The Spanish Army
proceeds on its march to
AFTER a repose of seventeen days in Tlascala, it was determined to
prosecute our march to
time arrived four of the principal nobility of
their monarch, which was to this effect. That he wondered at
our stay amongst a people so poor and base as the Tlascalans, who were robbers, and unfit even for slaves;
and he earnestly requested that we would immediately visit his capital. Cortes
replied assuring them that he would shortly pay his respects to the great
Montezuma, requesting their stay with him during the interval. He also
determined to send two cavaliers as ambassadors, to wait on Montezuma; and
view, the city of
Being well prepared against whatever might happen, we now set out on our march, and arrived in the evening at a river, distant a short
During the time we flayed here, a plot was concerted by the ambassadors of Montezuma, for the entry of twenty thousand of his troops into this city, to fall upon us; and several houses were filled with the poles and leathern collars, in which they were to have brought us prisoners to Mexico, but that God was pleased to foil their designs.
For the first two days, we were entertained as well as we could wish, but on the third we received no provisions, nor did either chief of priest make his appearance. The few inhabitants that we saw, also, withdrew from us with a mysterious kind of sneer in their faces, and Cortes at this time applying to the ambassadors to procure for us our provisions as usual, all that we obtained was a little wood and water, conveyed by some old men, who told us that no maize was to be had.
day ambassadors arrived from Montezuma, who, in very disrespectful terms,
forbid our approach to
Hereupon Cortes sent orders to the Tlascalans to hold themselves in readiness, and rejoining the chiefs and priests of the town, he desired them to be under no apprehension, but warned them not to deviate from their obedience, on pain of infant punishment. He then demanded of them two thousand of’ their warriors to accompany him on his march, on the ensuing day; this they readily promised, thinking that it would tend to facilitate their projects; they therefore took their leave very well contented, and sent notice of our intentions to all those concerned with them. Cortes then sent Donna Marina to bring back the two priests whom he had before spoken to. In this she succeeded, and Cortes obtained from them the following intelligence.
him, that Montezuma, on our; approach to Mexico, had become very unsettled in
his mind, sometimes ordering that we should be received with honor, and at
other times that we should not be permitted to pass; but that having lately
consulted his gods, they had declared, that here in Cholula we were all to be
put to death, or made prisoners, for which purpose he had sent twenty, thousand
of his troops, one half of which number was in the city, and the other
concealed half a league from it. That the plan of their attack was fettled, and
that twenty of us were allotted to be sacrificed to the gods of
to them, to have no more intercourse with the inhabitants, but to retire to the apartment of Cortes. They solemnly declared their ignorance of the transaction, and contrary to their inclination we now put them under a good guard, for the night, during which our whole force remained under arms.
On this night, the wife of a cacique, an old woman, who was acquainted with the plot, came secretly to Donna Marina whose appearance had attracted her regard, and invited her to her own house; as a place of security from the danger which was ready to overwhelm us, making at the same time a proposal to her, to accept as a husband, her son, the brother of a boy who accompanied her. Donna Marina, with a profusion of thanks, and with her usual acuteness and pretence of mind, agreed to all that she proposed, but said that she wanted some one with whom to entrust her effects. She then obtained information of every particular of the business, all which the old woman informed her she had learned from her husband, who was chief of one of the divisions of the city, and was then with his warriors, giving directions for their junction with the Mexican forces. She added, that she had known it three days before, in consequence of presents which had been sent from Mexico to the different chiefs, her husband having received at that time a golden drum.* Donna Marina, desiring this woman and her son to remain where they were and take care of her effects, hastened to Cortes, and informed him of all that had pared, and that the person from whom she had the information was in her apartment; in consequence of which, Cortes immediately sent for her, and the woman on being brought into his presence confirmed all that she had said to Donna Marina, and which exactly agreed with the other information he had received.
When day broke, the hurry of the chiefs, priests, and people, and the satisfaction which appeared in their countenances, were as great as
* A golden drum was borne by a general in chief.
