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The Spanish Conquest of Mexico, Through the Eyes of the Indigenous

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When the Spaniards first arrived upon our peaceful shores, I did not know that my life would be changed forever. For most of my life I was known as Itzli. I belonged to the tribe of the mighty Aztec empire, once one of the most fearsome and powerful rulers of all land known by my people.

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We lived completely off the land that we made for ourselves. My people believed that the land had a very spiritual existence. The land you see, supports “life” and it is in turn “alive” itself. This meant that you could only expect to get out of your land what you put into it and respecting the land would result in good fortune such as health, wealth and happiness. The land was constantly renewed by the spirits, pleased by our way of life, bringing plentiful rainfall and fertile soil in which to grow our meals. This was the circle of life, the only way my people knew to survive, which has been practiced for generations.

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My village of Colbee was the envy of many, centered just beyond the mountainous valleys of Tenochtitlan, the great imperial capital. The land was extraordinarily moist, receiving daily runoff from the nearby mountain ranges, catching waters poured down by the gracious gods above.

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Across the valleys lay Tenochtitlan, a land of beautiful palaces and magnificent pyramids built on plateaus, which were surrounded by triumphant seas on all sides. I have been blessed for many years to live in such paradise. I came from a family of nobles, my father a great Aztec warrior and my brother next in succession.

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When the bowing masses of the Spanish Conquistador’s ships first became visible, it appeared that giant serpents slithered across the sea’s monstrous waves with little struggle. We knew not of their forecomming. The idea that there was another world beyond the sea was unthinkable. We had never seen such beings before. Their skin as white as daylight and bodies overly clothed. This was particularly true for the one of whom they called Cortez, who appeared to be their leader. We could not imagine a reason for their settlement. How could these strange men possibly benefit from our simplistic society?

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The Spanish explorers, however, had a very different view of the people who stood before them. They laid their eyes upon us as if they had seen people of our breed many times before. They had the mentality of angry gods, treating us like lesser beings. For this reason we believed them to be just that, supreme overlords. Even our own ruler Moctezuma lead us to believe Hernan Cortez to be Quetzalcoatl himself, a white skinned God who’s coming was foretold in a prophecy known by all. Whether these superior men were heavenly or hellish was not clear but would become unclouded with the events to come.

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Then the blood shed began, with the capture of our beloved Moctezuma, leaving us Indigenous with no strategy or direction. This was a part of their plan to “divide and conquer.” Now the purpose of these white demons became obvious. They wanted our fertile land and riches that furnished the vast temples of our imperial empire. Our land that we have devoted our entire lives into perfecting would not be taken with out a fight.

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My people began forming rebellious groups, in every crevice of the land, in order to combat the Spanish takeover. Our handcrafted spearheads and bows were no match for the Conquistador’s unholy weaponry. They were aided with ships of tall masses and ferocious beasts, that resembled wolves but would follow the orders of the white demons. They shot gigantic boulders into the sky which caused fire wherever they landed. They rode on wild, shrieking, four-legged creatures and carried steel blades, in which they impaled everything in their path.

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As if the Spaniards did not already have an obvious advantage, they were also aided by people of our own race. The Tlaxcala, angered for the generations of Aztec sacrifices of their tribe members, became indigenous allies of the Conquistadors.

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Many Aztec people died in the crossfire during these years but the deaths caused by warfare were incomparable to the real hidden evil, brought on the backs of the malicious demons, a horrendous sickness, which they called “smallpox.” In just the first few years of the Spanish encounter the malady spread rapidly in our village and in all that surrounded it. The disease spread like wildfire claiming everything it touched, leaving bodies lifeless and mangled like animal carcasses after the hunt. It was not long before the sadness became unbearable, unable to escape the nightmares of the corpses of people once dear to me. These vivid dreams portrayed the reality of what was actually happening in my village and I feared the most for my father and brother, away at battle.

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Then out from the shadows of my changing world shinned a new light. After our empire had been severely weakened and the smallpox had reduced the indigenous population to a minuscule fraction, the Spanish kingdom had big plans for us. They would “reward” the conqueror's with the remaining indigenous peoples. When a Spaniard by the name of Alejandro Gomez came to my village I was very sympathetic and did not resist. I wanted nothing more than to leave this madness behind, even if it meant abandoning my home and becoming a “slave.” Nothing could be worse than fighting for survival here, for my paradise is no more. Upon my arrival of the field, where I would spend my remaining years working as an “encomienda,” we were forced to become “Christians.” Becoming more Spanish would justify our survival in this “New Spain.”

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After a few long and humid months working on the “hacienda”, as they called it, I received word of the fall of the Aztec empire. The “smallpox” had finally claimed the remains of my village and of course my father and brother were no exception. It was then that Alejandro took a particular interest in me. He seemed loving and compassionate unlike the other Spanish warriors who appeared brutal and obsessed with power. At this moment I came to the realization that the Spanish were human beings after all, their mentality tainted with their struggles and fears for their homeland. Maybe we are experiencing now what they had experienced in the past. In the end of this chaos, Alejandro and I were married leaving painful memories behind. Although I had moved on, I did not completely abandon my Indigenous heritage. The newest addition to my family is a baby girl, a mestizo child, whom I named Ce Acatl , in memory of where I came from.

Resources : 

Resources Born In Blood & Fire- A Concise History Of Latin America- Second Edition, by: John Charles Chasteen, 2006

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