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 13 (Mexica)

[After the Spaniards attacked Cholula, they continued to advance toward Tenochtitlan. To stop the Spaniards, Moctezuma sent emissaries with gold, hoping Cortés would be satisfied and leave. Instead, the spectacle of the gold led the Spaniards to lust for more of the precious metal. When the gifts failed to halt Cortés’ advance, Moctezuma again turned toward sorcerers.]

Chapter 13: Here it is told how Moctezuma sent out other sorcerers so that they might cast a spell on the Spaniards and what happened to them on the way.

Then [he sent] another series of messengers: who were wizards, magicians, and priests. They also went out to meet the strangers. But they could do nothing. They could not blind their eyes; they could not cast a spell on them; they could not dominate them in any way. They could not even meet [the strangers].

For a drunkard tripped them in the road. They encountered him and stopped, were stunned. They believed he was a man from Chalco because he was dressed like a Chalca with eight grass strings tied to his chest; he acted like a Chalca in his manners; like a Chalca [one knows through] fiction. Appearing drunk, he pretended to be drunk, he feigned to be a drunkard.

They encountered him before they [could appear] before the Spaniards. He rushed toward the Mexicas and said: “Why have you come here? What sort of thing do you want? What does Moctezuma want to do? Has he still not come to his head? Is he now unhappy, fearful? He has made mistakes; he has abandoned his vassals and has destroyed men. Some have been beaten and others wrapped in shrouds [for the dead]; some have been betrayed and others mocked and deceived.”

And when they had seen this, when they heard his words, they tried in vein to approach him. They hurriedly built him a small temple and an alter and a seat made of grass. But for awhile they could not see him. They worked in vain, they constructed his temple in vain, for he spoke to them only in oracles. He frightened them; he harshly reprehended them, and spoke to them as if from a great distance.

He asked them: “Why in vain have you stopped here? Already, [it is apparent] that México will exist no longer! It is finished forever! Let go of this place! [it exists] here no longer! Turn around! Steer your sight toward México! What is to happen, has already happened!”

Then they came to see, they came to fix their eyes with anxiety. All the temples were burning and the communal houses, and the priestly schools, and all of the houses in México. And everything was as if a battle [had already begun].

And when the sorcerers saw this, they lost all heart. They no longer spoke clearly; it was like they had been made to swallow something. They said: “This is not for us to see; it is [a vision] for Moctezuma, all that we have seen. [For] this was no common being, this was the young Tezcatlipoca . . . !” Unexpectedly, it disappeared; they no longer saw it.

And so the messengers abandoned their encounter [with the Spaniards], no longer did they walk toward them. From there, the sorcerers and the magicians turned back to tell Moctezuma [what they saw]. They came together with those who had gone first, with those [who had earlier] gone with Tzioacpopoca [the messenger who earlier given the Spaniards gold].

And when these messengers arrived, they told Moctezuma how it happened, how they saw it [México in flames]. And when Moctezuma heard it, he [could] only bow his head, he hung his head. He no longer spoke words, but remained crestfallen for a long time. [After] all that was said and in spite of everything, he [finally] responded to them:

“What can we do, my strong ones? What can be done here? We are finished! We are at the mercy of our gods! Is there a mountain we can climb? Can we perhaps escape? We are Mexicas: is it true that glory will be given to the Mexican nation?”

“The poor old men are worthy of compassion and the poor women and the children who [are too young] to reason,. where will they be safe? But, there is no remedy. . . What can we do? Is nothing left? What can we do and where [can we go]? We are at the mercy of our gods . . . What they want, they will get, what they want will come to be . . . . [Whatever they want], we shall be astonished by it.”