account of the valiant companions who passed
over to the conquest of
and magnanimous Don Hernando Cortes Marquis of
the Valley. Advantages resulting from the conquest—Transactions
at court. Concluding observations of the author.
list of the conquerors of
P. de Montejo was of the middle stature, of a chearful countenance, and gay disposition; at the time of his arrival here he was about thirty five years of age; he was fitter for business than war, and of a liberal turn, expending more than he received; he arrived to the dignity of adelantado and governor of Yucatan, and died in Castille.
G. de Sandoval was at the time of his arrival here about twenty two years of
age; he was joint governor of
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robust in body, his legs rather bowed, and his countenance masculine; his hair and
beard were curled, and of a light brown; his voice was rough, and somewhat
terrible, and he stammered a little; he was a plain man, and one who did not
know much of letters, not avaritious of gold, but attentive to his business
like a good officer, seeing that his soldiers did their duty well, and taking
good care of them. He was not fond of rich dresses, but went plain and like a
soldier. He had the best horse that ever was seen; he was a chestnut, with a
star in his forehead, and his near foot white; his name was Motilla; he became
a proverb, so that when any horse was extraordinarily good, we used to say he
was as good as Motilla. Sandoval was an officer fit for any station; he was a
Don C. de
Oli was a Hector in battle, but his judgment was not equal to his valour, and
he required to be kept under command. The captains De Alvarado, De Sandoval,
and De Oli, were in high estimation with his Majesty, who was pleased to say
that he had three in
J. V. de Leon, native of Old Castille, was about twenty seven years of age, well proportioned, and robust; his beard was red and curled, his voice rough and fierce, and he stammered a little; he was a cavalier of good manners, and generous, sharing what he had with his companions; he killed a person of consequence in the Island of His-
paniola, for which he was obliged to conceal himself, and the officers of justice never were able to apprehend him, he made such resistance. He was most valiant both on horseback and on foot; he died at the bridge.
D. de Ordas, from the neighbourhood of Campos, was about forty years of age; he was captain of the soldiers armed with sword and buckler, not being a horseman; he was very valiant, and wise, strong, and of good stature, of a masculine countenance; and black thin beard. In speaking there were certain words which he could not pronounce; he was generous, and of good manners. He was commander of St. Jago, and governor of Maranion, where he died.
Captain L. Marin was valiant, and stout built; bow legged, with a red beard, and a full and chearful countenance, slightly marked with the small pox. He was about thirty years of age, and a native of St. Lucar, lisping a little, like the Sevillians. He was a good horseman, and of mild manners; he died in Mechoacan.
Captain P. de Ircio was of middle stature, chearful countenance, and, duck legged; a great boaster of his exploits, but by what we could perceive in him good for very little; he was always repeating certain stories of the Count de Urena, and Don Pedro Giron; we used to call him Agrages without deeds; he was for a time captain under Sandoval during the siege, and died in Mexico.
A. de Avila was of a good person and countenance, clear and sensible in his conversation, very valiant, and about thirty three years of age. He was free with his companions, but proud, fond of commanding, and impatient of controll, with a considerable share of envy, and turbulence, insomuch that Cortes could not bear to have him near him; he therefore took care that he should be employed in such affairs as would draw him to a distance; he was uncle to the cavaliers the sons of
who were beheaded in
A. de Monjarez was of middling stature, and a good countenance; he acted as captain during the siege, but was always an invalid; he was aged about thirty years, and died a natural dearth.
C. de Olea was a native of Medina Del Campo, and a most valiant soldier; he was about twenty fix years of age, of the middle stature, with a masculine but pleasing countenance; his hair and beard a little curled, and a clear voice; this soldier’s bravery was such that we all held him in the highest honour; he saved the life of Cortes at Suchimillico, when the enemy had seized and were carrying him off to sacrifice; and a second time upon the causeway of Mexico when he was in a still more desperate situation, being wounded and in the hands of a number of the Indians, the brave De Olea, though mortally wounded, with his sword killed and beat off every one of these who were upon Cortes, thus saving his general’s life, and losing his own at the same time. When the person of this valiant soldier recurs to my mind, and the manner he used to fight at our sides, the tears flow from my eyes, for he was my towns-man, and we were related to the same families.
