take them prisoners, as they were very near the road, and also to discover if there were any more people behind the hill, I proceeded with five horse and ten or twelve foot to attack them. We discovered that in the rear of the hill there was a large city with many inhabitants, with whom we engaged, until finding the ground somewhat rough and rocky, and the enemy numerous, while our own force was small, we were compelled to fall back on the town, where the army was left encamped. On this occasion I was badly wounded in the head by two stones; and after my wounds had been dressed, I gave orders to leave the
place, as it did not appear to be a safe position. Resuming our route, we were still followed by Indians in considerable numbers, who attacked our troops with such vigor as to wound four or five Spaniards, and as many horses; one horse was killed, and God only knows how great a loss it was to us, and how much sorrow his death occasioned in our ranks, as next to God our greatest security was in our horses. We derived some consolation from the flesh of this animal, which we eat, not leaving even his skin, or any other part of him, so great were our necessities; for since our departure from the great city we had eaten nothing but maize, boiled and roasted ; and even this we were not always fully supplied with, being compelled to subsist in part on wild plants.
Seeing that every day the enemy increased in numbers and vigor, while we were becoming enfeebled, I that night caused the wounded and infirm, whom we had so far carried on the backs and shoulders of the horses, to provide themselves with crutches and other means of assistance, so that they might be able to have support in walking, and the horses and Spanish soldiers be left free to fight the enemy. And it seemed as if the Holy Ghost had enlightened my mind to adopt this precaution, from what occurred on the following day; since, having left our quarters in the morning, and advanced a league and a half on our way, we encountered so great a multitude of Indians that they completely covered the ground in front and rear, and on our flanks, not leaving a single spot unoccupied. They attacked us with such violence on all sides, that they became mingled with our own people, and it was difficult for us to distinguish them from our allies. We thought it certain that our last day was come, so great was the force of the enemy and so feeble our own, exhausted as we were by fatigue, and reduced by hunger, and nearly all of us suffering from wounds. But it pleased the Lord to show his great power and mercy towards us, so that we were enabled to humble the pride and arrogance of our enemies, great numbers of whom perished, including some of their most distinguished men and principal leaders; for the multitude of them was so great that they were in each other’s way, and unable
either to fight or to fly. We were engaged during the greater part of the day, until it pleased God that one should fall who must have been a leading personage
amongst them, as at his death the battle ceased. After this we were somewhat relieved, although still su$éring from hunger, until we reached a small house on a plain,
in which and the fields we lodged that night. From this
spot were descried certain mountains of the province of Tascaltecal, which produced not a little joy in our hearts ; since we recognized the land and knew it was the country where we were going. We were, however, not sure of finding the inhabitants of that province secure and friendly; thinking it possible that on seeing us so reduced, they might desire to put an end to our lives, in order to recover the liberty they had before enjoyed. This idea with our suspicions gave us as much uneasiness as we should have felt in renewing our contests with the Culuans.88.
The following day, as soon as it was light, we resumed our march over a very level road, which led directly to the province of Tascaltecal; a few only of the enemy followed us, although the country around was very populous, and we were still saluted with a hooting noise from the hills at some distance in our rear. On that day, which was Saturday, the 5th of July, [1520,] we passed out of the territory of Culua, and entered that of the province of Tascaltecal, at a place called Gualipan, containing three or four thousand families, where we were well received by the inhabitants, and somewhat refreshed with food and rest, although compelled to pay for the provisions they supplied us with, and they would take nothing but gold in payment, which in our great necessities we were forced to give. I remained in that town three days, during which time Magiscacin and Sicutengal, together with all the other nobles of that province, and some from Guazucingo, came to see and confer with us; all of whom discovered much grief at what had befallen us, and endeavored to console me, saying that they had often told me the people of Culua were traitors, and that I should be on my guard against them, not trusting their professions ; that I ought to rejoice in having escaped with life ; and that they would assist me to the death in obtaining satisfaction for the wrongs we had suffered; to this course theysaid they were impelled not only by their allegiance to your Highness, but also from grief for the loss of many sons and brothers who had perished in my service, and from a sense of many other injuries that they had suffered from the same quarter in times past; and they assured me that I might rely on their proving sure and fast friends to me until death. They added, that since I had returned wounded, and all my company were worn down with toil, we should go to a city four leagues from this town, where we might obtain repose, and they would strive to cure our wounds and recover us from the effects of our fatigue and exhaustion.89.
