At the end of the year 1519, Moctezuma was held hostage in a golden cage. The Aztec population felt that new masters had come to the country, and two generations later, Sahagún in Codex Florentino wrote what he had heard Indians tell about the Spaniards first time in Tenochtitlán:
And when the morning came, some shout all the Spaniards need, white corn bread, fried turkeys, eggs, fresh water, wood, firewood, charcoal, large pottery, polished dishes, water cups, large clay pot, frying pan, all types of earthenware; this, it’s true, ordered by Moctezuma.
And the princes he called upon no longer obeyed him; they are angry, they don’t come to him, they don’t go to him, they don’t longer listen. However, it was not neglected to help with everything they were in need for, food and drinks, and water and feed for the deers.
The deers had been the Aztecs first name for the Spaniards horses, which they did not know before 1519, but of course in the 1570s. Sahagún and his co-workers had probably chosen the word to give the text Indian authenticity – opposite the word diablo, the devil, which was not Indian but was Spaniards patronizing expression for an Indian god and which Sahagún consistently used in his manuscript. Probably he would balance on the edge of the Kings ban on writing anything about superstition.
Sahagúns description of the occupation continued with looting:
And when the Spaniards really had settled, they questioned Moctezuma about everything that concerns the citys treasures, the rankings, the shields; very diligently they question him, very eagerly they ask for the gold. And Moctezuma then shows the Spaniards the way, they surround him, they croud around him, he walks between them, closely followed, he shows the way, closely followed, they have a grip on him, they hold onto him. And when they had arrived at the Treasury, whose name is Teocalco, all the glorious treasures, quetzal feathers, signs of ranks, shields, golden plates, necklaces of the diablos, goldnosehalfmoons, golden leg jewels, golden bracelets, golden forehead jewels, are featured. Then the gold, that was on the shields, was torn off, and the gold on all the signs; and when all the gold was torn off, they ignited it, they set it on fire, they burn all the various precious things; everything burned.
And the gold the Spaniards melted into bars; and of the green gems they took those they liked; and the other green gemstones the Tlaxcaltecs stole. And everywhere the Spaniards walked around, they thoroughly reviewed all the hiding places, treasure chambers, store rooms. Everything they took, everything they saw and which they liked.
MOCTEZUMAS GREAT SPEECH – ACCORDING TO CORTÉS
Moctezuma arranged a meeting with all the chiefs of the city, and in the letter to the King, Cortés the following year wrote, that Moctezuma had held this speech:
My brothers and friends, you know that, for a long time you, and your fathers, and grandfathers, have been, and are, subjects and vassals of my forefathers and myself, and that you have always been well treated by them, and by me, and that you have likewise done what good subjects are obliged to do towards their rightful sovereign. I also believe that you have kept in mind, from your forefathers, that we are not natives of this country, and that they came to it from another, very far off, that they were brought here by a sovereign, whose vassals they all were, who left them in it, but who returned after a long time; that he found our forefathers already settled and established in this country, and married to the women, and having a great increase of sons, so that they did not choose to return with him, nor much less to receive him as their sovereign; and that he departed, saying that he would return, or send such a force that they would be compelled to submit. You also know, that we have always expected him, and, according to what the Captain – that is Cortés – has told us of that King and Lord who has sent him here, and according to the direction whence he says he comes, I hold it to be certain, and you must also hold it thus, that his sovereign is the one we have been expecting especially as the Captain says that they have had information there respecting us.
Since our predeccessors did not act justly towards their sovereign lords, let us do so, and let us give thanks to our gods, because that which they looked for has come to pass in our times. I heartily pray you, inasmuch as all this is well known to you, that you have obeyed me as your sovereign, henceforward you will regard and obey this great king, because he is your rightful sovereign, and, in his place, you must hold this, his Captain; also that all the tributes and services, which until now you have paid to me, you do give to him, because I also shall pay tribute, and serve in all that he may command me. In so doing, you will do your duty as you are obliged to do, and you will, moreover, in doing this, give me much pleasure.
PLEASE, KING CARLOS!
According to Cortés, Tlatoani Moctezuma has in the presence of the citys chiefs, referring to Aztec myths, left the entire Aztec Empire to Spains King! Not just an unconditional surrender but also a recognition of Cortés as representative of the returning Lord, who will avenge because they have not acted lawfully.
And then, by the way, they can thank their gods for allowing them to experience this divine moment!
After his account of Moctezumas great speech, Cortés added that Moctezuma had cried the greatest tears and uttered the deepest sighs a man can, and that all chiefs who had heard him also cried so much that they for long were unable to answer. And Cortés assured his Majesty in Spain – who there was titled as Sacred Majesty – that there was not one of the Spaniards who had heard this speech, which did not feel the greatest compassion.
After they had somewhat restrained their tears, they answered, that they regarded him as their sovereign, and they promised to do all that he ordered them to do, and that for this, and for the reason he had given them, they would do it gladly; that henceforth, for all time, they gave themselves as vassals of Your Highness and henceforth they, all together, and each one singly, would promise, and did promise, to comply with all that should be commanded them in the royal name of Your Majesty, as good and loyal vassals ought to do; and that they would concur with their tributes and services, which heretofore they had given to the said Moctezuma, and with everything else which might be commanded in the name of Your Highness.
All this passed before a notary public, who at my request recorded it in due form, in the presence of many Spaniards for witnesses.
Total loyalty, formulated legally sharp, witnessed by Spaniards and recorded by a notary public.
I just repeat: PLEASE, KING CARLOS!
(pp. 374-377 in volume 1, reproduced without notes and illustrations):
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO AZTECS AND INCAS: MYTHS AND STORIES FROM MEXICO AND PERU. Edited, translated, retold and commented by Mikael Witte. Volume 1 + Volume 2
476 pages + 540 pages. Richly illustrated in colors
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