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Cortés in Tenochtitlan

September 12, 2012

A modern artist’s rendition of what an aerial view of Tenochtitlan may have looked like

Below please find a new web question written by your classmate, Shayna Wolf, dealing with the account that we read in the Shaping of the Modern World book, “A Conquistador Describes the Capital of Mexico” (pp. 3-8).

What was Cortés’s overall attitude toward the people of Tenochtitlan? How and why did he try to change their religious practices? What changes did he make to the city itself? And why did the people agree with and allow these changes?

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Nataliya Chornobryvets permalink
    September 13, 2012 11:37 am

    I think that Hernan Cortez was very surprised by what he saw in Tenochtitlan in comparison with what he saw on Caribbean islands. The city was built by people who had good knowledge in architecture and were aware of military protection of the city. There was a well-organized structure of government and religious hierarchy as well. Cortes pointed out that people have good level of culture and they are polite. So, until conflicts started, Cortes’ overall attitude toward inhabitants of Tenochtitlan was friendly and respectful, probably.
    As a staunch Christian, Cortes started to persuade Aztecs that their religious believes are fallacious and that his religion is true. According to Cortes’s words, that was not very hard to convert Aztecs to Christianity. There are not enough facts in the text, but I recall other things: firstly, Aztecs believed that Spanish conquistadors were “agents” of their God, therefore, Aztecs welcomed Spaniards. Secondly, when it appeared that the first impression was mistaken, Aztecs were forced to accept Christianity by coercive methods.

  2. Shira Binyaminy permalink
    September 13, 2012 7:20 pm

    When Cortes first arrived in the new world he saw they worshipped idols and sacrificed humans, he was fearful of them because he thought they will force him out or cut off their food supply. He also marveled at their beautiful city that he said looked a lot like Spain (which surprised him because he looked at them as savages not what he believed to be civilized humans) I believe that he had a right to be scared of them because they were uncivilized and if they believed that killing humans was a practice their g-d wanted then you can’t trust these natives. Cortes didn’t agree with Tenochtitlan religion at all because he was a devout Christian and their actions horrified him. He tried in various ways to change their religion. He ordered a few of their most prized idols to be thrown and the temples cleansed. In the beginning they protested but then they slowly gave in.
    The reason they agreed in the end was because they were not natives from the land and they might have been mistaken from the long trip that took to arrive at this land. After they agreed Cortes made them get rid of the idols and no more human sacrifices. They followed him happily

  3. Norbert Fital permalink
    September 13, 2012 9:44 pm

    Compared to the other natives within this region Cortes was very impressed with the city and the people of Tenochtitlan. Cortes was impressed with the city’s size (which he compared to Seville and Cordova), the architecture, and the system of water flow through the city. Cortes admired the people of Tenochtitlan because they were cooperative with the Spanish people, easy to convert into Christian, were good workers, and were dressed better than other natives. Cortes wanted to convert the natives into Christians since he was one himself and felt the need to spread his religion and the Spanish people dislike their pagan traditions which included human sacrifice and the use of human blood for building idols, which he viewed as barbaric. In attempt to convert the natives into Christians, Cortes removed the idols of the Aztec pagan gods and exchanged them with Catholic saints. Cortes improved the city by adding a pipe system in the city, and by making checkpoints near bridges to check the goods being imported/ exported. The natives seemed to respect the Spanish conquers and it seemed the natives were converted easily.

  4. Jotty T. F rancois Fils permalink
    September 13, 2012 11:01 pm

    When Cortes first landed in the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, he was surprised by the architecture of the city, by all its activities especially by the culture of its people. The city contains many huge idols in which these people believed as their God and sacrificed human blood to them. Seeing that,Cortes considered them as a barbarous nation and try to make changes to their religious practices. By interpreters, Cortes instructed them that they are making a big mistake to trust idols made by their own hands from unclean things and the only God they should know is the one who created the earth,the sky, the spring of water.He also forbade them to make human sacrifice to the idols which is an abomination to the sight of God. He even ordered them to replace the idols by the image of Our lady and other saints.Besides he make an other changes to the city its self by building four bridges,fearing that the natives could intended any treachery against them and let them die of hunger by removing all the bridges to get to the mainland.
    All these changes that Cortes was able to do is simply the fact that these people were not natives of the land and they believe that they were in error from the true faith since they had left their native land and at the same time were nice and polite. They thought that the Spaniards were sent by their god and they were all ready to do whatever Cortes told them.

