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 86

We set out from Cholula in carefully arranged order as we were always accustomed to do, the mounted scouts examining the country ahead and some alert foot soldiers accompanying them, so that should they come to any bad ground or other obstacle they might help each other out; then our cannon all ready for action, and the musketeers and crossbowmen, and then the horsemen in parties of three so that they could help one another, then all the rest of the soldiers in good order. I don’t know why I recall all this so clearly, but when writing about war, one feels obliged to make mention of it, so that it can be seen how we marched always “with chin on shoulder.” Marching in this way we arrived that day at some cabins standing on a hill in the region of Guaxocingo, and I think they are called the ranchos of Iscalpan and are situated some four leagues from Cholula.

To this place soon came the Caciques and priests of the towns of Guaxocingo which were near by, and they were friends and allies of the Tlaxcalans, and there also came people from other small towns, which stand on the slopes of the volcano near their boundary line, who brought us food and a present of golden jewels of small value, and they asked Cortés to accept them and not consider the insignificance of the gift but the good will with which it was offered. They advised him not to go to Mexico [Tenochtitlan] as it was a very strong city and full of warriors, where we should run much risk. They also told us to look out, if we had decided upon going, for when we had ascended to the pass we should find two broad roads, one leading to a town named Chalco, and the other to another town called Tlamanalco both of them subject to the Mexicas; that the one road was well swept and cleared so as to induce us to take it, and that the other road had been closed up and many great pines and other trees had been cut down to stop the horses and ensure that we could go no further. That a little way down the side of the mountain along the road that had been cleared, the Mexicans had cut away a piece of the hill side, and had made ditches and barricades, and that certain squadrons of Mexicas had waited at that point so as to kill us there. So they advised us not to go by the road which was clear, but by the road where the felled trees were, saying that they would send many men with us to clear it, and as the Tlaxcalans were also with us, between them they would clear away the trees, and they said that that road came out at Tlamanalco. Cortés received their present very kindly and told them that he thanked them for the advice they had given him, and that with God’s help he would not abandon his march but would go the way they advised him.

Early the next morning we began our march, and it was nearly, midday when we arrived at the side of the mountain where we found the roads just as the people of Guaxocingo had said. There we rested a little and began to think about the Mexica squadrons on the entrenched hillside where the earth works were that they had told us about. Then Cortés ordered the Ambassadors of the great Moctezuma who came in our company to be summoned, and he asked them how it was that those two roads were in that condition, one very clean and swept and the other covered with trees that had been recently chopped down.

They replied that it was done so that we should go by the cleared road which led to a city named Chalco, where the people would give us a good reception, for it belonged to their lord Moctezuma, and that they had cut the trees and closed down the other road to prevent our going by it, for there were bad passes on it, and it meandered somewhat before going to Mexico [Tenochtitlan], and came out at another town which was not as large as Chalco.

Then Cortés said that he wished to go by the blocked road, and we began to ascend the mountain with the greatest caution, our allies moving aside the huge thick tree trunks, by which we had to pass, with great effort, and some of them still lie by the roadside to this very day. As we rose higher it began to snow and the snow caked on the ground. Then we descended the hill and went to sleep at a group of houses which they build like inns or hostels where the Indian traders lodge, and we dined well, but the cold was intense, and we posted our watchmen, sentinels, and patrols and even sent out scouts.

The next day we set out on our march, and, about the hour of high mass, arrived at a town which I have already said is called Tlamanalco, where they received us well and where there was no scarcity of food. When the other towns heard of our arrival, people soon came from Chalco and joined those of Tlamanalco, Amecameca, and Acingo where the canoes are, for it is their port, and other small towns whose names I have forgotten. All of them together brought a present of gold and two loads of mantles and eight Indian women and the gold was worth over one hundred and fifty pesos and they said: “Malinche, accept these presents which we give you and look on us in the future as your friends.”

Cortés received them with great good will and promised to help them in whatever they needed, and when he saw them together he told the Padre de la Merced to counsel them regarding matters touching our holy faith, and that they should give up their Idols, and he told them all that we were accustomed to say in all the towns through which we had passed, and to all this they replied that it was well said and that they would see to it in the future. Cortés also explained to them about the great power of our Lord, the Emperor, and how we had come to right wrongs and to stop robbery, for it was for this purpose that our Emperor sent us to these countries.

When they heard this, all these towns that I have named, secretly, so that the Mexica Ambassadors should not hear them, made many complaints about Moctezuma and his tax gatherers, who robbed them of all they possessed, and raped their wives and daughters, if they were beautiful, before them and their husbands, and carried them off, and made the men work as though they were slaves, and made them carry pine timber and stone and firewood and maize either in their canoes or over land, and many other services such as planting cornfields, and they took their lands for the service of the Idols. They made many other complaints, which, as it was many years ago, I do not remember.