Transactions and occurrences in New Spain subsequent
to the conquest.


AFTER the conquest, as soon as Cortes had leisure to turn his mind to objects of police and internal regulation, he directed that the aqueducts should be restored, and the city cleared of the dead, so that within two months it might be inhabited as before. The palaces and houses he ordered to be repaired, and pointed out that part which was to be inhabited by the natives, and that which was to be reserved for the Spaniards.

Guatimotzin now applied in the name of many of his principal nobility to Cortes, requesting that he would order such of their women 

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of rank as had been taken by our soldiers, to be delivered to their husbands, and fathers. The general found some difficulty in this, but agreed to permit them to make search, and such as wished to return, he assured them that he would cause to be given up. They searched through every house, and though the women hid themselves they found many, but very few were inclined to return; they declared that they detested the idolatry of their countrymen, and in addition they were many of them pregnant, so that of the whole number three only went back to their families.

One of the first public works undertaken was an arsenal in the city, so situated as to include our flotilla. Alvarado was to the best of my knowledge appointed alcalde, until the arrival of Salazar de la Pedrada. All the gold, silver, and jewels, which were now collected in Mexico, amounted to the paltry sum of three hundred and eighty thousand crowns. It was reported that Guatimotzin had thrown great quantities into the lake four days before the surrender of the town, and it was well known that a considerable share had fallen to our allies, and to those who served on board the fleet. Cortes was not sorry to think Guatimotzin had it concealed, in hopes of obtaining it all for himself. It was then proposed to put both Guatimotzin and his confidential friend the prince of Tacuba to the torture, to extort confession from them; this was certainly very contrary to the inclination and disposition of Cortes, who could not approve of such an act of cruelty being committed on a person so distinguished as Guatimotzin; one who was absolute monarch of a country three times larger than Castille. In answer to all enquiries the king’s officers protested that there was no more than what had been produced, which when melted and run into bars did not exceed three hundred and eighty thousand crowns. From this the fifth for the Emperor and another for Cortes were deduced; what remained did not at all satisfy those of the conquerors of Mexico who were not before friends to Cortes. They suggested to the treasurer Alderete that the general objected to Guatimotzin being tortured, in order to get the gold himself. Cortes was therefore obliged to leave the unfortunate king at their 

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disposal, as well as the lord of Tacuba. What this inhuman process extorted from them was, a confession that they had, four days previous to the surrender, thrown treasure into the lake, and also the musquets, bows, and other arms taken from us in our flight, and in the last defeat of Cortes. The place which Guatimotzin pointed out was searched by the best swimmers, to no effect whatever. In a deep pond at his palace was found a sun of solid gold, similar to that which Montezuma had given us, with many ornaments of small value, the private property of Guatimotzin. On the torture the Prince of Tacuba declared that he had gold at some large houses he possessed four leagues from the town of Tacuba, and that, if there, he would point out to us where it was buried. Alvarado and six soldiers whereof I was one accompanied him thither; when we arrived he declared he had said so in hopes of dying on the road, for that he had no treasure whatever; so we remained without any more gold to melt. The fact is that the treasury was diminished to a mere trifle before it came into Guatimotzin’s hands; and I and many others who saw it at first knew it appeared to be then worth twice what it was when brought out to have his Majesty’s share deducted: I observed many articles of remarkable and curious workmanship missing at that time; they were taken for the public service.

I and several good divers searched that part of the lake which had been pointed out by Guatimotzin, and we found some pieces of gold of little value, which were immediately claimed by Cortes and Alderete. They also sent down persons and were themselves present, but all they obtained amounted to less than the value of ninety crowns. This made us very pensive and grave, when we found what mere trifles our shares as they were called came to. For this reason Fra Bartholome, and other cavaliers and captains, represented to Cortes that it would be best to divide that which fell to the lot of the whole army, among the wounded, the halt, the blind, the deaf, the scorched, and the sick; and that those who had escaped sound would renounce their claims. This they said upon an expectation that it might draw out some of the treasure which they suspected was concealed. Cortes replied that he

