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 82

[After much discussion the Spaniards march toward the Mexica capital at Tenochtitlan via the city of Cholula.]

One morning we started on our march to the city of Cholula and we took the greatest possible precautions, for, as I have often said, where we expected to encounter revolts or wars we were much more on the alert.

That day we went on to sleep at a river which runs within a short league of Cholula, where there is now a stone bridge, and there we put up some huts and cabins. This same night the Caciques of Cholula sent some chiefs to welcome us to their country, and they brought supplies of poultry and cornbread and said that in the morning all the Caciques and priests would come out to receive us, and they asked us to forgive their not having come sooner. Cortés told them through our interpreters, Doña Marina and Jerónimo de Aguilar, that he thanked them both for the food they had brought and for the good will which they showed us. We slept there that night after posting watchmen and spies and scouts.

At dawn we began to march towards the city. When we were already close to the town, the Caciques and priests and many other Indians came out to receive us. Most of them were clothed in cotton garments made like tunics, such as the Zapotec Indians wear. I say this for anyone who has been there, for that is what they wear in that province. That is the clothing of the people of Cholula.

They came in a most peaceful manner and willingly, and the priests carried braziers containing incense which they spread about our Captain and us soldiers who were standing near him. When these priests and chiefs saw the Tlaxcalan Indians who came with us, they asked Doña Marina to tell Cortés that it was not good for their enemies with arms in their hands to enter their city.

Cortés then ordered the soldiers and the baggage to halt, and, when he saw us all together and that no one was moving, he said: “It seems to me, Sirs, that before we enter Cholula we should carry on a friendly dialog with these Caciques and priests, so that we can see what their wishes may be; for they come complaining about our friends the Tlaxcalans, not without reason; with the help of fair words, I want to make them understand the reason why we came to their city; [if] these people, as the Tlaxcalans have told us, are rebellious, it would be a good thing for them to render their obedience to His Majesty; this appears fitting to me.”

Then he told Doña Marina to bring the Caciques and priests to where he was stationed on horseback with all of us around him, and three chieftains and two priests came at once, and they said: “Malinche, forgive us for not coming to Tlaxcala to see you and to bring food, it was not for want of good will but because Masse Escasi and Xicotencatl and all Tlaxcala are our enemies, and have said many evil things about us and the Great Moctezuma our Prince, and as though what they have said is not enough, they now have the audacity to come armed into our city under your protection, and we beg you as a favor to order them to return to their own country or at least to stay outside in the fields and not to enter our city, as for you, you are very welcome.”

As our Captain saw they were [making a] reasonable [argument], he ordered Pedro de Alvarado and Cristóbal de Olid, the Quartermaster, to ask the Tlaxcalans to return to the countryside, and not to enter the city with us, excepting those who were carrying the cannon and our friends from Cempoala, and he told them to explain to the Tlaxcalans that the reason why he asked them to do so was that all the Caciques and priests were afraid of them, and that when we left Cholula on our way to Mexico we would summon them, and that they were not to be annoyed at what he was doing.

These orders having calmed the Cholulans, Cortés began to make a speech to them saying that our Lord and King, whose vassals we were, had very great power and held beneath his sway many great princes and Caciques, and that he had sent us to these countries to give them warning and command them not to worship Idols, or sacrifice human beings, or eat their flesh, or practice sodomy or other uncleanness, and as the road to Mexico [Tenochtitlan], where we were going to speak with the Great Moctezuma, passed by there, and there was no other shorter road, we had come to visit their city and to treat them as brothers. As other great Caciques had given their obedience to His Majesty, it would be good that they should give theirs as the others had done.