The conquest of Mexico Essay

Published: 2020-02-04 08:42:28
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The conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards is viewed differently by Spanish and Nahua writers. Both sides held different understanding of what conquest means. For the Spaniards, the conquest was a means to an end, for the Nahua, the conquest was viewed in relation to its culture and political views. While the Spaniards believed the conquest to become world-changing, the Tlaxcalan looked on it as a way to improve its altepetls status. Other Indian tribes viewed the conquest as nothing more than the defeat of a particular tribe. The Spaniards were viewed as another altepetl while the Indians lives continued as they were.

The Nahuas fought alongside the Spanish troops and were instrumental in the capture and fall of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. Because of this, the Tlaxcalans, the Nahua tribe who aided the Spaniards, thought of themselves as conquistadors. With the fall of the Aztec Empire, Spanish colonization of Mexico began. Spanish colonizers perceived and recounted the conquest in a different manner compared to the Nahua natives. From the Spanish perspective, the conquest was successful because of their own might, discounting the help provided by the Nahuas.

The Spaniards understood what the conquest would signify between the two worlds. On the individual level, it was a means to self-glorification and exaggeration of the Spaniards capabilities to overcome gravely difficult situations and strategies in battles. For the Nahua, it was a meeting of equals. The Nahuas believed and took pride in their own altepetls or political structure. Their views of themselves affect their sense of loyalty and identity. For them, their own structures were equal or even better compared to everyone elses. Spanish Views Spain sent men to find new lands and expand the countrys kingdom.

Men went on explorations and expeditions not only for the Crown or for the countrys glory. They were willing to risk their lives in the hope of finding self-glorification more than anything else. Based on Spanish traditional writings, exploits of explorers were always exaggerated, often turning native inhabitants into fierce warriors and the Spanish forces into knights in shining armors. The Spanish colonizers who came to Mexico were thinking of furthering their career and strengthening their political positions once the nation became part of Spain.

Hernando Cortes was quick to highlight to the Spanish King how he succeeded in leading his troops to overcome an overwhelming number of Indian warriors. The Spaniards also looked on the Mexican conquest as a world-changing event. They saw cultural, social and political changes that would have to happen to the colony. The economic and religious implications to the Crown were still foremost. With this new land, the Spanish King would have more sources of gold and other resources. The colonizers also understood that their empire could extend to other countries in the Americas.

The implication of conquering an entire continent was very great for the kingdom. Nahua Views The Nahuas views on the conquest of the Spain contrasted with those of the Europeans. For the Tlaxcala, the strongest ally of the Spaniards, it was only a means to increase its altepetls prominence. For others, the Spaniards were just another powerful altepetl who held very little influence outside the areas theyve conquered. Alva Ixtlilxochitl, a native writer, asserts that Spanish colonizers were no supermen. Without the aid of their Indian allies, their presence would have made little impact on the land.

The defeat of the Aztecs was only possible because the Nahuas had chosen to help the Spaniards. According to the author, the first group of Spaniards who came to Mexico were defeated and driven away because they didnt have local people to do the soldiering for them. Hernando Cortes, the author says, was far from directing the assault on the Aztec capital. Rather, he was collaborating with Don Fernando Ixtlilxochitl on tactical and assault matters. Another writer, Diego Munoz Camargo, who expounded on this work the superiority of Tlaxcala altepetl compared to others.

In his view, the Nahua tribe were loyal allies of the Spanish Crown and Church. The native author also skipped the part the Indians played in the Cholula slaughter. The author credits the deed entirely to the Spaniards. The persistent theme of this view is on the Tlaxcalans loyalty to the Spaniards in exchange for privileges and rewards for the tribe after the conquest. Being rational individuals, the Tlaxcalan understood that if the conquest would be successful, their altepetl would find prominence.

Overall, the native writing agreed on two points: that the Nahua tribes accepted Christianity and this acceptance made it possible for Spain to expand its rule; second, the native accounts all viewed Cortes as a person of low morals, cruel, selfish, and a coward, highly contrasting to how the Spanish historians and biographers portrayed Cortes. Understandably, the native writers would feel slighted by the Europeans disregard for their contributions to the Crown. Cortes, on the other, hand could not be expected to share glory with people his king didnt know about.

As for Christianity, Spain had also used this as a means to conquer other lands. Being religious zealots, Spaniards probably believed that they were doing the country more good by weaning them away from their so-called barbaric ways. How Spain Imposed Its Rule The Spaniards were able to completely conquer Mexico partly because of the natives lack of understanding of what conquest means for the Europeans. Their erroneous belief that Spain would limit its influence on the Aztecs became their downfall. Slowly but surely, the Spaniards changed every structure of the country.

They began with integrating with the local customs and systems. At first, Aztec noblemen were allowed to keep their titles and land, practice their customs and continue worshiping their gods. Later on, Spain imposed changes that kept the natives unaware before it was too late. The changes imposed by Spain were largely successful because of the Church. The clergy was instrumental in making the people accept that they were already under the rule of the Spanish King. Because of religion, the Spanish colonizers were able to impose rules over the indigenous peoples of Mexico and turn the country into a Catholic nation.

The Spaniards had to rely on religion to explain and justify their deeds. They were ignorant of the native customs, traditions, and the social and political structures of the indigenous peoples. This ignorance led the Spaniards to belittling the people they sought to subjugate. They called their practices barbaric and viewed the people as uncouth. By believing them inferior to the Spanish people, the colonizers first made the natives accept Christianity and to turn their backs on their uncivilized ways, which means non-European ways for Spaniards. Because of religion, the concept of salvation and civilization took root on the local tribes.

The Spaniards created their own justifications for the atrocities they committed by using religious doctrines. On the natives side, they took the subjugation as part of a changing situation and their destiny.


Nehil, K. Impact of Conquest Writings of Nahua Historians in Post-Conquest New Spain. Retrieved October 5, 2008, from http://results. myhpf. co. uk/framedresults. asp? Keyword=nahua+accounts+of+the+conquest +of+spain Schwartz, S. B. (2000). Victors and Vanquished: Spanish and Nahua Views of the Conquest of Mexico. Bedford/St. Martins.

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