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would enquire, and rectify all. Our captains and soldiers were then curious to know what the shares came to for each man. On casting it up it appeared, that to each horseman there came one hundred crowns, and to each infantry soldier I forget how much, but no one would accept it. This did not quiet the soldiers; they murmured loudly and accused the treasurer. He to exculpate himself said, that they should blame Cortes, who had taken out a second fifth for himself, and also a deduction for loss of horses, and had retained from the common flock many pieces of wrought gold to send to his Majesty. The soldiers of Narvaez who never liked Cortes thoroughly, would not take their paltry shares, and as Cortes now lodged at Cuyoacan, in large buildings with white walls, very well adapted for scribbling on, there appeared every morning libels against him in prose or verse. The idea of one of them was, that as the planets sometimes went a little out of their course, but by the order of nature speedily reverted to it again, so it was with tortes and his ambition. Another said we were more conquered by Cortes than Mexico by us, and that we were not the victors of New Spain, but the vanquished of Cortes. Some said that he had taken his fifth as general, and a second as king; and others again that Velasquez had incurred all the expence, and Cortes reaped all the profit. I recollect the words of one only: they were

Que triste esta el alma mea,

 Hasta que la parte vea.”*

Many were written in such a stile as is not fit for me to relate, and some had a turn and witty point in them which I am not able to give. Cortes was a poet, and prided himself on giving answers in that way to such complimentary addresses as he received; he also used to reply in pointed epigrams to these pasquinades which grew every day more indecent. One day observing the walls covered with them he wrote, “a white wall is paper for fools.” Next morning was found added, “and for truths.” At length Fra Bartholome told Cortes the thing was going too  

* How anxious I am for a partition of plunder!!

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far, and advised him to stop it, which he did by threats of severe punishment.

Among the soldiers of our army very heavy debts were contracted; a cross-bow was sold for fifty crowns, a musquet cost one hundred, a horse eight hundred, one thousand, and even more; and every thing else was in proportion. Then our surgeon Maestre Juan charged high, as did a Doctor Murcia who was an apothecary and barber. There were besides various other money traps, all which were to be satisfied out of our dividends. This required some regulation: Cortes accordingly appointed Santa Clara, a very honorable person, and one Lerena, to appreciate each claim, which was to be paid according to their award, within two years. The value of the gold was also altered by increasing the alloy; this was intended to serve us in our dealing with the merchants from Europe or Cuba, but it had a contrary effect, as they were prepared, and added twice as much to the price of their goods. The alloy was copper, called here Tepuzque; for which reason we call any one of an inferior degree to another of the same name, Don Juan, or Don Alonzo Tepuzque, or the copper Don Juan &c. The abuses resulting from this being made known to his Majesty, he was pleased to forbid the currency of this base metal, ordering it to be taken in duties until it was all drawn over to Caftille, and that no more of it should be made. At this time two gold-smiths were hanged here for running base metal with the legal mark.

I have digressed for some time past, and will now return to the thread of my narrative. Cortes, as the best way to get rid of troublesome companions and demands, determined now to send out colonies, and make settlements at convenient situations. For this purpose Sandoval was ordered to Tustepeque, and Guacacualco. Juan Velasquez was to go to Colima, one Villa Fuerte to Zacatula, Christoval de Oli to Mechoacan, (he was at this time married to a Portugueze lady named Donna Phillipa de Aranja,) and Francisco de Orozca to Guaxaca.

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At this time the chiefs of the distant provinces could not bring themselves to believe that Mexico was destroyed: they therefore sent deputations to ascertain the truth, and also to offer themselves as vassals to his Majesty the Emperor. All made great presents of gold to Cortes, and many came in person, and brought their children to see the state of that power once so feared by them, and used to express themselves as we say, “here Troy town stood.”

Curious readers will be desirous to know how it happened, that the conquerors of Mexico who had gone through such dangers to, obtain possession of that city, should now quit it to search for new settlements. To this I reply, that the books which contained the accounts of Montezuma’s revenues were examined to find from whence the gold, and other valuable articles of tribute, such as cacao, and cotton manufactures, were sent; and it was to these productive districts that we wished to go. Especially, we were led by the example of Sandoval, who being known to be the particular friend of Cortes, it was not to be supposed would go upon an unprofitable enterprise. We also saw that the vicinity of the city of Mexico had neither mines, plantations, nor manufactures, but was intirely occupied by the cultivation of maize, and of maguey. This we thought did not afford us prospects sufficiently advantageous, and we went to other places where we were sadly disappointed. I waited upon Cortes to request permit lion to attend Sandoval; “brother B. Diaz del Castillo” said the general to me, “by my conscience you will find yourself mistaken; you had better stay with me, but if you are determined on going with your friend Sandoval, go in God’s name; I will always do my utmost to take care of you, but I tell you that you will repent of it.” All the gold remained with the Emperor’s officers, the slaves having been purchased by the soldiers according to their valuation at a public sale. The detachments were sent out to colonize the provinces at different periods, for two months after the capture of Mexico; however I will not any farther particularize them, not to trespass unnecessarily on my reader’s time.