I expressed myself pleased with their offer and accepted it, making them presents of some little jewels that we had saved, with which they were well satisfied ; and I accompanied them to the city, where we found a good reception. Magiscacin brought me a bed encased in wood, together with some cotton cloth for me to sleep on, as we had brought none, and he did all in his power with the means he possessed to repair all our losses. I had left in this city, when on my march to Temixtitan, several sick persons and some of my servants, with silver, cotton clothing, and other domestic articles, including provisions, (which I then had with me,) in order to be less encumbered on my march, if any obstacles should present themselves, and my papers, including the treaties that I had made with the natives of these parts, should be lost; I had left also the clothing of the Spaniards who accompanied me except what they required for use, together with their bedding. I was informed that another servant of mine had come to this place from the town of Vera Cruz, who brought provisions and other things for me, attended by five horse, and forty-five foot, and had taken away the persons I had left there, together with all the silver, clothing, and other things, both belonging to me and my companions, including 70,000 pesos of molten gold, which I had left there in two chests, besides other jewels, and more than 14,000 pesos of gold in pieces, which had been presented to a certain captain in the province of Tuchitebequa, whom I had sent to establish the town of Cuacucalco, together with many other things, of the value of more than 30,000 pesos of gold ; and that the Indians of Culua had killed them all on the road, and taken away their treasures. I was also informed that many other Spaniards had been destroyed by the same people, while on their way to the city of Temixtitan, supposing that I was in peaceable possession of the city, and that the roads were secure, as I had before found them. On the receipt of this intelligence I assure your Majesty that we were all filled with sorrow, as great as can be conceived ; since besides the loss of the Spaniards and of the treasure, it brought fresh to our minds the death and loss of those of our countrymen who had perished in the city at the bridges and on the road ; and especially it excited our suspicions as to the fate of the people left in the town of Vera Cruz, lest the people who had been friendly, on hearing of our discomfiture, had broken into rebellion. In order to ascertain the truth, I forthwith despatched messengers, accompanied by Indians as guides, to whom I gave directions to avoid the beaten road until they arrived at Vera Cruz, and that they should inform me as soon as possible of the state of things there. It pleased our Lord that they should find the Spaniards well and the natives very quiet in that place. This intelligence made full amends for our losses and troubles ; although to our people there the news of what had befallen us and our overthrow was very painful.
I remained in this province of Tascaltecal twenty days, for the purpose of healing my wounds, which had grown much worse, especially the wound on my head, from want of attention on our march ; and likewise to heal the wounded of my company, some of whom, however, died in consequence both of their wounds and excessive fatigue ; others remained maimed and lame, from the severity of their wounds, and the want of proper attention. I myself lost two fingers from my left hand.91.
My companions–many of whom having perished, and those who survived being broken in spirits, wounded, and disheartened by dangers and the toils they had endured, as well as the prospect of those yet to come, which seemed to be near at hand–often begged me to proceed to Vera Cruz, –where we should have some strength, before the natives, now our friends, should discover our reduced condition and weakness, and confederate with our enemies to deprive us of the ports from which we might depart, attacking us on one side, and the people of Vera Cruz on the other; –while if both our parties were united, having ships too at our command, we should be stronger, and better able to defend ourselves in case they should attack us, while we sent to the islands for aid. But seeing that to exhibit to the natives, especially to our friends, a want of courage, would be a more speedy motive for them to abandon us and take sides against us ; feeling also assured that fortune always favors the brave, and reflecting that we were Christians, trusting in the mercy and goodness of God, who would not suffer us to lose utterly so great and noble a land, that had submitted to your Majesty, and was on the point of being tranquillized ; and being unwilling to relinquish the performance of so great a service as would be rendered by continuing the war until the country was again restored to its former peaceful condition–I determined by no means to go down to the ports on the seaboard, preferring to encounter every toil and danger that could possibly lie in our way. I said to them that I would not abandon this land; for that it appeared to me not only disgraceful to myself and dangerous to all, but as rank treason to your Majesty; and that I was resolved to turn again in pursuit of the enemy wherever I could find him, and assail him by every means in my power.92.
