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 Fray Bernardino de Sahagún, The Florentine Codex, Book 12, Chapter 7 (Mexica)

[After the Spaniards let them go, the messengers ran across Mexico to tell Moctezuma about their encounter with the Spaniards. When they met Moctezuma’s guards, they were informed by the worried Moctezuma that he would not hear what they had to say in his palace. He insisted on meeting them at the Coacalco and ordered that some captives be readied for sacrifice. This chapter begins with messengers and Moctezuma at the Coacalco. Moctezuma had just had the captives killed and had their blood sprinkled on the chests of the messengers. He apparently–according to Chapter Six of Sahagún–had done this because of his belief that the the messengers had communicated with the gods.]

When this [the sacrifice] was finished, they [the messengers] told Moctezuma their story. They told him how they had gone in wonder and what they had seen and what [the Spaniards’] food was like.

And when he heard what the messengers reported, he was frightened and terrified, and he was astonished by their food.

He was even more frightened when he heard how the cannon exploded on [the Spaniards’] command, sounding like thunder, causing people to fall down, as it deafened their ears.

[He was told] And when it was fired, something like a ball of stone comes out of its entrails: it comes out shooting sparks and raining fire. And the smoke from it has a foul odor, like that of rotten mud, and punishes the head even to the brain and causes discomfort.

And if they shot at a hill, it seemed to crumble and fall apart; and when it struck a tree, it splintered, seeming to vanish, as if someone blew it away.

Their war gear was all [made] of iron [tepuztli–workable metal]. They dressed [themselves] in iron; they put iron on their heads; their swords were iron; their bows were iron; their shields were iron; their lances were iron.

Their deer [horses] carry them upon their backs. They are as high as rooftops.

And they covered all parts of their bodies, only their faces are visible. They are white, they are as if they were [made] of lime.” They had yellow hair, although the hair of some was black. They had long beards, also yellow, and their mustaches are also yellow. Some [of African origin?] had frizzy hair [that] was curly and kinky.

As for their food, it is like human food, large and white, and not heavy, something like straw. It was like the stalks of maize plants, and tasted like maize [flour]. It tasted a little sweet or honeyed, honeyed and sweet to eat.

And their dogs are enormous, with ears folded over and long, hanging tongues. They had burning eyes, eyes like coals, [that were] yellow and fiery. They had long and thin flanks with the ribs showing. [They were] very tall, strong, and fierce. They went about panting, with their tongues hanging down. They are of a spotted color like ocelots with many patches of colors.

When Moctezuma heard all this, he was filled with terror, as if he were fainting. His heart was sickened; his heart was anguished.