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At this time arrived at the port of Villa Rica, Christoval de Tapia, veedor of the Island of St. Domingo, with a commission to take upon him the government of New Spain, by order of his Majesty, and under the direction of the Bishop of Burgos. He brought with him letters from the said Bishop of Burgos to Cortes and many others of his army, recommending him, to be honoured by us as governor of New Spain, and besides those which were closed and sealed, he had also with him letters filled up and which he was authorised to address as he saw occasion for his own interest. Great promises were held out to such as would come over to the new governor, and violent threats of punishment to those who made any opposition to him. Tapia first presented his commission to Alvarado, then commandant in Villa Rica. Alvarado received it with the highest respect, and said that as he was not able of himself to decide any thing, it would be necessary to assemble the alcaldes and regidors of the town, to have the commission verified before them, and also to prove the manner in which it had been transmitted, that they might know for a certainty that it came in a proper form from his Majesty’s hand. This did not exactly agree with the views of Tapia. Being advised to proceed to Mexico and produce his commission to Cortes himself, he forwarded the letter of the bishop, and also wrote to Cortes upon the subject of his mission. The stile of the letters was smooth and persuasive, but the answer of Cortes was ten times more so. Cortes immediately sent expresses to some of the different officers he had detached, ordering them to go and meet Tapia who had already set out for Mexico, but was, in consequence of the direction of Cortes, met on the road by Alvarado, Sandoval, De Soto, Valdenegro, Captain Andres de Tapia, and the reverend father Fra Malgarejo. These gentlemen with much compliments and ceremony, induced Christoval de Tapia to go to Cempoal; they there requested to see his commission, which being verified, and acknowledged, they placed it on their heads in token of respect and submission; but in regard to the admitting him as governor by the virtue of it, that was quite another affair; it was first necessary to know what his Majesty’s pleasure was touching the affairs of New Spain, the true state of which had been 

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concealed from him by the Bishop of Burgos, who did it to serve his own private views, and to favor Velasquez and Tapia, one of whom he intended Should marry his niece. By all this it was pretty evident to Tapia, that he would not very speedily enter upon his office, and the disappointment affected him to that degree that he fell sick. Our captains wrote to Cortes letting him know all that had passed, and recommending him to send a good quantity of golden ingots, and try their effect in mollifying the fury of the would-be governor. These arrived by the return of the express, and with them they bought from him some negroes, three horses, and one of his ships; in the other Tapia embarked himself, and set sail for the Island of St. Domingo, where he was very ill received by the court of royal audience and the brothers of the order of Jeronymites, he having undertaken the business contrary to their express command; but they would not exert their power farther against one patronised by the Bishop of Burgos, his Majesty being at that time in Flanders.

I have formerly made mention of some particulars relative to an expedition set on foot by one Garay. It was to colonize and settle upon the river of Panuco. Cortes had received intelligence of it, and resolved to anticipate him by sending thither a party for the same purpose. He also now again sent Rangel to Villa Rica as commandant, and ordered Narvaez to be sent to him at Cuyoacan, where he resided until the palace which he was to inhabit in Mexico was compleated. The reason he sent for Narvaez was this; he was told that the latter had held a conversation with Tapia, in which he advised him to quit the country on as good terms as he could get, and go to his patron the Bishop of Burgos in Castille, to lay the whole state of affairs before him; telling him also to profit by the example which his misfortunes set him, as, if he staid, he certainly would be put to death, and that success attended all the measures of Cortes. When Narvaez was brought before Cortes, he fell on his knees and attempted to kiss his hand, but our general would not permit it; he railed, and embracing Narvaez, treated him with all respect and regard, and made him sit by his side.

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Cortes now proceeded to take his residence in the city of Mexico. He divided the ground into lots for the churches in the first place, then for the monasteries, the public buildings, and squares. He divided the rest of the ground among the inhabitants that were to be, and not to waste more time upon the subject, all those who have seen the present city of Mexico agree, that there is not in Christendom one more populous, larger, or better built.