Accordingly, after having been twenty days in this province, although not yet cured of my wounds, and my companions being still languid, I departed from it, and entered another called Tepeaca, which was in alliance with our enemies of Culua. I had received information of ten or twelve Spaniards having been killed in this province while on their way from Vera Cruz to the great city, the road leading through it. The province of Tepeaca has a common boundary with Tascaltecal and Chururtecal, being of wide extent. As we entered the province, a large number of its people sallied forth to meet us, and vigorously fighting defended the passage as much as was in their power, taking their stations in strong and well fortified buildings. But not to enter into particulars of what occurred during this campaign, to avoid prolixity, I will only say, that after having required of them to render obedience to the commands of your Majesty, as the only terms on which peace could be preserved, they refused, and we made war upon them, meeting them in several battles. By the aid of God, and the royal success of your Highness, we constantly defeated them with great slaughter, while throughout the whole war they neither killed nor wounded a single Spaniard. Although, as I have already stated, this province is of great extent, in twenty days I reduced many towns and a large population into subjection. Its nobles and leading men have yielded themselves vassals to your Majesty; and I have besides driven out of it many Culuans who had come to aid the people in making war against us, and to prevent them from becoming our friends, either by force or consent. I have encountered, however, some obstacles in conducting this war, and even now it is not finished, since there are some towns and people left to be reduced, which with the aid of our Lord will soon become like the others, subject to the royal dominion of your Majesty.93.
In a certain part of this province, where the ten Spaniards were killed, as the people are constantly committing hostilities and are very rebellious, yielding to force of arms only, I made a number of slaves, the fifth of whom was assigned to the magistrates of your Highness. Besides having murdered the Spaniards and rebelled against your Majesty, these people eat human flesh, a fact so notorious that I have not taken the trouble to send your Majesty any proof of it. I was also led to make slaves of these people in order to strike terror into the Culuans ; and because there are so many of that kind of people, that if I do not inflict a heavy and severe punishment upon them they will not reform. In this war we were assisted by the natives of the provinces of Tascaltecal, Churultecal, and Guasuzingo, where a confirmed friendship exists with us, and we have good reason to believe that they will always prove loyal vassals to your Majesty.94.
While I was in the province of Tepeaca carrying on this war, I received letters from Vera Cruz, informing me that two ships of Francisco de Garay had arrived at that port in distress; that as it appeared, he had sent more people to the great river of which I gave an account to your Highness, and the natives had attacked them, killing seventeen or eighteen Christians and wounding many more. They had also killed seven horses; and the Spaniards who survived had swam to their ships, having made their escape by being fleet of foot; and the captain and all the rest had arrived disheartened and wounded, who were well received by the officer I had left in command of the town, and had every attention paid to their wounds; but in order that they might have a better opportunity of recovering, he had sent a part of them to the abode of a cacique, a friend of ours, in that neighborhood, where they were well taken care of. All this sad intelligence affected us in a similar manner with our own past sufferings ; and probably this trouble would not have befallen them, had they come to me on a former occasion, as I have already given your Majesty an account. For, as I was well informed of everything in that part of the country, they would have received such advice from me as to have prevented what has occurred; especially as the lord of that river and land, which is called Panuco, had enrolled himself as one of your Majesty’s vassals, in token of which he had sent to me at Temixtitán certain things by his messengers, as I have related. I have written, to Vera Cruz, that if the captain of Francisco de Garay and his people wish to depart, to give them an opportunity, and afford them and their ships in getting away every possible assistance.95.
After having reduced to subjection all that part of the province of Tepeaca which is still held in quiet allegiance to your Highness, the officials of your Majesty and myself consulted much as to the proper mode of governing it so as to promote the security of the province. Seeing that the natives of it, after acknowledging themselves your Majesty’s vassals, had rebelled and put to death the Spaniards, and that they are situated on the road and pass by which all intercourse is carried on between the seaports and the interior; and considering that if this province should be left to itself, as before, the natives of the country and seigniory of Culua, which adjoins them, would strive to seduce and draw them again into rebellion and insurrection, from which great mischief would result, and great obstacles to the security of these parts and the service of your Majesty, that would put an end to the intercourse above mentioned; especially since on the road to the seacoast there are two mountain passes which are rough and unsafe, lying within this province, and easily defended by the inhabitants; and as on this account, as well as for other reasons and causes of great importance, it appeared to us that in order to avoid these evils there ought to be in this province of Tepeaca a town, situated in a favorable location, possessing the necessary qualities for the convenience of its inhabitants; I, for the purpose of carrying this design into effect, in the name of your Majesty, gave to the proposed town the name of Segura de la Frontera, and appointed the alcaldes, regidores and other officials, conformably to the usual custom. And for the better security of the citizens of this town in the place marked out by me, the materials were at once begun to be collected for building a fort, which exist here of a good quality, and the greatest possible despatch was used in the work.96.
