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 Hernán Cortés, Cartas y relaciones de Hernan Cortés al emperador Carlos V, third letter, 298–99.

In this defeat thirty-five or forty Spaniards, and more than a thousand of our Indian allies, were slain by the enemy, besides more than twenty Christians wounded, among whom was myself in the leg. We lost the small field-piece that we had taken with us, and many crossbows, muskets, and other arms. Immediately after their victory, in order to strike terror into the alguazil mayor and Pedro de Alvarado, the enemy carried all the Spaniards both living and dead, whom they had taken to the Tlatelulco, which is the market-place, and in the lofty towers that are situated there they sacrificed them naked, opening their breasts and taking out their hearts to offer them to the idols. This was seen by the Spaniards of Alvarado’s division from where they were fighting, and from the whiteness of the naked bodies, which they saw sacrificed they knew them to be Christians; but although they suffered great sorrow and dismay at the sight, they effected a retreat to their camp after having fought gallantly that day, and carried their conquests almost to the market-place, which would have been taken, if God on account of our sins had not permitted so great a disaster.

We returned to our camp, such was the grief we felt, somewhat earlier than had been usual on other days; and in addition to our other losses we had been told that the brigantines had fallen into the hands of the enemy, who attacked them with their canoes in the rear; but it pleased God, this was not true, although the brigantines and the canoes of our allies had been, seen in danger enough, and even a brigantine came near to being lost, the captain and master of it being wounded, the former of whom died eight days afterwards.

That day and the following night, the enemy made great rejoicings with horns and kettle-drums, appearing to be overwhelmed with joy; and they opened all the streets and bridges as they were before, and in setting their fires and sentries at night, they came within two bow-shots of our camp; but as we had returned discomfited, wounded, and destitute of arms, there was need of rest and recruiting. In the mean time, the rulers of the city took occasion to send messengers to their subjects in many provinces, to say that they had gained a signal victory and destroyed many Christians, and that soon they would put an end to us; and the messengers carried with them as credentials two heads of horses which they displayed for the purpose of showing wherever it seemed advisable that there was more reason for the rebellions to persevere than before. But notwithstanding all this, as the enemy did not grow more presumptuous, nor sensible of our weakness, every day some Spaniards on foot or horse, with many of our allies, made sallies into the city, though they were unable to gain more than a few bridges in the next street before coming to the square.