empire fueled the rise of the Spanish empire, and by consequence, that of other European nations. But contrary to what history says were the factors in this great shift of power in America, such as superior weaponry, war tactics, strange diseases, and cunning on behalf of the so-called conquistadors, the true factor which locked the version of history we have come to know was the pen.
In no other instance of world history is the phrase “The pen is mightier than the sword” truer than in the aftermath of the fall of Tenochtitlan. Another phrase seems less potent in this scenario, yet historians are known to cite it at every chance they get saying "History is written by the victor." In the case of Mexico at the end of the Aztec empire, the victor didn't know how to write for the new European audience on the other side of the world. The Tlaxcalteca and their native allies just assumed that the Spaniards would give them their fair share of the credit, which was the majority of it. But the Spanish, starting with Cortez simply stole all the glory and claimed it for themselves. Their writings which are now treated as the official record give us many descriptions of the way things supposedly were prior to the arrival of the Spanish and how the conquest was won; a version of history and events which most academicians, historians, researchers, and lay people take as concrete evidence without questioning for an instance some things that clearly do not make sense. Among the many claims the Spanish and Spanish-guided historians of the sixteenth century make are the following:
1)The Mexica practiced human sacrifice
2)Cortez burned his ships at Veracruz to force his soldiers into a fight-or-die situation:
3)Cortez was a military genius
4)Cortez challenged Moctezuma to send the full force of the Mexica military corps to face him and his little band of Spaniards so they could “Medir las fuerzas” or “Measure our strength of arms against one another”...
5)Malinali, aka Doña Marina, aka Malintzin, aka “La Malinche” was given to Cortez among a group of slaves by the Chontal Maya after he defeated them in battle
6)Moctezuma believed Cortez was the god Quetzalcoatl
7)Cortez forced Moctezuma to admit him and his followers, including Tlaxcalteca porters, into Tenochtitlan
8)Cortez took Moctezuma prisoner just a few days after arriving in Tenochtitlan
9) The Aztecs themselves stoned Moctezuma to death up on his balcony as he was trying to calm them saying “We are not their (the Spaniards) equals”...
9)Cortez cried under a tree on the night of their defeat called “La Noche Triste” because it represented a defeat of the Spanish goals for conquering Mexico.
10)Cortez lay siege to Tenochtitlan until Cuauhtémoc surrendered.
11)The Spanish defeated the Mexica, therefore conquering Mexico by force of arms.
12) ...and more.... way more fantastical claims.
We will be examining each of the above-mentioned claims and others one by one on this blog, dissecting them and exposing the clear reasons why they are nonsensical myths about the first interactions between Europeans and American Natives of Mexico. But for this post, the principal topic is the glue that made these claims stick to begin with. That was none other than the fact that they were written down as the "true" history and the world accepted them without overtly questioning their sources; although in private, history indicates the likelihood that their intended audience at the time saw these claims as outlandish, as well.
The one thing that Cortez did to secure his place in the historical record as a man of consequence in the conquest of Mexico was to write his letters addressed to the King of Spain. He was followed in this pursuit by at least one of his fellow conquistadors, Bernal Diaz del Castillo (even though he wrote his memoir many years after events occurred, having had ample time for the study of the official record as it had already been established by others, and therefore, being able to add his own creative license to the already excessively tall tales). Nonetheless, it is this act alone that created the current world as we know it. A world in which people of indigenous American Native backgrounds and their widespread variety of interracially mixed descendants are viewed as inheritors of a legacy of defeat, of surrender, and of gullibility and poverty. How else can anyone explain why it is that in modern day America, people of Mexican (or any other indigenous background) are viewed as inferior primarily by a large subset of white people, but also other minorities, too? Including some people of Mexican or Native backgrounds who have always lived in the U.S. and therefore, have no relation to Mexico.
This is none other than because of the fact that to this day, historians, comedians, teachers, professors, instructors, priests, mothers and fathers of all backgrounds have accepted the official record of the conquest of Mexico--and for that matter, of all of the Americas--as official, undeniable, irrefutable, and unquestionable truth. But the worst part of it is that they all take it upon themselves to perpetuate these myths by retelling the fiction to the new generations. Even when the facts don’t add up once you do an elementary study of them. In no other field or situation in our public or private lives do we accept things so readily and without examination than on the question of what was Mexico like before the Spanish arrived to tell posterity about it.
There is a reason why Mexicans are seen as inferior. It is why brown people are targeted as “other”. Because everything that has ever been written about brown people paints quite a lousy picture. This is why it is necessary that, in this instance, people of color do as Cortez and the Spanish did at the fall of Tenochtitlan...create a story of the world up to the present that favors the future outlook. In the absence of any verifiable, fact-based records about the past, it is not beneficial to accept a history and a legacy of defeat, of barbarity, of surrender, and of ignorance and poverty. That version of things benefits only those who do not share in that background. For Americans of Mexican descent, and for all other people of Native backgrounds and other people of color, it is time to write our own story which will be used by posterity as the official history of the peoples of America.
Cortez and his Spanish forces struck a deathblow to the true past not with guns, armor, horses, and cannon, but by the use of a simple, small, innocuous object with the power of creation: a pen. This is a call to all writers, poets, and artists, as well, to take their ink into their own hands and paint the picture of who we truly are and how we truly want to be seen so that our sons, our daughters, and our descendants can have a future of inclusion, acceptance, and of respect as equals that they and all good people deserve.
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