While engaged in writing this relation, there came to me several messengers from the lord of a city five leagues distant from this province, called Guacahula, situated at the entrance of a mountain pass, which is on the route from thence to Mexico, who on behalf of that lord said to me, that several days since they would have come to me to render your Majesty the obedience they owed, and to offer themselves as vassals; that I must not blame them by supposing that the failure was with their consent; but they would inform me that several Culuan chiefs were lodged in their city; and in it and a league from it there were thirty thousand men in garrison, guarding that pass to prevent our going through it, and also to prevent the inhabitants of the city and the neighboring provinces from serving your Highness, or being our friends. That they would have come to offer their loyal service if those people had not hindered, and they gave me this information that I might devise a remedy; since, besides the obstacles thrown in the way of their wishes, the citizens and all the neighboring people were greatly injured by this state of things; and as there were many armed men collected, the people were aggrieved and illtreated by them, being deprived of their women, farms, & c.; and I might see they were ready to do whatever I directed, if I only afforded them protection.97.
Immediately after having thanked them for their information and offers, I gave them thirteen horse and two hundred foot, to go with them, together with about thirty thousand of our Indian allies. The plan was to make the attack by surprise, and that when they approached the city, the lord and the natives, and the rest of his vassals and supporters, should be in readiness and surround the quarters in which the officers were lodged, and seize and kill them before the troops could come to their relief; and that when the latter should come, the Spaniards were to be already in the city, and prepared to fight and put them to route. When they had gone, and the Spaniards with them, they all proceeded to the city of Churultecal, and through some part of the province of Guasucingo, bordering upon the territory of Guacachula, within four leagues of it; and it is said the Spaniards were told in a town of the province of Guasucingo, that the inhabitants of that province were leagued with those of Guacachula and Culua, to draw by this artifice the Spaniards into that city, that they might attack them with united forces and destroy them. And as the fear excited by the Culuans in their city and country had not wholly left our men, this information spread consternation among the Spaniards; and the commander I had sent with them made an examination according to the best of his judgment, when they arrested all the chiefs of Guasucingo that were with them, and the messengers from the city of Guacachula, and returned with them as prisoners to the city of Churultecal, four leagues from that place ; and from thence they sent to me all the prisoners, attended by several horse and foot, with
the evidence they had of their plans. The captain also wrote me that our men were alarmed, as it appeared to them the affair would be one of great difficulty. As soon as the prisoners had arrived, I spoke to them by interpreters, and having used the greatest diligence to ascertain the truth, it seemed to me that the captain had misunderstood them. I therefore caused them to be set at liberty, and satisfied them that I fully believed them to be loyal vassals of your sacred Majesty, and that I would go in person to rout the Culuans ; and in order to exhibit
no weakness or fear to the natives of the country, as well friends as enemies, it seemed to me necessary that the enterprise which bad been commenced should not be abandoned. That I might relieve the Spaniards of their fears, I determined to lay aside business and the writing of my despatch to your Majesty, in which I was engaged, and immediately set out, in the greatest possible haste, and arrived the same day at the city of Churultecal, eight leagues from this place, where I found the Spaniards, who all declared that there was no doubt of the treason.98.
