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 77

[After a number of battles, the Tlaxcalan leaders sue for peace with the Spaniards and become their most important allies.]

The next day the same old Caciques [of Tlaxcala] came and brought with them five beautiful and young virgins, and for Indians they were beautiful and well dressed. Each of them had a servant, and all were the daughters of Caciques. And Xicotencatl [the Tlaxcalan leader] said to Cortés, ” Malinche, this is my daughter who has never been married and is a virgin, take her for your own.” And he gave her to him by the hand, gave the others to the captains. Cortés thanked him and graciously said that he accepted them and took them as our own, but that for the present they should remain with their fathers.

The Chiefs wanted to know why he would not take them now.

Cortés replied: “It is because I want to do what our Lord God, who we believe in and adore, has ordained, and that for which our Lord the King had sent us, which was to make them give up their Idols and no longer kill and sacrifice human beings and [to make them abandon] the other evil sins they practiced and to lead them to believe in that which we believed, that is in one true God. And he told them much more about other things touching our holy faith, and in truth he expressed it very well, for Doña Marina and Aguilar, our interpreters, were already so expert at it that they explained it very clearly.

He showed the Caciques an image of our Lady, with her precious Infant in her arms, and explained to them how that image was the likeness of our Lady, who is called Santa Maria, who dwells in the high heavens and is the mother of our Lord, who is that Child Jesus whom she holds in her arms, whom she conceived by the grace of the Holy Spirit, being a virgin before His birth, and remaining a Virgin during His birth, and after His birth, and how that Great Lady prays for us to her precious Son who is our God and Lord. Cortés added many details which it was fitting to say about our holy faith: that if they wished to be our brothers and to have true friendship with us, so that we should willingly accept their daughters and take them, as they said, for our wives, that they should immediately give up their evil Idols and believe in and worship our Lord God, who is He in whom we believe and whom we worship, and they would see how well things would go for them, because in addition to having good health and good seasons, other things would prosper with them, and when they died their souls would go to Heaven to enjoy everlasting glory; however if they went on making sacrifices to their Idols, which were devils, as they were accustomed to do, they would be led to Hell where they would burn for ever in live flames. And, since in other conversations he had already said much about the giving up of their Idols, he said nothing more about their disadvantages now.

For their response, they said: “Malinche, we have already understood you, and we thoroughly believe that this God of yours and this great Lady are very good, but you have only just come to our homes; as time goes on we shall understand your beliefs much more clearly and see what they are and will do what is right, but how can you ask us to give up our Teules, which our ancestors have believed to be gods for many years, and [we] have made sacrifices to them and have worshipped them? And even if we, who are old men, might wish to do it to please you what would our priests say, and all our neighbors, and the young men and children throughout the province? They would rise against us especially as the priests have already consulted the greatest of our Teules, and he told them not to forget the sacrifice of men and all the rites they practiced, otherwise the gods would destroy the whole province with famine, pestilence, and war.”

Thus they spoke and gave as their answer that we should not trouble to discuss that subject with them again because they were not going to quit making sacrifices even if they were killed for it.

When we heard that reply, which they gave so honestly and without fear, Father de la Merced, who was a wise man, and a theologian, said, “Sir, do not attempt to press them further on this subject, for it is not just to make them Christians by force, and I would not wish that you should do what we did in Cempoala, that is, destroy their Idols, until they have some knowledge of our Holy Faith. What good is it to take away their Idols from one oratory or temple now, if they carry them quickly to another. It would be better if they should gradually feel the weight of our admonitions which are good and holy, so that later on they may realize the good advice which we are giving them.”

Furthermore three gentlemen, namely, Juan Velásquez de Leon and Francisco de Lugo, spoke to Cortés and said “Father is right in what he says, you have fulfilled your duty with what you have done, it is necessary now to leave these Caciques in peace. And that’s what happened.

We persuaded them to remove from and to clean and whitewash a nearby and newly constructed temple so that we could place a cross in it with the image of Our Lady. Mass was said there and the Cacicas were baptized. The daughter of the blind Xicotencatl was given the name Doña Luisa. Cortés, taking her by the hand, gave her to Pedro de Alvarado, and said to Xicotencatl that he to whom he gave her was his brother and his Captain, and that he should be pleased for she would be well treated by him. Xicotencatl was content. The daughter or niece of Masse Escasi was named Doña Elvira and she was very beautiful and it seems to me that she was given to Juan Velásquez de Leon. The others were given baptismal names, always with the title of nobility (doña), and Cortés gave them to Gonzalo de Sandoval, and Cristóbal de Olid and Alonzo de Avila.

When this had been done Cortés told them the reason why he put up two crosses: because their Idols were afraid of them. [He also told them] that wherever we camped or wherever we slept we placed [crosses] in the roads.

Before I continue on other things, I want to say that this Cacique, the daughter of Xicotencatl, who was named Doña Luisa and was given to Pedro de Alvarado, that when they gave her to him the most part of Tlaxcala paid reverence to her, and gave her presents, and looked on her as their mistress. Pedro de Alvarado, who was then a bachelor, had a son by her named Don Pedro, and a daughter named Doña Leonor, who is now the wife of Don Francisco de la Cueva, a nobleman, and a cousin of the Duke of Alberquerque. He had four or five sons, a very good gentlemen, and lady Doña Leonor is a very excellent lady, as might be expected, being the daughter of such a father, who was a commendador of [The Order of] Santiago, Adelantado and Governor of Guatemala, and Xicotencatl, the great Lord of Tlaxcala, who was like a king.