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 127

When Cortés saw that they had given us no sort of reception in Tezcuco, and had not even given us except bad food and with bad grace, and that we found no chieftains with whom to deal, and he saw that all were scared away and ill disposed, and observed the same condition on coming to Mexico, how no market was held and the whole place was in revolt, and he heard from Pedro de Alvarado about the disorderly manner in which he made his attack, and as it appears that on the march Cortés had spoken to the Captains of Narváez himself on the great veneration and command that he enjoyed, and how on the road Indians turned out to receive him and celebrate the occasion and give him gold, and that in Mexico he ruled as absolutely over the great Moctezuma as over all his Captains, and that they would give him presents of gold, as they were used to doing, and when everything turned out contrary to his expectations and they did not even give us food to eat, he was greatly irritated, and haughty towards the numerous Spaniard that he was bringing with him, and very sad and fearful.

At this moment the great Moctezuma sent two of his chieftains to beg our Cortés to go and see him, for he wished to speak to him.

The response that he [Cortés] made was “Why should I be civil to a dog who was dealing secretly with Narváez and will not even keep open a market and does not order food to be given us!”

Then when our Captains, that is Juan Velásquez de Leon, Cristóbal de Olid , Alonzo de Avila, and Francisco de Lugo, heard Cortés say this, they exclaimed, ” Señor, moderate your anger and reflect how much good and honor this king of these countries has done us, who is so good that had it not been for him we should all of us be dead already, and they would have eaten us, and remember that he has even given you his daughters.”

This angered Cortés more than ever at the words they said to him and he said, ” Why should I be civil to a dog who deals secretly with Narváez, and now you can see does not even give us food to eat.”

Our Captains replied, “That is to our minds what he ought to do and do it with good advice.”

As Cortés had so many Spaniards there with him in Mexico, both of our own party and of the followers of Narváez that he had no care in the world about anything, and he spoke angrily and rudely again, addressing the chieftains and telling them to say to Moctezuma that he should at once order sales to be held, if not he would see what would happen.

[Eventually the fighting became so costly to the Spaniards that Cortés changed his mind and decided that it would be better to sue for peace if the Mexicas would allow them to leave Tenochtitlan. At this point, he wanted to see Moctezuma.]

When Cortés saw all this [the trap the Spaniards were in], he decided that the great Moctezuma should speak to them from the roof and tell them that the war must cease, that we wished to leave his city. When they went to give this message from Cortés to the great Moctezuma, it is reported that he said with great grief, “What more does Malinche want from me? I neither wish to live nor to listen to him; thanks to him, my fortune has come to this.” And he did not wish to come, and it is said that he said he neither wished to see nor hear him, nor listen to his false words, promises or lies. Then the Padre de la Merced and Cristóbol Olid went and spoke to him respectfully in very affectionate terms, and Moctezuma said, “I am certain that I cannot have any effect in ending this war, because they have already elevated another Lord and have determined that they will let you leave this place alive; also I believe that all of you are going to die.”

Returning to the battle, Moctezuma was placed at the edge of the roof with many of us soldiers guarding him, and he began to speak to them with very affectionate words to cease their war, that we were going to leave. Many of the Chiefs and Captains knew him well and also ordered the people to be silent and to not throw darts, stones, or arrows. Four of them approached a spot where Moctezuma could hear them, and they him, and with tears they said to him: “Oh Señor, and our great Lord, Ah how all your misfortune and injury and that of your children and relations weighs [heavily] on us. We want you to know that we have already elevated your cousin to be our Lord; it was Coatlavaca, Prince of Iztapalapa, and not yet Guatemuz, where he would become Lord two months later.” They also said that the war must continue, and that they had promised their Idols that they would not stop fighting until all of us were dead, that each day they prayed to Huitzilopochtli and Tezcatlipoca to keep him free and safe from our power, that they missed not a step, and should the outcome be what they desired, they would have higher regard for their Lord [Moctezuma] than before, and they begged him to forgive them.

They had hardly finished this speech when suddenly [there was] a strong volley of stones and darts. We were shielding him, but we momentarily failed to cover him, and he received three blows from rocks, and was pierced with an arrow, in the head, in the arm, and in a leg. And even though in comforting words, they wanted to take care of his wounds and [wanted him to eat]; he refused. And, quite suddenly, they announced that he was dead.