The next day I went to sleep at the town of Guasucingo, where the chiefs had been arrested. The day following, after having arranged matters with the messengers of Guacachula at what points we should enter the city, I set out for it one hour before day-break, and arrived near it at about ten o’clock. When half a league distant, there came along the road certain messengers from the city, and informed me that every thing had been provided and was in readiness, and that the Culuans knew nothing of our coming, as the spies they had placed on the road had been taken by the natives of the city ; and that they had also taken others whom the Culuan commanders had sent to visit the enclosures and towers of the city, that they might survey the field ; and thus the enemy were all quite off their guard, supposing that they were sufficiently protected from surprise by their sentinels and scouts; so that my arrival would not be perceived. Thus I made great haste in going to the city without being discovered, although I had to pass over a plain from which they might easily see us. Accordingly it appeared that we were discovered by our friends in the city, as we were so near, who immediately ran to the quarters of the Culuan captains, and began to attack the others scattered about the city. When I had arrived within arrow-shot of the city, they had already made about forty prisoners, and I hastened to enter it. A very loud noise was heard throughout the streets of the place, which arose from the combat going on. Guided by a native of the city, I reached the quarters of the captains, which I found surrounded by more than three thousand men, fighting to enter the door. They had taken the upper stories and the terraces, but the captains and those with them fought so stoutly and vigorously, that the assailants could not force an entrance, although the former were few in number; because, besides the valor with which they fought, the building itself was very strong. As soon as I arrived, we entered, and so many of the citizens rushed in that I could not prevent the immediate death of the captains; for I wished to save the lives of some of them in order to obtain information of the affairs of the great city, and who had succeeded Muteczuma after his death, & c.; I rescued only one, more dead than alive, from whom I learned what I shall hereafter relate.99.
Throughout the city they killed many Culuans who were quartered there; and those who were alive when I entered the place, knowing my arrival, began to fly towards the garrison, many of whom perished in the act of escaping. The tumult was quickly heard and understood by those in the garrison, as it occupied a lofty situation, commanding the whole city and the adjacent plain, so that almost at the same moment those who had fled from the city, and the people who had come to its relief, and to see what was taking place, met of whom there were more than thirty thousand men, the most showy people we had yet seen, for they wore jewels of gold, silver, and feathers; and as the city is large, they began to set fire to it at the quarter where they entered; this soon came to the knowledge of the natives, and I sallied forth with only the horse, as the foot were very much fatigued. We rushed upon them, when they drew back into a narrow pass, which we entered, following in their rear, and pursued them up a very rugged declivity; so that when we had reached the top of the elevation, neither the enemy nor ourselves were able to advance or retreat. Many of them fell down dead there from the effects of the heat, without any wounds; and two horses were unable to move, and some died. We did them much injury. Many of our Indian allies came to our assistance, and being fresh, while the enemy were almost dead, they despatched
many of them. In this manner the field was soon cleared of those that survived, although somewhat covered with the dead ; and we reached the barracks they had newly built in the fields, which were divided into three parts, each of which seemed a good sized village; since besides the soldiers they had large retinues of servants and ex,tensive supplies for their camp ; and I afterwards learned that there were many persons of distinction among them. The whole was despoiled and consumed by the Indians, our allies, of whom I assure your Majesty there were assembled more than one hundred thousand men. Having by this victory driven the enemy out of the country, pursuing them until they had passed certain bridges, and narrow defiles, we returned to the city, where we were well received and quartered by the inhabitants;
and we rested three days in that city, having great need of repose.100.
At this time there came to submit themselves to the royal service of your Majesty the numerous population inhabiting the mountainous country, situated two leagues from the place where the enemy had pitched their camp, and at the foot of the mountain from which, as I have mentioned, smoke issues ; this people are called Ocupatuyo. They stated that their cacique had gone away with the Culuans at the time when we pursued them, supposing that we should not stop short of his town; that they had for many days desired my friendship, and would have come to acknowledge themselves vassals of your Majesty, but that the cacique would not permit them, not desiring it himself, although they had
often requested him to allow it. That they now wished to serve your Highness ; and that there was left a brother of the cacique who had always been of their opinion in this matter, and still was so. They therefore requested that he might succeed to the government of the district; and that although the other should return, I should not consent to his being received as cacique, and that they should not so receive him. I answered them, that as they had been until now of the Culuan league and party, and rebels against the service of your Majesty, they deserved a severe punishment, which I had thought of executing on their persons and estates ; but that since they had come forward and declared the cause of their rebellion and insurrection was the cacique who governed them, that I, in the name of your Majesty, pardoned their past errors, and received and admitted them into the royal service; but as soon as I should discover that they
had again erred, they should be surely punished. I added, that if they proved to be loyal subjects of your Highness, they would receive favor and assistance at my hands in the royal name; and they promised accordingly.101.