  5. Fabiola Ramos permalink
    September 14, 2012 10:00 am

    Cortes was very suprised when he arrived in Tenochtitlan. He considered the people in this city to be barbarians and that they lacked knowledge about God. He believed that the city was falling behind because they had no contact with enlightment nations. When Cortes settled there, he was determined to change the peoples thoughts. The people there worshiped idols and he wanted them to believe that there was only one God who created all things. He didnt think it was correct for them to worship different idols for different things because he believed there was only one God for all things. As cortes began to talk to the people about his believes an why what they were doing was wrong, such as human sacrifices, the people agreed to the changes proposed by Cortes because to them it really didnt make a difference since they werent natives. Throughtout this change, the people removed the statues of idols and replaced them with saints, and they agreeed to stop human sacrfices. Although this city was barbarous, as he reffered to it, it was shocking because it still remined him of Spain.

  6. Vera Orlando permalink
    September 14, 2012 10:40 am

    In the reading Cortes described the city of Tenochtitlan as a great city with many huge “mosques” and saw great potential in helping to modernize it. He viewed the people living in the city as animalistic and barbaric because of the activities he witnessed. They would practice human sacrificing and some form of cannibalism. Part of the reason for this was because they were shut out from the rest of the nations around them that were really developing. Cortes wanted to change this so he helped by building bridges to improve the city, but the most important change/impact was religion. He taught them to believe in one God and to replace their idols with saints and angels. The people of the city were very accepting and cooperative because they considered Cortes a blessing and a messenger of their gods. Therefore, they accepted all the changes and moved forward.

  7. Joseph DeAngelo permalink
    September 16, 2012 2:33 pm

    Cortés, immediately noticed that the people in Tenochtitlan, in the Valley of Mexico, were living their lives rather differently than those in Spain; however, there were undeniable similarities that connected them. Cortés observed them to be generally nice people (i.e., not malicious); they were very religious in their own beliefs, which Cortés imminently changed. Overall, he viewed them to be a welcoming civilization, of fine architecture, but barbarous in the way they condone human sacrifice and misled in their religious beliefs. Cortés saw the nation to be shut of from a knowledge of the true God and thus should be converted to the “right” way (the Christian way). In observing their idols, in which they essentially viewed there to be separate gods–such as a god for wind or food–he promoted the belief in one God, the creator of all things. Believing these idols were due all temporal goods, the people of the Valley of Mexico would often sacrifice humans, and incorporate human blood with these idols. Seeing this to be barbarous, Cortés issued the temples to be cleansed of human sacrifice, human blood, and idolatry. Considering the people were not natives of there land, but came to it a long time ago and in which time they could have “erred” from proper religion. Therefore, they listened to Cortés’ requests and happily abided by his new set of religious principles. In so doing, Cortés noted that in his entirety of staying in Mexico there was not one human soul sacrificed. He concludes in saying although the people of Tenochtitlan have some oddities in the way they carry out their lives, they have great fundamental potential for orderliness and good government through the help of outside nations.

  8. Winine Fu permalink
    October 6, 2012 11:46 am

    Cortes was very intrigued in the way the city was built, the well thought out strategy of protection, He notice the greatness of the structure and surroundings these people had built around themselves, Cortes acknowledge the danger he would be in if he upset the people..Cortes saw these people as barbaric because of the religious activities he witnessed. He changed the ways they were making sacrificial activities in not knowing what God wants. These people were living on an island away from modernization and not knowing what the world has become outside of their territory. He had these people acknowledge what he knew of God and what God the maker of this world would want. The people were willing to make these changes and simply adjusted to the changes.

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