While Cortes was thus employed, intelligence arrived that the province of Panuco was in arms. They are a warlike people, very numerous, and having rebelled, had killed many soldiers of the party which Cortes had sent to form a colony there. He resolved therefore to go thither in person: indeed all his captains were now absent on different duties. Our numbers had by this time received a considerable reinforcement as well of those who had come with the veedor Tapia, as of such as had been on the expedition to Florida with Vasquez de Aillon, and of many others lately arrived from the islands. He left a good garrison in Mexico under Diego de Soto, and set out on his march with one hundred and thirty cavalry, two hundred and fifty infantry; and ten thousand Mexicans. Just at this time De Oli returned from Mechoacan which he had reduced to a state of submission and peace, bringing with him the principal chief and several others, and a quantity of gold. This expedition to Panuco was very expensive; Cortes applied for a reimbursement from the crown, which could not be acceded to; his Majesty’s officers objected that it was undertaken on a private account, to prevent the establishment of a colony by Garay, and not for the public service. When he arrived at Panuco he found the people very rebellious. In the course of a few days he had two battles, in which he lost three soldiers, four horses, and above one hundred Mexicans. The number of the enemy amounted to above seventy thousand warriors, but it was God’s will that we should obtain the victory, with such a slaughter of the rebels as deprived them of all thoughts of making any head for the present. These people are called the Guastecas, and Naguatecas. After the last battle Cortes again sent to summon them to 

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submission. He employed for this purpose some of the prisoners, and sent with them Fra Bartholome, by whose exhortations they were induced to submit.

Cortes then went with one half of his troops to the river Chila, to reduce the Indians on the opposite side. He summoned them, but they murdered his messengers. He then passed over one hundred and fifty infantry, and fifty cavalry, during the night. The enemy on their landing fell on them in great numbers, but they were soon driven from the field, and our troops advancing took their quarters in a town where they found plenty of provisions. In the morning some of them entering the temple found remains of the bodies and clothes of our countrymen; some of our soldiers thought they recognised the features of their friends, and it was a melancholy sight to all; their remains we carefully collected and buried.

From this place our detachment marched to another, where an out party reported, that great bodies of the enemy were posted in concealment in the houses to fall upon our people when the cavalry had dismounted; their plan being discovered sailed of success, but they fought valiantly for half an hour, and three of our soldiers died afterwards of their wounds. These people contrary to the general practice of Indians, rallied no less than three times. On the ensuing day our soldiers scoured the neighbourhood, and entering some towns which had been abandoned, found a quantity; of earthen vessels, full of the wine of the country, in cellars under ground. After a stay of five days they returned to the river of Chila. Cortes now again summoned them, to which they returned for answer that they would come within four days; which Cortes waited out, but to no effect. He therefore determined to punish them, and during a dark and rainy night, embarking a large body of Mexicans, he sent them across a lake to one of the enemy’s larger towns, which they totally destroyed. This brought in most of that country to submit, Cortes founded a town of one hundred and thirty houses, sixty three of the inhabitants whereof were soldiers. He

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named it Villa de St. Estevan del Puerto. It is situated about a league from Chila. He allotted to it all the neighbouring districts which had submitted, and gave the command to Pedro Valego. Cortes was informed that three districts which had been concerned in the murder many Spaniards, but which had been now received under allegiance, intended to fall on this post as soon as he quitted the country. He in consequence marched against them and destroyed their towns, but they soon established them again.

A vessel which Cortes had ordered to come to him with provisions and necessaries was at this time lost in some strong gales from the north, whereby the new settlement was much distressed.

Cortes on his return to Mexico was informed of depredations committed on the peaceable districts, by some of the inhabitants of the neighbouring mountains, whom he determined to chastise in his way, but they anticipated him, by falling upon his rear and robbing the baggage in a bad pass; our allies the Mexicans made them pay well for this insult, and two of their chiefs were hanged. Cortes then ordered hostilities to cease, and the people, on being summoned, came in and submitted. In the place of the chief, who was executed, Cortes appointed his brother, after which he proceeded to Mexico. In all the provinces of New Spain none was so bad for savage and evil manners, as that of Panuco. They made human sacrifices, and were cruel to an excess, drunkards, filthy, and wicked, with thirty other turpitudes. They were punished with fire and sword two or three times, and greater misfortunes befell them when Nuno de Guzman came to be their governor, for he made them all slaves, and sold them in the islands.