This city of Guacachula is situated on a plain, bounded on one side by a range of lofty and precipitous mountains; the other sides are bordered by two streams, running through large and deep ravines, two bow-shots distant from one another. The avenues to the city are few in number, and extremely difficult both in the ascent and descent, so that they can hardly be passed on horseback. The whole city is surrounded by a wall of great strength, built of stone and lime, more than twenty feet in height on the outside, and almost even with the ground on the inside. Along the wall there is erected a breastwork or battlement nearly three feet high, to protect them in fighting; and there are four entrances, so broad the one can pass through on horseback. At each entrance there are three or four bends in the extremities of the wall, doubling over, one another; and each of these ]lends of the wall has its breastwork on it for fighting. Throughout the whole circuit of the walls there are heaps of stones, large and small, and of all shapes, for use in combat. The city contains five or six thousand families, and there are as many more in the villages subject to it. The situation is uncommonly fine, and within the city are numerous gardens, filled as usual with fruits and sweet scented herbs102.
After having reposed three or four days in this city, we proceeded to another city, called Izucan, four leagues from Guacachula; for I was informed that there had also been a large number of Culuans in garrison at that place, to whom the city, and several towns and villages adjacent to it, were tributary; and the inhabitants were represented as very friendly to the Culuans, on account of its cacique being a native of Culua, and even a relative of Muteczuma. In my progress thither I was accompanied by so great a multitude of natives, vassals of your Majesty, that they almost covered the fields and hills as far as we could see ; and in truth, there were more than one hundred and twenty thousand men. We arrived over against the city of Izucan at ten o’clock; all the women and feeble persons had been removed from it, but there remained five or six thousand warriors, well equipped. When we had come in front of the place, they attempted to defend it ; but the attempt was soon abandoned, when it was discovered that we had been guided to that side of the city where the entrance was the least difficult. We pursued the enemy through the town, forcing them to leap from the top of the walls, and cross the river that almost encircles the place in its course. They destroyed the bridges in their flight, which circumstance delayed us somewhat in crossing, but we continued the pursuit for a league and a half, and I think few of them escaped who had remained in the city.103.
On returning to the place, I sent two of its inhabitants, who had been made prisoners, to the principal persons, desiring them to return to the city, for the cacique had departed with the Culuans who had occupied the garrison ; and I promised them in your Majesty’s name, that if they became loyal vassals to your Highness, they would henceforth be well treated, and their rebellion and past offences pardoned. The messenger went, and in three days from that time some of the principal citizens came and asked pardon for their error, declaring that they had been unable to avoid doing what they had done, as they were compelled to obey the commands of their lord; and they promised that henceforth, as their lord had gone away and abandoned them, they would truly and loyally serve your Majesty. I assured them of their safety, and bade them return to their houses, and bring back their women and children, who had been carried to other places and towns in alliance with the Culuans; and I directed them to tell the natives of those places to come to me, and I would overlook the past; and that they must not compel me to march against them, as they would suffer great injury, and it would be extremely painful for me to inflict it on them.104.
Accordingly in two days after the inhabitants of Izucan returned to their homes, and all the people subject to them came to acknowledge themselves the vassals of your Highness ; and so all that province remained secure and steady in its allegiance as our allies and those of the people of Guacachula. A question arose as to whom appertained the government of the city and province of Izucán in the absence of the cacique, who had gone to Mexico. It appeared that there had been some controversy and parry division between a natural son of the native lord of the country who had been put to death by Muteczuma, (the former being now in possession of the office, and married to his niece,) and on the other side a grandson of the native lord, a son of his legitimate daughter, the wife of the lord of Guacachula, whose son was thus the grandson of the native lord of Izucan. It was now agreed amongst them that this son of the lord of Guacachula, descended in a legitimate line from the old caciques of the province, should inherit the government; since the other claimant being an illegitimate son was not entitled to the heirship. Homage was accordingly rendered in my presence to Muchacho, (the name of the young prince,) then about ten years of age; and because he was too young to administer the government, his illegitimate uncle and three other principal citizens, one from the city of Guacachula, and the two others of Izucan, were appointed regents, who were also entrusted with the care of Muchacho until he was of an age to govern.105.
The city of Izucan contains about three or four thousand families; its streets and places of trade are well disposed ; it had a hundred temples, and very substantial oratories with towers, all of which were consumed. It stands on a plain sloping from a moderate eminence, on which there is a good fortification ; and on the other side beyond the plain, it is washed by a deep river which runs near the wall; and a ravine, formed by the lofty banks of the river, passes round it. Above the ravine there is constructed a breastwork, completely enclosing the city, about five feet in height, and a great quantity of stones are collected in piles throughout its whole circuit. The city had in its environs a valley, extremely fertile in fruits and in cotton, which does not grow in any of the mountainous tracts on account of the severity of the cold; here the climate is warm, from its being sheltered by the mountains. All this valley is watered by excellent conduits, which are well formed and arranged.106.