if they already had us in their cages. They brought many more of their warriors to attend us than we had required, insomuch that the courts, which remain at this day as a memorial of the event, large as they were, could not contain them. We were all prepared for what was to be done, the soldiers armed with sword and buckler were placed at the gate of the great court, in order to prevent any one from escaping, and our general was on horseback, attended by a strong guard. When he saw how the people crowded in he exclaimed, “How anxious are these traitors to feast upon our flesh! But God will disappoint them.” He sent directions to the two priests who had given the information, to go immediately to their houses, and this he did in order to five their lives; then, causing the rest of the priests, and all the chiefs to be brought to him, he calmly asked them what was their reason for plotting to destroy us, and what we had done, more than require them to abandon their abominable customs, and endeavour to instruct them in the articles of our holy faith; and that for these reasons only, they had made preparations to cut us all off. That their evil intentions appeared by their having withdrawn the women from the town, and that when we required the provisions which they withheld from us, they had insulted us by sending in wood and water. He said that he knew of the ambuscade that was placed upon the road which they expected us to go, and that the recompense which they intended for our holy and friendly services was, to kill and eat us, for which purpose the pots were already boiling, and prepared with salt, pepper, and tomatas. That if they were determined to attack us, it was better to do it in a manly way, as the Tlascalans did; he added, that he also knew that twenty of us were to be sacrificed to their idols, to whom they had made a propitiatory offering of seven of their brethren, but the victory the idols had promised them, it was not in their power to give, and the effects of their treason were now ready to fall on their own heads.
This being successively explained to the natives by Donna Marina, they confessed the whole of the charge, but said that it was planned entirely by the orders of Montezuma. Cortes replied, that such crimes
were never suffered to pass without punishment, and he then commanded a musket to be fired, as the signal for slaughter, which was waited for us, who were as I have related well prepared, and falling upon the multitude then inclosed within the courts, we executed their punishment on them in a manner that they will ever remember; for a number of them were killed by us instantly, and many afterwards burned alive, very contrary to the expectations they had formed from the promises of their gods.† Within two hours our allies the Tlascalans arrived, and made a desperate slaughter of them in the streets, and as loon as the Cholulans had ceased to make resistance, the former ravaged the city, plundering and making them (laves without our having it in our power to prevent them; and on the day after, when the intelligence had reached Tlascala, fresh hordes crowded hither for the same purpose. It was now absolutely necessary to restrain them at all risks: Cortes therefore ordered the chiefs to withdraw their troops, which they immediately did, and soon after, some priests and chieftains who presided over other parts of the town, which they alledged not to have been engaged in the conspiracy, waited on us, and requested a remission of punishment. The two priests formerly mentioned, and the old woman who was so anxious to be the mother-in-law of Donna Marina, came also, and petitioned to the same effect. Cortes appeared greatly enraged, and calling for the Mexican ambassadors, declared in their presence, that if he did not destroy the whole city as it deserved, it was out of respect to the great Montezuma, whose vassals the inhabitants were; but that for his sake he pardoned them. He then commanded the Tlascalans to deliver up those whom they had made prisoners: this, however unwillingly, they in a great measure complied with, many persons being set at liberty, but after all they retained a good booty of gold, mantles, cotton, salt, and slaves. An amnesty for the past being proclaimed, and Cortes having reconciled the Tlascalans and Cholulans, the latter suggested that they were apprehensive our general would appoint their new chief, the former one having been put to death. Cortes upon
† Above six thousand Cholulans were put to death on this occasion.
this enquired who was the regular successor, and being informed that it was the brother of the late head cacique, he appointed him to the chieftainry. As soon as the inhabitants had. returned, and order was restored, he summoned together all the priests and chiefs, in order to exhort them upon the subject, of religion, advising them to renounce their odious practices, and as an instance of the inefficacy of their idols, he reminded them of the manner in which they had been lately deceived by their false promises. He therefore proposed that they should be pulled down and broken to pieces, and an altar and cross erected in their place. The latter was immediately done, but as to thy prostration of the idols, by the advice of the reverend father it was postponed for a time, from motives of prudence, and a just consideration of the uncertainty of our situation.
The Mexican troops which had been posted in ambuscade, with ramparts and trenches to oppose to the cavalry, hearing what had happened to their associates, made a rapid retreat to their city, and carried the news to their monarch; but he had already heard his misfortune from two of his ambassadors who had been with us. It is said that he immediately ordered a sacrifice to his gods, and shut himself up at his devotions for two entire days, with ten of his chief priests, in order to obtain an answer from them, relative to his future destiny. The reply which they gave was to this effect; that he should send an embassy to
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exculpate himself in regard to what had passed, and to invite us
This which I have related is the reality of the endless story of the Lord Bishop of Chiapa, F. Bart. de las Casas, who says we put these people to death merely for pastime; but I must observe, that certain reverend Franciscans, after the conquest of Mexico, being some of the first his Majesty sent to New Spain, went to Cholula on purpose to make the strictest enquiry; the result of which was, that they found the affair to have happened exactly as I have related it. If this punishment had not taken place our lives would have been in the greatest danger, and had we been destroyed this country of New Spain would not have been so easily gained, or a second expedition attempted; or if it had, it might have failed of success, as the natives would have defended their coasts, and have thus remained for ever in their idolatry. I have heard a reverend Franciscan named Fray Torribio de Motilinea say, that if the punishment could have been avoided, and that there had been no cause given for it, it would have been better; but that since it was done, good effects had resulted, as the natives were thereby convinced of the falsehood and deception of their idols, which they in consequence despised, as a proof of which they afterwards took down the principal one, putting another in its place.