G. Dominguez, and Lares, were soldiers of high renown, and, might be put in comparison with Olea; the first died by the fall of his, horse, the second at the battle of Otumba.
Tapia was aged about twenty four years, of a pale complexion and grave
countenance; he was a valiant captain, and died in
J. de Escalante was a captain; he died at Villa Rica. F. de Lugo, a brave officer, acted as captain occasionally; he was the natu-
of a wealthy gentleman at Medina del Campo; he died a natural death. Gregorio de
Monjaraz; a good soldier; lost his hearing during the siege, and died a natural
death. Four brothers of Don P. de Alvarado. J. Xaramillo was an officer of
merit; he died a natural death. Christoval Flores, a worthy soldier. Christoval
de Gamboa, equerry to Cortes. One Calcedo, a wealthy man. Francisco de Bonal, a
good soldier. Maldonado, surnamed “the broad,” a good soldier. Francisco
Alvarez Chico, a man of business. Francisco de Torrazas, major domo to Cortes,
a person of merit. Christoval
the daughter of La Baguera. Najara, “the hump backed,” a most valiant soldier.
at the point of Cotoche; a good soldier. Pedro Valenciano. One Tariffa. Another
of that name called by us “the meritorious,” because he was always bragging of
what he had done, and that he had not been properly rewarded; a prating fellow.
Pedro Sanchez Farfan; a brave soldier; he acted as captain. Escobar the bachelor,
apothecary, surgeon, and physician; he went mad. Juan de Caceres the rich. Gonzalo
Hurones. Ramirez the elder. Astorga. Tostado. Pedro Valencia. Fray Juan de las
Varillas, of the order of mercy; a good theologian, and a virtuous man. Those
enumerated above all died naturally. Francisco de Saucedo, called “the
gallant.” Francisco de Morla, a very brave soldier. De Lares, a good soldier
and horseman. Another of that name. De Solis, an old man. Benitez, a brave man.
Juan Ruano, a good soldier. Two nephews of Gonzales de Najara. Gonzalo
Dominguez, very brave and an excellent horseman. One De Mora, a good soldier.
a drummer, and a good soldier, having served in
Cuenca was killed at Xicalonga, with ten more soldiers. Francisco de Medina
died in the hands of the Indians with fifteen more. One De la Serna, who
discovered silver mines, I do not know what is become of him. Martin Lopez, the
ship carpenter who rendered such eminent services; he is now living in
Gonzalo de Umbria a pilot. Francisco de Orozco; had been a soldier in
a good soldier, had an inn on the road to Vera Cruz, turned friar. Sindos de
Portillo, possessed large estates, which he sold, giving the money to the poor,
and taking orders, led a holy life. Quintero a good soldier, attained great wealth,
which he renounced for God’s sake, and taking the Franciscan habit, led a holy
life. Alonzo de Aguilar owned the inn between Vera Cruz and La
where, in the most retired part, he made a hermitage for himself; in this
course of life he reduced his body to a very weak state, by fasting and
penance, and the fame of his austerities reaching the Bishop Juan de Zumarraga,
he entreated him not to carry them to such an extreme. Several other persons
also joined him, being induced by his example to lead holy lives; at the end of
about four years, it was God’s will to take them all from this world, to his
heavenly glory. Lerma; a very valiant soldier; it was he who rendered such
essential service to Cortes, in once saving his life; Lerma was afterwards
obliged to fly, and seek refuge among the Indians from this very Cortes whom he
had preserved, and who was exasperated against him, for reasons which, from regard
to his honour, I will not mention; we never knew what became of him, but our
suspicions were very bad. Pinedo, a good soldier, had been educated in the
house of Velasquez; on the arrival of Narvaez, quitting
Lopez, returned to
Velasquez. Saldanha and two more whose names I forget were killed in
Last of all I put down myself, having been in this country antecedent to the coming of Cortes twice, and the third time with him, as I have related; and I give thanks and praise to our Lord. God, and his Holy Mother the Virgin Mary, who preserved me from being sacrificed like the most of my companions, that I might now relate and make manifest our heroic actions, and enumerate by name our valiant captains and soldiers, who conquered this new world, thereby to prevent all the honour and merit from being unjustly ascribed to one person.