I remained in this city until I saw its inhabitants resettled in peace; and while I was there the lord of a city called Guajocingo, and another from another city
ten leagues from Izucan, and on the frontiers of Mexico, also came to offer their homage as vassals of your Majesty. There also came persons from eight towns in the province of Coastoaca [Oaxaca], which is one of which I have made mention before, as having been seen by the Spaniards. I sent to search for gold in the province of Zugula, [Zacatula], where, and in that of Tamazula,o adjoining it, I remarked there was a very large population with houses extremely well built, of better stone than is seen in any of these parts of the country. The province of Coastoaca is forty leagues from Izucan ; and the persons from the eight towns in that province professed allegiance as vassals of your Highness, and stated that four others
that were left behind would soon arrive. They begged that I would pardon them for not having come before, as they were prevented by fear of the Culuans; and they dared that they had never taken up arms against me, nor caused the death of any Spaniard and that since they had submitted themselves to your Highness, they would be your true and loyal vassals to perform your will, although they had not dared to do so before on account of their fear of the Culuans. So that your Highness may be assured that if it please our Lord to grant you success, we shall in a very short period recover what has been lost, or a great part of it, as every day many provinces and cities come to, swear allegiance to your Majesty, who have been subjects of Muctezuma, for they see that those who do this are well received and kindly treated by me, while those who act otherwise are every day destroyed.
From the prisoners taken in the city of Guacachula, ,especially the one that was wounded, I obtained extensive information as to the state of things in the great city of Temixtitan ; in particular, how after the death of Muteczuma, his brother, named Cuetravacin, lord of the city of Iztapalapa, had succeeded him in the government,; since the son of Muteczuma who was the heir to the throne had perished at the bridges, and of his two other sons who had been left by us alive, one was an idiot and the other paralytic. For these reasons the brother had succeeded to the throne, who had already declared war against us, and was esteemed by them a valiant and prudent man. I was also informed that the Mexicans were erecting fortifications both in the city and in other parts of their dominions, and were engaged in preparing walls, subterranean passages, ditches, and different kinds of arms. Of the latter were heavy lances, like pikes, for horsemen, some of which we had already seen in the province of Tepeaca, –where the enemy had fought with them; and also in the farm-houses and buildings in which the Culuans had been quartered in Guacacbula, many of these arms had been found. Of many other things I was likewise informed; but not wishing to be prolix in my accounts to your Majesty, I omit the recital.108.
I despatched to the island of Espanola four ships, to bring immediately horses and men for our relief; and I also sent to purchase four others for the purpose of transporting from the same island and the city of St. Domingo, horses, arms, crossbows and powder, as being the most wanted in this country; for foot soldiers bearing small bucklers are of but little use alone, in the midst of so great multitudes of people, possessing such strong and extensive cities and fortifications. I also wrote to the Licentiate, Rodrigo de Figueroa and the officials of your Highness,
who reside on that island, that they should do all in their power to aid and assist in these things, as it was of so great importance to your Majesty’s service and the security of our persons ; since I intended whenever these succors should arrive to return to the great city and its dominions; and I believed, as I have already said to your Majesty, that I should in a very short time be restored to the condition in which I before was, and recover past losses. In the meantime, I am employed in building twelve brigantines for use on the lakes, and already the decks and other parts of the vessels are in readiness, which are to be transported by land, so as to be put together in a short time immediately on our arrival there, and for the same purpose we are collecting nails, pitch, oakum, sails, oars, and other necessary articles. And I ssure your Majesty that I shall not think of rest until is object is accomplished, nor cease to labor for it in very possible way and manner, to whatever degree of toil, peril, or expense it may expose me.
