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 88

In the morning of the next day we left lztapalapa with a large escort of those great Caciques whom I have already mentioned. We proceeded along the causeway which is here eight paces in width and runs directly to the city of Mexico [Tenochtitlan] and it does not seem to me to turn either much or little, but, broad as it is, it was so crowded with people that there was hardly room for them all, some of them going to and others returning from Mexico, besides those who had come out to see us, so that we were hardly able to pass by the crowds of them that came; and the towers and cues were full of people, as well as the canoes from all parts of the lake. It was not to be wondered at, for they had never before seen horses or men such as we are. Gazing on such wonderful sights, we did not know what to say, or whether what appeared before us was real, for on one side, on the land, there were great cities, and in the lake ever so many more, and the lake itself was crowded with canoes, and in the causeway were many bridges at intervals, and in front of us stood the great city of Mexico [Tenochtitlan], and we, we did not even number four hundred soldiers. I and we well remembered the words and warnings given us by the people of Guaxocingo, of Tlaxcala, of Tlamanalco, and the many other warnings that had been given that we should beware of entering Mexico, where they would kill us, as soon as they had us inside. Let the curious readers consider whether there is not much to ponder over in this that I am writing. What men have there been in the world who have shown such daring?

But let us get on, and follow our march. When we arrived where another small causeway branches off (leading to Cuyoacan, which is another city) where there were some buildings like towers, which are their oratories, many more chieftains and Caciques approached clad in very rich mantles, the brilliant liveries of one chieftain differing from those of another, and the causeways were crowded with them. The Great Moctezuma had sent these great Caciques in advance to receive us, and when they came before Cortés they bade us welcome in their language, and as a sign of peace, and after they touched their hands against the ground, they kissed their hand There we halted for a good while, and Cacamatzin, the Lord of Tezcuco, and the Lord of Iztapalapa and the Lord of Tacuba and the Lord of Cuyoacan went on in advance to meet the Great Moctezuma, who was approaching in a rich litter accompanied by other great Lords and Caciques, who owned vassals.

When we arrived near to Mexico, where there were some other small towers, the Great Moctezuma got down from his litter, and those great Caciques supported him with their arms beneath a marvelously rich canopy of green colored feathers with much gold and silver embroidery and with pearls and chalchihuites [precious green stones or turquoise] suspended from a sort of bordering, which was wonderful to look at. The Great Moctezuma was richly attired according to his usage, and he was shod with sandals called cotares, the soles were of gold and the upper part adorned with precious stones. The four Chieftains who supported his arms were also richly clothed according to their usage, in garments which were apparently held ready for them on the road to enable them to accompany their lord, for they did not appear in such attire when they came to receive us. Besides these four Chieftains, there were four other great Caciques, who supported the canopy over their heads, and many other Lords who walked before the Great Moctezuma, sweeping the ground where he would tread and spreading cloths on it, so that he should not tread on the earth. Not one of these chieftains dared even to think of looking him in the face, but kept their eyes lowered with great reverence, except those four relations, his nephews, who supported him with their arms.

When Cortés was told that the Great Moctezuma was approaching, and he saw him coming, he dismounted from his horse, and when he was near Moctezuma, they simultaneously paid great reverence to one another. Moctezuma bade him welcome and our Cortés replied through Doña Marina, who he always had at his side, wishing him very good health. And it seems to me that Cortés, through Doña Marina offered him his right hand, and Moctezuma did not wish to take it, but he did give his hand to Cortés and then Cortés brought out a necklace which he had ready at hand, made of glass stones, which I have already said are called marcassites, which have within them many patterns of diverse colors, these were strung on a cord of gold and with musk so that it should have a sweet scent, and he placed it round the neck of the Great Moctezuma and when he had so placed it he was going to embrace him, and those great Princes who accompanied Moctezuma held back Cortés by the arm so that he should not embrace him, for they considered it an indignity. Then Cortés through the mouth of Doña Marina told him that now his heart rejoiced at having seen such a great Prince, and that he took it as a great honor that he had come in person to meet him and had frequently shown him such favor.

Then Moctezuma spoke other words of politeness to him, and told two of his nephews who supported his arms, the Lord of Tezcuco and the Lord of Cuyoacan, to go with us and show us to our quarters, and Moctezuma with his other two relations, the Lord of Coadlavaca and the Lord of Tacuba who accompanied him, returned to the city, arid all those grand companies of Caciques and chieftains who had come with him returned in his train. As they turned back after their Prince, we stood watching them and observed how they all marched with their eyes fixed on the ground without looking at him, keeping close to the wall, following him with great reverence. Thus space was made for us to enter the streets of Mexico [Tenochtitlan], without being so much crowded. But who could now count the multitude of men and women and boys who were in the streets and on the rooftops, and in canoes on the canals, who had come out to see us. It was indeed wonderful, and, now that I am writing about it, at all comes before my eyes as though it had happened yesterday. Coming to think it over it seems to be a great mercy that our Lord Jesus Christ was pleased to give us grace and courage to dare to enter into such a city; and for the many times He has saved me from danger of death, as will be seen later on, I give Him sincere thanks, and in that He has preserved me to write about it, although I cannot do it as fully as is fitting or the subject needs. Let us make no words about it, for deeds are the best witnesses to what I say here and elsewhere.

Let us return to our entrance to Mexico. They took us to lodge in some large houses, where there were apartments for all of us, for they had belonged to the father of the Great Moctezuma, who was named Axayaca, and at that time Moctezuma kept there the great oratories for his idols and a secret chamber where he kept bars and jewels of gold, which was the treasure he had inherited from his father Axayaca, and he never disturbed it. They took us to lodge in that house, because they called us Teules, and took us for such, so that we should be with the Idols or Teules which were kept there. However, for one reason or another, it was there they took us, where there were great halls and chambers canopied with the cloth of the country for our Captain, and for every one of us beds of matting with canopies above, and no better bed is given, however great the chief may be, for they are not used. And all these palaces were [coated] with shining cement and swept and garlanded.

As soon as we arrived and entered into the great court, the Great Moctezuma took our Captain by the hand, for he was there awaiting him, and led him to the apartment where he was to lodge, which was very richly adorned according to their usage, and he had at hand a very rich necklace made of golden crabs, a marvelous piece of work, and Moctezuma himself placed it round the neck of our Captain Cortés, and greatly astonished his [own] Captains by the great honor that he was bestowing on him.