Alonzo de Avila whom I have formerly mentioned, was now returned with powers from the court of royal audience and the brothers of the order of St. Jeronymo, whereby we were authorised to pursue our conquests, to mark slaves, and to make settlements according to the practice in the Islands of Hispaniola and Cuba. They also sent a report

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of what steps they had taken, to Castille. His Majesty was then in Flanders, where it was laid before him. Had De Avila been here at the time of Tapia’s arrival he might have been very troublesome, for he was an adherent of the Bishop of Burgos, and had been bred up in his house. For these reasons, and by the advice of Almedo, Cortes to put him in good humour gave him the district of Guatitlan, one of the richest in that country. He also presented him with a considerable quantity of gold, and a much greater of kind words and promises, by which he won him so completely over to his interest that he afterwards sent him as his agent to Castille; at which time several gigantic human bones were transmitted, together with a quantity of gold, pearls, and valuable jewels. The bones were found in a temple at Cuyoacan; they were prodigiously large, and similar to those which we had procured in Tlascala and sent to Castille. The agents also brought over with them three tigers, and many other things of a curious nature, which I do not recollect. One part of their business was to transmit memorials to his Majesty from the council of Mexico, and from us the conquerors of New Spain, requesting that he would send us over holy men of good life and example, as bishops and clergymen. Also praying, that in consideration of our meritorious services, all offices of honour and emolument should be given amongst us, and the government to Cortes, as the only fit and proper person. Also that his Majesty would be pleased not to suffer any scholars, or men of letters to come into this country, to throw us into confusion with their learning, quibbles, and books. We further represented the insufficiency of Christoval de Tapia, who was only sent by the Bishop of Burgos to effect a marriage between the said Tapia, and the bishop’s niece, Donna Petronila de Fonseca. We also deprecated the interference of the bishop in the affairs of this country as being obstructive of our plans of conquests for his Majesty’s service, adding that we were ready to receive his Majesty’s commands, prostrate on the ground, but had thought it our duty to inform him of these particulars, which had been artfully kept from his knowledge. All this, and more, was represented in the fullest light, for his Majesty’s information, and to do away the misrepresentations of the said 

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Bishop of Burgos, whole enmity was manifest in his having prohibited the Casa de Contractation of Seville from sending us any supplies. Cortes also left nothing in his inkstand which could be of service to our interests, for he wrote a memorial of twenty one pages, which I read, and certify to be to the full tenor and effect of what I have related. He also farther petitioned, that his Majesty would permit him to go to the island of Cuba, to apprehend Velasquez the governor thereof, and send him as a prisoner to Castille, for the injuries done by him to the general service, more especially in sending an order to put Cortes to death.

Our agents sailed from the port of Vera Cruz, on the twentieth of December one thousand five hundred and twenty two, without any particular occurrence on the voyage to the Terceras, except the breaking lode of two tigers, who wounded some sailors, and their being obliged to kill the other on account of his ferocity. At the Island of Tercera Captain Anthonio de Quinones lost his life. He was very amorous, and in a quarrel concerning a lady there, as he piqued himself upon his valor a duel ensued, in which he received a sword wound on the head, and died in three days. Thus the business remained in the hands of Alonzo de Avila only. As he pursued his voyage to Europe, he fell in with a French privateer commanded by Juan Florin, who made prize of him, his ship, and all the treasure. This captain took another ship from St. Domingo with a valuable cargo of sugar, and hides, as also twenty thousand crowns of gold, and a quantity of pearls, so that he returned to France very rich, and made great presents to the King, and also to the admiral of France, the people whereof were astonished at the magnificence of what we sent to our great Emperor. The King of France said that the wealth we supplied was sufficient alone to enable our Monarch to wage war against him, and yet Peru was not at this time known. It is also reported that the King sent to our Emperor, to say, that he and the King of Portugal had divided the world between them, without giving him a share, and that he desired to see the will of our father Adam, to know if he had made them exclusively his heirs.

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Florin in his next expedition fell in with a strong Biscayan squadron, by which he was defeated and made prisoner, and being transmitted to Spain, he was hanged at the Island of Teneriffe. Thus was an end of him, his ships, and our treasure.

Avila was confined a close prisoner in France, but he succeeded in gaining the friendship of the officer in whole custody he was, and obtained means of communicating with his friends in Spain, to whom he transmitted all the papers and documents with which he had been entrusted, and which were laid before his Majesty by the means of the licentiate Nunez, cousin to Cortes and relator of the royal council, Martin Cortes his father, and Diego de Ordaz. The Emperor was pleased on due consideration to order, that all favor should be shewn to Cortes, and that farther proceedings should be suspended until his Majesty’s return to Spain.

The intelligence of the loss of the treasure was received by us as a most serious disappointment. The district of Guatitlan was honorably reserved by Cortes for Avila, notwithstanding his captivity, and his brother succeeded to it three years aster, Alonzo de Avila being then appointed contador of Yucatan.

The two captains, Sandoval and Alvarado, after the settlement with Tapia, returned to their detachments, and proceeded on their expeditions, of which I will now give an account.