Two or three days ago I learned by letter from the lieutenant commanding in my place at Vera Cruz, that a small caravel had arrived there with about thirty men, both seamen and landsmen, who report that they had come in quest of the men sent by Francisco de Garay to this country, of whom I have already given your Highness an account, and of their having arrived in great want of provisions, in such distress that if they had not obtained a supply from no, they would have perished with hunger and thirst. I was informed that this. caravel had been to the river Panuco, and had remained there thirty days, without seeing any person in the whole river or land; from whence they inferred that on account of what had occurred, the people had abandoned the country. Those in the caravel also informed me, that two other ships of Francisco de Garay had sailed soon after them, with men and horses, and they believed they must have passed down the coast. It seemed to me that it would promote the service of your Highness to prevent those ships and the men in them from being lost, and to guard against the natives doing them even greater injurythan the former party uninformed as they were of what had occurred in the country; I therefore sent the caravel in search of the two ships, in order to apprize them of what had passed, and advise their coming to Vera Cruz, where was the first captain sent by Francisco de Garay, waiting their arrival, should it please God that they fall in with them, and in time to prevent their landing; since the natives were already on the look out for them, and the Spaniards not being aware of it I had reason to fear would suffer much injury, to the great disservice of God our Lord and your Highness ; for it would be the means of whetting the appetites of those blood-thirsty dogs, and give them resolution and spirit to attack those who should come after.110.
I have already mentioned that I heard of the elevation of a brother of Muteczuma to the government after the death of the latter, and that this prince, who was named Cuetravecin [Cuithahuatzin], was preparing many kinds of arms, and fortifying the great city and other cities around the lakes. I have since learned that Cuetraveein has sent his messengers throughout the land, the provinces, and cities subject to his power, to declare to and assure his vassals, that he will acquit them for one year of all tributes and services that they are bound to pay, and that
they shall be free from giving or paying any thing–provided that, by every means in their power, they wage an exterminating war against all Christians, either killing them, or driving them out of the country ; and that they should treat in the same manner all natives who are our friends and allies. Although I have hope in our Lord that they will not succeed in any respect according to their plan and intentions, I find myself in the most extreme necessity of aiding and succoring the Indians friendly to us; since every day they come from numerous cities, towns, and countries to beg assistance from us against the Indians of Culua, their enemies and ours, who wage war on them because they are in friendship and alliance with us; and I am unable to render aid in
every quarter, as I would wish. But as I have said, should it please our Lord, he will supply our want of strength, and send quickly his own succor, as well as that we have asked for from Española.
Inasmuch as this country so far as I have been able to examine and form an opinion bears a striking resemblance to Spain, as well in the fertility of the soil, as in its extent, and the coolness of its climate, and in many other respects, it seemed to me that the most suitable name that could be given to it was NEW SPAIN of the ocean-sea; and as this name was conferred upon it in the name of your Majesty, I humbly entreat your Highness to confirm and direct that it shall be so called.112.
I have written to your Majesty, although in a poor style, the truth as to all that has transpired in these parts, and whatever it is necessary your Highness should be informed of; and in the other despatch that goes with the present one, I send to beg your royal Excellency to appoint a person of high character to come hither and make inquiry and investigation as to every thing for the information of your sacred Majesty ; in this despatch, likewise, I most humbly entreat the same thing, suite I shall consider it in the light of a distinguished favor, as the means of imparting entire credit to what I write.113.
Most noble and most excellent Prince, may God our Lord preserve the life and very royal person and most powerful state of your sacred Majesty, and grant you for a long period the addition of as many greater kingdoms and dominions as your royal heart may desire. Dated at La Villa de la Frontera of this New Spain, the 30th of October, 1520.114.
From your sacred Majesty’s most humble servant and vassal, who kisses the very royal feet and hands of your Highness.115.
Afterwards, in the month of March following, there came news from New Spain, that the Spaniards had taken the great city of Temixtitan by storm; when a greater number of Indians perished than of Jews in the destruction of Jerusalem by Vespasian, and in it were more people than in that holy city. They found little treasure, because the inhabitants had taken and thrown it into the waters; they obtained only 200,000 pesos, and the Spaniards remained well fortified in the city, of whom there are now in it fifteen hundred foot and five hundred horse; and they have in the field more than one hundred thousand Indians, natives of the country, in their alliance. These are great things and strange, and it is without doubt a new world, which we who live on its borders have an eager desire to see. This news is to April the first, 1522, which we as yet deem worthy of belief.116.
The present Letter or Narrative [Carts de Relation] was printed in the most noble and loyal city of Seville, by Jacob Crombreger, of Germany, on the 8th day of October, 1522.117.