Of those who came with Narvaez, although several were very valiant men, I will say nothing, because my intention in writing this history, was but to record the heroic actions of the soldiers of Cortes. I will therefore only describe Narvaez himself.
Narvaez was about forty two years of age, of tall stature and large limbs, a full face, and red beard, and agreeable presence; very sonorous
in his speech, as if the sound came out of a vault; a good horseman, and said
to be valiant. He was a native of
Having enumerated the soldiers who passed with Cortes, and related in what manner they died, I have now to observe, that we were for
Now curious reader reflect on my life, and in how many battles and dangers I have been, since I first came to this country, and how I was twice in the hands of the enemy who were carrying me off to sacrifice, and God gave me force to escape out of their clutches; besides the distresses by hunger, thirst, and fatigue, which occur to all who undertake discoveries in unknown countries.
It is now
proper that I should relate the good effects of our exertions for the service
of God and his Majesty, by our illustrious conquests, in which most of our
companions lost their lives, being sacrificed to the idols Huitzilopochtli and Tezcatepuca.
In the first place, we purged the land of its wickedness and evil customs, as
for instance that of human sacrifice. By the accounts taken by certain reverend
Franciscan fathers, the first who came here after Fray Bartholome de Olmedo, it
appears, that in the city of
land, substituting in their places, a good policy and the holy doctrine. It is true that after the lapse of two years, when the country was subjugated and civilized, certain worthy fathers Franciscans, of good example and doctrine came here, and were followed in three or four years by fathers of the order of St. Dominic, who completed what others had begun, but if it is duly considered it will appear that the meed and honour of destroying the evil customs of the land, in justice belongs to us the true conquerors, in preference to any other persons, even though they should be of the holy profession.
Since the destruction of idolatry, by the will of God, and with his holy aid, and the good fortune and sacred christianity of the most christian Emperor Don Carlos of glorious memory, and of our monarch and most fortunate sovereign, the invincible King of Spain, our lord Don Philip his dear and much beloved son, to whom may God grant years, and much increase of dominion, to be enjoyed by him during his fortunate and holy life, and to be transmitted from him to his posterity, there have been baptized in this country, all the natives, whose souls formerly were sunk and lost in the infernal pit. At present also as there are here many reverend fathers of the different orders, they go through the country preaching and baptizing, whereby the holy Evangelists are firmly planted in the hearts of the natives, who confess every year, and those sufficiently advanced in the knowledge of the faith comulgate. The churches also and their altars are richly adorned, with all requisites for holy worship, as, crosses, and candlesticks, wax candles, chalices, cups, plates, and vessels for incense, all of silver. The ornaments of the altars and crosses are of velvet and damask, and other rich materials of various colours and workmanship, and embroidered with gold, silk, and pearls. The funerals also are distinguished by their emblematic representations of skulls and bones, and with their palls, some good, and others not so. Each town also has its bells, according to its ability. There are choirs also in the chapels, of good voices which sing in concert, tenors, and trebles, and counter-altos. In some
places are organs, and most have flutes, hautbois, sackbuts, dulcimers, with trumpets base and treble, more in this one province of Guatimala than there are in my native country, which is Old Castille. It is a thing worthy to thank God on to see the devotion which the natives exhibit when at holy mass, especially if it is said by fathers of the orders of St. Francis, or of Mercy, who are appointed to the cures of parishes. All the natives also, men, women, and children, are taught the holy orations in their mother tongue, and when they pass a cross, crucifix, altar, they bow, and falling on their knees say a Pater Noster or Ave Maria. We, the conquerors also taught them to keep wax candles lighted before the holy altars and crosses, for before our arrival they did not know the use of wax in making candles. We also taught them to have with respect to the reverend fathers, and when they came to their towns, to go out to meet and receive them with lighted wax candles, ringing the bells, and giving them plentifully to eat; and thus they do. They have also other holy and good customs, for on the day of our Lady, or of Corpus Christi, and other solemn feasts, when we make processions, most of the neighbours of this city of Guatimala go in procession with crosses and lighted candles, bearing the image of the saint who is their patron or patroness, as richly dressed as they can afford; and they go singing the litanies, and other holy orations, and sound their flutes and trumpets.
