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 5 (Mexica)

Here it is told what happened when Moctezuma’s messengers went aboard the ship of Don Hernán Cortés. Then they climbed up, carrying gifts in their arms. When they got into the ship, each kissed the earth before the Captain.

Having done this, they addressed him, saying:

“Let the god hear [us], for his deputy Moctezuma, who is in charge of the city of México for him, addresses him saying ‘the god has suffered, he is weary [from travel].'”

Then they adorned the Captain. They put on him the turquoise mosaic serpent mask attached to a quetzal feather head fan. With it were fixed, hanging from each side, green-stone earplugs in the shape of serpents.

Then they put a sleeveless jacket on him. And they put a necklace [around his neck] of plaited green stone in the middle of which was a golden disk. Next they fastened a mirror to his hips, And also they dressed him in a cape called the tzitzilli.

And on his legs they placed the green stone bands with the golden bells. Also they gave him and placed on his arm, a shield with crosspieces of gold and mother-of-pearl with feather fringes of quetzal [feathers] and a [quetzal] banner. And they laid the obsidian sandals before him.

And the other three sets of adornments, the finery of the gods, they only arranged in rows before him, for him to see.

When this had been done, the Captain said to them: “Is this all? Is this everything you have to welcome [us]? Is this how you greet people?”

They replied: “This is everything with which we have come, our lord.”

Then the Captain ordered that they be tied up; they put irons on their feet and necks. When this was done, they fired the large cannon. And the messengers then fainted and swooned. One by one they fainted, they fell to the deck; swaying, they lost consciousness. And the Spaniards lifted and raised them and gave them some wine to drink. Then they gave them food, fed them. With this, they recovered their strength and caught their breath.

When this had been done, The Captain said to them: “Listen, I have known and heard it said that these Mexicas are very strong, are [great] warriors, and conquerors. If there is even one Mexica, he can chase, overpower, conquer, and defeat even ten, even twenty, of his enemies. Now I want to be convinced, to see for myself, to test how strong you are, how manly you are.”

Then he gave them leather shields, iron swords, and iron lances. He then said to them: “Very early in the morning, as dawn comes to pass, we will fight each other, we will challenge each other, we will find out who will fall first.”

They answered the Captain saying, “Listen, our lord. This is not what Moctezuma ordered us [to do]. All we came to do was to greet and salute you. We were not ordered to do what the lord wants. If we should do that, would not Moctezuma become angry with us? Will not he destroy us for that?”

Then the Captain said: “No, it will be done. I want to see and admire [your prowess], for it is known in Castile, it is said that you are very powerful and valiant. Eat while it is still before dawn, and I will eat then too. Arm yourselves well! Mucho ánimo [Cheers]!”

[Cortés then let them go, and they ran across Mexico to tell Moctezuma what happened.]