now passed fourteen days in the city of
summoned a council composed of certain of officers and soldiers, men of equal valour and wisdom, and his particular friends, for without out advice he entered upon no measure of consequence, and it was thereby determined, to send a respectful message to the great Montezuma, and to inform him that in compliance with the orders of our king we were on our way to pay our respects to him in person. We then related the transaction of Cholula, where the treason which was meditated against us had come in sufficient time to our knowledge, from which nothing that concerned us could be concealed, adding, that if we. had not punished it to the full extent, it was only out of respect to him, whole vassals the people of that city were; that the, chiefs and priests had informed us, that what they did was at his instigation, which we could not believe of so great a prince, after the proffers of friendship which he had made to us, for that had he been inclined to hostility, he would have met us in the field, but that in the case of a battle, field or town, day or night, was alike to us.
Mexican monarch was very doubtful and pensive, when he considered the events
which had passed. After a variety of determinations he at length sent to us six
of his first nobility, with a present of gold to the value of two thousand
crowns, and several bales of fine mantles. When the ambassadors came into the
pretence of Cortes, saluting him with profound respect, they delivered a
message from their monarch, wherein he laboured to
exculpate himself in regard to what had happened in
Our faithful allies of Cempoal being apprehensive of the vengeance of the Mexicans, now petitioned for leave to return to their homes. Cortes dismissed them with handsome presents, and having written to Juan de Escalante, informing him of his determination, we set forward on our march.
quitted Cholula in great regularity, sending out our cavalry patroles to reconnoitre,
supported by light infantry, our arms in order, and the cavalry by threes in
front. Marching on thus, “With the beard always upon the shoulder,” we arrived
at a little place called the hamlet of Iscalpan, in a
mountainous ridge in the district of Guaxocingo, four
leagues distant from
Early on the morning of the next day we set forward on our march, and reached the summit of the ridge about , where we found the roads as they had been described to us, some of the felled trees being to be seen at this day. Here we halted a little in order to consider how we should proceed, and Cortes calling upon the ambassa-
dors of the great Montezuma, enquired of them the meaning of
these appearances. They replied, that we should take
that road which led to Chalco, where we should be
well received, and that the other road was longer and more difficult. Hereupon
Cortes said, that he would notwithstanding prefer it, and our Indian allies
clearing the way before us, we proceeded up the mountain, where the weather was
exceedingly cold, and presently came a very heavy fall of snow, so that, the
whole country was covered with it. After some time we arrived at certain houses
which are for the purpose of lodging travellers,
where we halted, and found provisions in plenty. Having placed our guards, we
rested for that night, and continued our march in the morning,
and at the hour of high mass arrived at the town of
we were letting out attended by twenty Indians from this place, four of the
principal nobility of
Cortes. “Malintzin, this present our monarch sends you, saying, how
grieved he is that you should take so much trouble in coming from a distant
country to see him, and that he has already told you he will give you gold,
silver, and chalchihuis for your Teules,
on condition that you will not approach
Having thus dispatched Montezuma’s ambassadors we continued our march. Our allies had informed us that Montezuma was to permit us to enter the city, and there put us all to death; this we well knew, and being like other mortals fond of our lives, it filled us with melancholy thoughts. Recommending our souls therefore to our Lord Jesus Christ, who had brought us through our past dangers, we proceeded, and halted at a place called Iztapalatengo, one half of the houses of
which is, in the water, and the other half on firm ground, hard by a little ridge of hills, where there is now an inn.
the morning, when we were on the point of marching, a centinel
came to inform us, that a great number of Mexicans,
richly dressed, were upon the road. Cortes therefore ordered us to return into
our quarters, and at that instant four of the principal courtiers of
When we approached Iztapalapa, we were received by several great lords of that country, relations of Montezuma, who conducted us to our lodgings there, in palaces magnificently built of stone, and
the timber of which was cedar, with spacious courts, and
apartments furnished with canopies of the finest cotton. After having
contemplated these noble edifices we walked through the gardens, which were
admirable to behold from the variety of beautiful and aromatic plants, and the
numerous alleys filled with fruit trees, roses, and various flowers. Here was
also a lake of the clearest water, which communicated with the grand