The natives of these countries have also learned the trades used amongst us in Castille, and have their shops, manufactories, and journeymen, and gain their livelihood thereby. The gold and silversmiths work both in cast metal, and by the hammer, and excel, as do the lapidaries and painters. The engravers execute first rate works, with their fine instruments of iron, especially upon emeralds, whereon they represent all the acts of the holy passion of our redeemer and Saviour Jesus Christ, in such a manner that those who had not seen them execute it, would not believe that such works could be done by Indians; insomuch that according to my judgment, that famous painter of ancient times
the renowned Apelles, or the modern ones named Michael Angelo and Berruguete, and another a native of Burgos who is in great fame, being as they say a second Apelles, could not with their subtle pencils equal the works which are done by three Mexican artists named Andres de Aquino, Juan de la Cruz, and El Crespillo. In addition to all there things, the sons of the chiefs used to be grammarians, and were learning very well, until they were forbidden by the holy synod, under an order of the most reverend archbishop of Mexico, but many of them are now, notwithstanding, literate. They are also weavers of silk, stuffs, and cloths, and manufacturers thereof, through all the various stages. They have also learned to be hatters and soap boilers. Two trades only could never be acquired by them; one is, that of making glass, the other that of the apothecary; but this is not owing to any defect of natural genius, for they are surgeons, and herbalists, jugglers, and makers of puppets, and of violins. Tillers of land they were before our arrival; and now they rear stock, and break bullocks, and plow, sow wheat, manure, reap, sell, and make bread and biscuit. They have planted their lands and inheritances with the fruit trees of Old Spain, and sell the fruit, cutting down the unwholesome peach trees, and overshading plantains, to make room for quince, apple, and pear trees, which they hold in high estimation. We have taught them also laws and justice, and in consequence, they every year elect their ordinary alcaldes, regidors, notaries, alguazils, fiscals, and major domos. They have their halls of common council, with bailiffs, where they meet two days in the week, judging, and sentencing, and for some offences punishing and whipping; but for murder and higher crimes, they refer them to the governors, if there is no court of royal audience.
I have further been told by persons well informed upon the subject, that in Tlascala, Tezcuco, Cholula, Guaxocingo, Tepeaca, and other great cities, when the natives go to council, gilt maces are borne before the governors and alcaldes, as is done before the viceroys, and they do
justice with as much zeal and activity as is used among us, priding themselves thereon, and being very anxious to obtain a knowledge of our laws.
All the caciques have horses and are rich, and ride, handsomely caparisoned and attended by their pages, through and about their respective towns. In some towns also they exercise with the lance on horseback, run at the ring, and have bull fights, especially on the days of Corpus Christi, St. John, St. James, our Lady in August, or the patron or patroness of the town. Many also of them will face the bulls be they ever so fierce, and are excellent horsemen, especially those of a place named Chiapa de los Indios. Those who are caciques now breed horses, and use them and mules for ordinary purposes, conveying by their means, wood, maiz, and lime for sale. Many of the natives have likewise taken up the trade of arrieros or carriers, as is in practice in Castille. To conclude, they excel in all manufactures, not excepting that of tapestry.
