Published Date

May 1, 2004

Resource Type

Primary Source

This resource was developed in 2004 as part of “The Conquest of Mexico” by Nancy Fitch.

From Bernal Díaz del Castillo, Historia Verdadera, Volume 2, Chapter 83

Now, an old Indian woman, the wife of a Cacique, knowing of the plot that would trap us, secretly saw Doña Marina, our interpreter, noticing that she was young and pretty, and rich, advised her to come to her house if she wanted to save her life; that certainly we would all be killed on that night or during the next day, for the Great Moctezuma had arranged for the Mexicas and the people of the city to join forces to massacre us or capture us to be carried bound to Mexico. The woman said knowing this, with her compassion for Doña Marina, she had come to tell her that she had better get all her possessions together and come with her to her house, and she would there marry her to her son, the brother of a young man who accompanied her.

Understanding this, Doña Marina, who was always very sharp, said to her, “Oh mother, thank you much for what you have told me, I would go with you at once, but I have no one here to carry my clothes and jewels of gold; I have a lot, please, mother, wait a little, you and your son, and we will go tonight; at this hour, you can see, the Teules are on guard; they will discover us.”

The old woman believed what she said, and stayed to chat with her. Doña Marina asked her how they were going to kill all of us, and how and when the plot was hatched. The old woman told her neither more nor less than what the two priests had already stated, and Doña Marina replied: “If this affair is such a secret, how is it that you came to know about it?” She responded that her husband had told her, for he was a captain of one of the quarters in the city, and as captain he was currently occupied readying his warriors to join Moctezuma’s squadrons in the ravines, and she thought that they were already assembled waiting for us to set out, and that they would kill us there; as to the plot she had known about it for three days, for a gilded drum had been sent to her husband from Mexico, and rich cloaks and jewels of gold had been sent to three other captains to induce them to bring us bound to their Lord Moctezuma.

Doña Marina, having heard this, deceived the old woman and said: “How overjoyed I am to hear that your son to whom you wish to marry me is a man of distinction. We have already talked for a long time, and I do not want them to notice us, so Mother wait here while I gather my riches, for I cannot bring it all at once, and you and your son, my brother, will take care of it, and when it is all collected, we can go.”

The old woman believed everything she was told, and she calmly waited with her son.

Doña Marina went swiftly to the Captain and told him of all that had passed with the Indian woman. Our Captain had her brought before him, and again questioned her about these treasons and plots. She told him exactly what the priests had said, so he put a guard on her so she could not escape.

At daybreak, it was a truly marvelous sight to see the haste with which the Caciques and priests gathered their warriors, laughing, and their joy, as though they had already caught us in their traps and nets. They brought more Indian warriors than we had asked for. There were so many the courtyard, even though it was very large, could not hold them all.

When the Cholulans arrived with the warriors, we were already prepared for what had to be done. The soldiers with swords and shields were stationed at the gate of the great court so as not to let a single armed Indian pass. Our Captain was mounted on horseback guarded by many soldiers. Seeing how very early the Caciques and priests and warriors had arrived, he said: “How these traitors long to see us among the ravines so as to gorge on our flesh, but Our Lord will do better for us.” Then he asked for the two priests who had let out the secret, and they told him that they were at the gate of the courtyard with the other Caciques who wished to come in. Cortés ordered our interpreter, Aguilar, to tell them to go to their houses, for he had no need of their presence now. This was in order that, as they had done us a good turn, they should not suffer for it, and should not get killed. Cortés was on horseback with Doña Marina at his side, and he asked the Caciques, why was it, as we had done them no harm whatsoever, that they had wished to kill us on the previous night?