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

Just then some Caciques and priests arrived, who belonged to other districts of the town [of Cholula], who said that they were not any part of the treasons (for it is a large city, a very large city, that was divided among parties and factions), they presented themselves before Cortés and all of us and asked to be pardoned, to forget our righteous anger and [their] past treason, for the traitors had paid for it with their lives. And the two priests who were our friends and had disclosed the secret to us, and the old woman, the wife of the captain, who wanted to be the mother-in-law of Doña Marina, as I have already related, joined them in begging Cortés for mercy.

Cortés, after they spoke, made a great show of anger. Then, having summoned the Ambassadors of Moctezuma, who were detained in our company, he said that the whole city deserved to be completely destroyed and its citizens massacred, but that out of respect for their Lord Moctezuma, whose vassals they were, he would pardon them on the condition that they will be good and not hatch any more plots like the last one, or they will die for it.

Then, he summoned the Chiefs of Tlaxcala camped outside the city and told them to return the men and women whom they had taken prisoners. [The Tlaxcalans responded by] saying that the Cholulans had deserved far greater punishment for the many treacheries they had constantly received at their hands, but out of deference for Cortés, they gave back many persons. Nevertheless, they remained rich, in gold and mantles, cotton cloth, salt and slaves.

Moreover Cortés made peace between them and the people of Cholula, and from what I have seen and heard that friendship has never been broken. Furthermore he ordered all the priests and Caciques to repopulate the city and reopen the Tianguez and markets, for there is nothing to fear.

They replied that within five days the city would be fully peopled again, for most of them were saved [by hiding] in forests. They expressed fears that that Cortés would not appoint a Cacique for them, for their ruler was one of those who had died in the massacre in the court. Cortés asked them who normally would become Cacique? They said the brother of the deceased, so Cortés appointed him.

When Cortés saw the city repopulated and the markets functioning, he assembled all the priests, captains and other chieftains, and explained to them very clearly all the matters touching on our holy faith, and told them that they must cease worshipping idols, [making] sacrifices, [holding] banquets with human flesh, [committing] robbery, [and engaging in] customary offences [sodomy?]. He challenged them to consider how their false Idols were wrong, were evil and had lied; let them remember the lies which they had told only five days ago when seven persons had been sacrificed to them and they promised to give them victory, that everything they said to them and the priests was evil; therefore he begged them to destroy the Idols and break them in pieces, that if they did not wish to do it themselves he would do it for them. Finally, he ordered them to wash a temple with limestone, so that we might set up a chapel with a cross there.

They carried out the last order immediately; they promised to remove their Idols, but although they were many times ordered to do so, they delayed. It’s then that Father de la Merced said to Cortés that it was excessive, in the beginning, to deny them their Idols before they better understand the complexities of the faith: that it is necessary to wait for the success of our entrance into Mexico [Tenochtitlan] that would show us what we ought to do in the matter, that for the present the warnings we had given them were sufficient together with the setting up of the Cross.