Other advantages and profits are also derived from our illustrious services. By them our mother country has obtained gold, silver; precious stones, grain, wool, sarsaparilla, and hides; all which are annually transmitted thither to the benefit of his Majesty’s revenue. I do not include the presents we at various times sent, and that which is exported by merchants and passengers, for since the time that the wise King Solomon built the holy temple of Jerusalem with the gold and silver which he caused to be brought from the Islands of Tarsis, Ofir, and Saba, ancient or modern history do not record such treasures to have been derived from any country, as what have been sent from New Spain; and this I say, because although it is notorious that from Peru many millions in gold and silver have been obtained, yet at the time of the conquest of this country Peru was unknown, nor was it gained until ten years after. We also from the first continued to send to his Majesty most rich presents, for which and other reasons, I rate this
country higher in estimation, because we well know that Peru has been involved in cruel civil wars, whereas we have remained, and will continue to do so, our breasts prostrate on the earth in submission and allegiance to our lord the King, and ready to expose and devote our lives and fortunes in his service.
Let the curious reader consider the number of cities of New Spain, which from their being so many, I will not detail; our ten bishoprics, not including the archbishopric of the noble city of Mexico, the three courts of royal audience, together with the succession of governors, archbishops, and bishops, our holy cathedrals and monasteries, Dominican, Franciscan, Mercenarian, and Augustin, our hospitals with the extensive remissions and pardons attached to them, and the Santa Casa of our Lady of Guadeloupe with the holy miracles there performed every day, and let us give thanks to God, and to his blessed mother our Lady, for giving us grace and support to conquer these countries, where so much christianity is now established.
Let it be
also remembered, that in
I will now propose a few questions by way of dialogue, with the immortal and illustrious goddess of Fame, who has seen, and proclaims through the world, our manifold, great, and remarkable services, to God, his Majesty and all Christendom, and cries with a loud voice, saying, that it is in justice and in reason, that we should have better estates and situations than others who have not served his Majesty here or elsewhere. The goddess also enquires where are our palaces, and mansions, adorned with distinguishing blazons, with sculptures of our coats of arms, and monumental trophies of our heroic actions, in the same manner as those cavaliers have who served their king in Spain, our atchievements being no way inferior to theirs, but on the contrary of most eminent merit, and not exceeded by any. The goddess of Fame also enquires for those conquerors who escaped from cruel deaths, and for the tombs and monuments of those who fell.
questions I reply as follows, with much brevity. Oh excellent and illustrious
Fame! desired and sought for by the good and virtuous, but shunned and hated by
the malicious, why do you not exalt us as our merits deserve? know, goddess,
that of five hundred and fifty soldiers who left the
The illustrious goddess next asks me for an account of those who
Narvaez, and with Garray; to which I reply, that the number of the soldiers who
came with the former was one thousand three hundred exclusive of the mariners,
of whom not more than ten or eleven survive, the rest having fallen in the
wars, and being sacrificed and devoured. Those who came with Garray, according
to my account, including the three companies which landed at St. Juan de Ulua
previous to the arrival of Garray himself, were in all one thousand two hundred
soldiers, most of whom were sacrificed and devoured in the province of Panuco.
