Passage for discussion:
“I said everything to them I could to divert them from their idolatries, and draw them to a knowledge of God our Lord. Moctezuma replied, the others assenting to what he said, that they had already informed me they were not the aborigines of the country, but that their ancestors had emigrated to it many years ago; and they fully believed that after so long an absence from their native land, they might have fallen into some errors; that I having more recently arrived must know better than themselves what they ought to believe; and that if I would instruct them in these matters, and make them understand the true faith, they would follow my directions, as being for the best”.
In this passage Cortes attempts to play the God himself in an attempt to coerce Montezuma to bow to his own bidding. Obviously the Spaniard was interested in nothing else but to acquire the country for his King’s empire and in this passage he also makes it abundantly clear that that was his main aim.
In this letter, Hernan Cortes is discussing the several bountiful aspects of Mexico obviously in the context that it was ripe for colonization. One marvels at the astonishing detail into which Cortes goes into, especially the descriptions of the buildings, the way the inhabitants planned their streets and other similary descriptive details.
The passage on the temples prevalent in Mexico and Cortes’s discourse with Montezuma are particularly interesting. Obviously Cortes is fascinated by observing the depth of the religous artefacts which the Mexicans adored and this created a situation where he was already planning the imposition of the Catholic religion on the country’s subjects. Cortes saw the Mexicans as heathens who needed to be civilised accordingly and thus informed his King that the country was ripe for the picking.
Cortes also muses at length on the elaborate rituals and paganism of the Mexicans, at times appearing rather shocked at some ceremonies and customs. Obviously one has to take into account that this is 1520 and the Spanish ahd just arrived to the country for the first time and the instrinsic customs of the Mexicans were quite new to them.
Cortes must obviously have been rather impressed with all that was going on in Mexico at the time and with Spain rapidly hoping to advance its colonial empire. The Spanish armada was also a potent force in the 16th century and this conquest of Mexico led practically to the whole of South America being colonized by this redoubtable Mediterranean country.
Hernan Cortés: from Second Letter to Charles V, 1520