Fame also asks for the fifteen soldiers who accompanied Lucas Vasquez de Aillon
who loft his life on the coat of
Having now answered your questions illustrious Fame relative to our monuments, blazons, and palaces, I request of you that henceforward you exalt to more effect your most virtuous and excellent voice, in order that our high prowesses may be made known to the universe, and not be obscured as they are by the Flanders of the malignant. To this my request most virtuous Fame replies, that she will do so most willingly; and also, that she is astonished to find that we have not the best properties allotted to us in that country which we conquered, and which it was his Majesty’s orders should be given to us, in like manner as the Marquis Cortes was rewarded, not indeed to the same extent, but moderately. The goddess also says that the actions of the valiant and magnanimous Cortes are always to be most highly estimated, and considered amongst those most celebrated in history. She also at the same time observes, that in the histories of Gomara and the Doctor Illescas and others, no mention is made of any of us, but they only say, “Cortes
discovered,” and “Cortes conquered;” the captains and soldiers remaining unnoticed; but she has been very happy to find that all which I have narrated in my history is strictly conformable to the truth, and that I follow matter of fact closely and literally, without running into servile praises, and that I do not depreciate many valiant captains and soldiers to exalt one, as is the case with Gomara and the ether historians. The good goddess also promises me, that she will proclaim these truths wherever she shall be, and further, that if this my history is published, it shall be credited, and its authenticity acknowledged wherever it is seen or heard, and that it than obscure and annull all others.
Besides what I have here proposed by way of dialogue, a certain doctor, an oydor of the court of royal audience of Guatimala, asked me how it happened that when Cortes wrote to his Majesty, and also when he went the first time to Castille, he did not solicit for us, since we were, under God, the means whereby he acquired his marquisate and government. To this I then replied, and now say, that when his Majesty gave him the government, he therewith received the better part of this whole country, believing that he was to remain absolute master thereof, and to have unlimited liberty to bestow or deprive as he thought proper; and this, it is supposed, was the reason why he would not and did not write on the subject. Also, at the time his Majesty gave him his marquisate, he solicited the government in the same manner that he had held it before; but it was then refused him, and he did not think of asking any thing that might be serviceable to us, but only to himself.
Further, the veedor and factor, together with other cavaliers of Mexico had represented to his Majesty, that the Marquis had taken for himself the best provinces and towns of New Spain, and had assigned others to his friends and relations newly come from Castille, leaving very little for the royal patrimony; whereupon, as we afterwards learned, Majesty was pleased to order that all the overplus should be divided
us, the companions of Cortes, but the Emperor was at that time in
the conquerors therefore saw, that those who did not reach his Majesty’s
presence had no one to speak in our favour, we sent to petition that whatever
lands thenceforward fell vacant, should be distributed in perpetuities amongst
us, according as our claims were substantiated, as was the case before the
first court of royal audience held in Mexico, whereof Nuno de Guzman was
president. His Majesty’s express directions to Nuno de Guzman were, to throw
the whole property of
Cortes. Also, that to us, the true conquerors should be given the best districts and of most rent, leaving the cities and great towns for his Majesty’s property. The Emperor also ordered that the vassals of Cortes should be counted, leaving no more with him than his patent specified; but what was to be done with the surplus I do not recollect. The reason why Nuno de Guzman and the oydors did not make this repartition in perpetuity was, that they were misled by bad advisers, whom, not to dishonour, I will not name, but the persons I have alluded to told them, that if the conquerors once sound themselves provided for, they would cease to respect and be dependent on them, as was the case while they were compelled to supplicate for a subsistence. As also, by retaining, they kept the power of bestowing the vacant lands at their pleasure, and to the advantage of their own private interest. It is true that as districts fell vacant, Guzman and the oydors constantly assigned them to conquerors, and colonists, to their satisfaction; and if that court was superceded, it was on account of the disputes with Cortes, and of marking free Indians for slaves.
year one thousand five hundred and fifty, I being in Old Spain, the licentiate De
la Gasca came from
De la Gasca and the other Peruvians had brought with them great quantities of treasure, as well for their own use as for his Majesty, the latter being sent from Seville to Augusta in Germany where the Emperor then was, and in his company our most happy Don Philip king of
His Majesty was pleased, in regard to the repartition of lands in perpetuity, to order, that the Marquis de Mondejar president of the royal council of the Indies, the licentiates Gutierre Velasquez, Tello de Sandoval, Gregorio Lopez and Briviesca, and the Doctor Hernan Perez de la Fuente, oydors of that court, together with cavaliers of other royal councils should assemble, to consider, and see how the repartition should be made, as was best for the service of God and for his Majesty’s interest.
When these cavaliers were met in the house of Pero Gonzalez de Leon, where was established the royal council of the Indies, it was proposed in that very illustrious assembly, that the perpetual repartition should take place in New Spain and in Peru; I am not certain that Grenada and Bobotan were included, but am inclined to think that they were, and the reasons offered in support of the measure were holy and good. It was argued that if the lands were granted in perpetuity, the proprietors would for their own interests treat the natives better, and pay more attention to the conversion of them to our holy faith. That if they suffered from sickness or misfortune they would be attended to like their children, and the rents alleviated. The proprietors would also go into improvements, planting vines and breeding cattle; disputes
litigations about lands and boundaries would cease, and the office of visitadors
or inspectors would be unnecessary. The minds also of the soldiers would be
tranquillized, in knowing that the presidents and governors had not the power
of bestowing lands when they fell vacant, on their clients and favourites. His
Majesty also in doing this would exonerate his royal conscience, in
recompensing those who had served him faithfully. To these, many other good
reasons were added. It was also proposed to deprive the turbulent and
then opposed by the Bishop of Chiapa, his associate Fray Roderigo of the order
of St. Dominic, the Bishop of Palencia, the Marquis of Mondejar, and two oydors
of the royal council of his Majesty. The Marquis of Mondejar did not however
speak upon the occasion, but remained as it were on the look out to see which
party was likely to carry the question. The arguments used by the others
against the repartition were, that many in
It was proposed,
and approved by many present, that the few of the real conquerors of
perpetuities, referring the other matter to future consideration. As soon as
this proposition was made, the other party moved that all further proceedings
should be postponed until the return of his Majesty to Castille, because in an
affair of such importance his presence was necessary. It was then urged by the
Bishop of Mechoacan and other cavaliers, as well as myself, that the
perpetuities might be granted in New Spain, leaving the Peruvian procuradors to
act as they thought fit, this being conformable to his Majesty’s declarations
and instructions in our favour. This now brought on much debate; for we
insisted that whatever reasons might be against the granting perpetuities in
Peru, could be of no avail against us in New Spain, considering our great
services to his Majesty and all Christendom. But all we said was of no effect
with the members of the royal council of the
of these matters being conveyed by express to
his royal ordinances that the conquerors and their posterity should be provided for, attending in the first instance to those who were married, as may be seen in the royal cedules.
When I had written out fairly this my history, two licentiates requested me to lend it to them for their perusal, in order that they might know in detail the occurrences which happened in the conquest of New Spain, and also that they might see what difference existed between my account, and those of Gomara and the Doctor Illescas, relative to the heroic actions of the Marquis Del Valle. I accordingly presented this book to them for their perusal, with the respect which is due to scholars from a poor illiterate person like myself, desiring them at the same time to make no alteration whatever herein, as what I had written was the strict truth. As soon as they had read it, one of them who was a great rhetorician, and vain of his knowledge, began to praise the book, and expressed his surprise at my memory, and at my being able to carry in it such a series of matter, from the time I first came to these countries.
The licentiates also observed, that in regard to my stile or language, it was conformable to that in ordinary use in Old Castille, and that as such it was the more agreeable, not being embarrassed with flowery affected phrases, such as are made use of by historians in general. They also observed that it seemed to them as if I praised myself greatly, in the battles which I give an account of, whereas I ought to have left that to be done by others; and that I should have given my witnesses, testimonies, and quotations, as authorities for what I wrote, and not have said drily, “that I did; this I saw;” it not being conformable to the custom of historical writing; for I am not a witness for myself. To these observations I then replied, as I do now, that in the year one thousand five hundred and forty the Marquis Del Valle wrote a letter to his Majesty giving an account of me and my services, how I had come twice to this country on voyages of discovery previous to his expedition,
had often been an eye witness of my conduit as a brave soldier in battle as
well in Mexico as in other places, how I accompanied him in his expedition to
Honduras and Higueras, and many other particulars which to avoid prolixity I
will not relate. The most illustrious viceroy also, Don Alonzo de Mendoza wrote
to his Majesty informing him of what he had learned relative to me from the
captains by whose side I sought, and his account was in all respects
conformable to that of the Marquis Del Valle. Proofs to the same purport were
also presented on my part to the royal council of the
Now, said I, gentlemen licentiates, are not the Marquis Del Valle, the viceroy D. A. de Mendoza, and my proofs, good witnesses? but if they will not suffice, I will produce you the Emperor our lord Don Carlos the fifth, who by his royal letter, sealed with his royal. Peal, commanded all viceroys and presidents, that respecting the many and good services which I had rendered, benefits should be conferred upon me and mine. The original letters are now in my possession, and the copies deposited at court in the archives of the secretary Ochoa de Luyado. Such was my answer to the observation of the licentiates.
But to return to my subject, if more testimony is wanting look at New Spain which is three times larger than our Castille, and more thickly inhabited by Spaniards, and the great wealth which it sends to Castille. But I have observed that the historians Gomara and Illescas never chose to relate our heroic actions, leaving all our value and honours in the dark, where they would have remained were it not for this my true history, and assigning such great merit to Cortes; in which, although they were right to a certain degree, yet they ought not at the same time to have forgotten us.
Of the achievements of Cortes a part also of the honour falls to me, for I was one of the most forward in every battle by his side, as I
was in many others when he sent me under different captains to conquer provinces, as is found written in my history, how, when, and where.
Cortes returned to
As to what the licentiates said, that I praise myself so much, and that I ought to leave it to be done by others, I say, in common life it is the custom of neighbours to speak of each other as each deserves; but he who never was in the wars with us, nor saw them, nor heard of them, how can he speak of us? were the birds which flew over our heads while in battle to give accounts of us? or the clouds? who then was to speak our praises but we ourselves? Indeed gentlemen licentiates said I had you found that I detracted from the honour due to one of our valiant captains or soldiers, and ascribed it to myself, then you might justly blame me. But the fact is that I do not praise myself so much as I ought.
I will now make a comparison, although on one side the subject of it is very high, and on the other a poor soldier like myself. Historians say that the great emperor and warrior Julius Caesar was in fifty three pitched battles. I say that I was in many more battles than Julius Caesar, as may be seen in this my history. Historians also say that Julius Caesar was brave and active in battle, and that when he had time, he at night committed to writing with his own hand, his heroic actions, although he had many historians, not chusing to entrust the office to them. Truly this happened many years ago, and may or may not be the case; whereas what I relate occurred yesterday as it may be said.
It is therefore not extraordinary if I relate the battles in which I fought, that in future ages it should be said, “thus did Bernal Diaz del Castillo,” in order that my sons and their posterity should enjoy the praises of their ancestor, in the manner that many cavaliers and lords of vassals in the present day, do the fames and blazons of their predecessors. I will however drop this subject lest the detracting malicious, to whom these things are odious, should charge me with digressing too much. There are also conquerors now living to contradict me if I were in error, and the world is so malevolent that any such thing could hardly pass without animadversion; but the narrative itself is the best testimony of its veracity.
now enumerate and particularise the various battles and other matters of
warfare in which I was present. They are as follows. At the point of Cotoche,
with Captain F. H. de Cordova. At Champoton, a battle, wherein half our
companions were killed. In
the marquis. The battle of
I have therefore according to this account been present in one hundred and nineteen battles and engagements; and it is not extraordinary if I praise myself, as what I say is the mere truth. Nor are these old stories or histories of Romans, of many ages past; for evident and true are the many and notable services which I have rendered; first to God, then to his Majesty, and all Christendom; and I give thanks and praises to our Lord Jesus Christ, that I escaped from all dangers, to make these things manifest; and I also say, and praise myself thereon, that I have been in as many battles and engagements as, according to history, the Emperor Henry the fourth.
F I N I S.