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 Letter of the Council of Huejotzingo to King Philip 11, 1560

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PostSubject: Letter of the Council of Huejotzingo to King Philip 11, 1560   Tue Jun 30, 2009 12:36 pm

The following document is a relevant section from another letter petitioning the king, this time to reduce the amount of tribute that had recently been assessed by colonial officials. The authors were members of the council of Huejotzingo (Huexotzinco), a community southeast of Mexico City that before the arrival of the Spaniards had fought with the Tlaxcalans against the "Triple Alliance" (Tenochtitlan, Tezcoco, and Tlacopan [Tacuba]). This was a region that included important poet-rulers who seemed to oppose the militarism of their more powerful neighbors. This sentiment appears to continue in this text, which underlines with extraordinary detail the ethnic complexity of central Mexico as the Tlaxcalans, former and still ongoing enemies, are attacked not for being traitors, but for being unfaithful allies of the Spaniards. In classical Nahuatl written in the elegant style of the nobility, the authors describe in vivid prose the painful aftermath following the fall of Tenochtitlan, the variety of responses to Christianity at that time, and the great esteem in which they and others held the conqueror of the Aztec city.

Our Lord sovereign, you the king don Felipe.

Before anyone told us of or made us acquainted with your fame and your story, and before we were told or taught the glory and name of our Lord God; when your servants the Spaniards reached us and your Captain General Don Hernando Cortes arrived; our Lord God the ruler of heaven and possessor of earth, enlightened us so that we took you as our king to belong to you and become your people and your subjects; not a single town surpassed us here in New Spain in that first and earliest we threw ourselves toward you, we gave ourselves to you, and furthermore no one intimidated us, no one forced us into it, but truly God caused us to deserve that voluntarily we adhered to you so that we gladly received the newly arrived Spaniards who reached us here in New Spain. We received them very gladly, we embraced them, we saluted them with many tears, though we were not acquainted with them, and our fathers and grandfathers also did not know them; but by the mercy of our Lord God we truly came to know them. Since they are our neighbors, therefore we loved them; nowhere did we attack them. Truly we fed them and served them; some arrived sick, so that we carried them in our arms and on our backs, and we served them in many other ways which we are not able to say here. Although the people who are called and named Tlaxcalans indeed helped, yet we strongly pressed them to give aid, and we admonished them not to make war; but though we so admonished them, they made war and fought for fifteen days. But we, when a Spaniard was afflicted, without fail at once we managed to reach him. We do not lie in this, for all the conquerors know it well, those who have died and some now living.
And when they began their conquest and war-making, then also we prepared ourselves well to aid them, for out came all of our war gear, our arms and provisions and all our equipment, and we not merely named someone, we went in person, we who rule, and we brought all our nobles and all of our vassals to aid the Spaniards. We helped not only in warfare, but we also gave them everything they needed; we fed and clothed them, and we would carry in our arms and on our backs those whom they wounded in war or who were very ill, and we did all the tasks in preparing for war. And so that they could fight the Mexica with boats, we worked hard; we gave them the wood and pitch with which the Spaniards made the boats. And when they conquered the Mexica and all belonging to them, we never abandoned them or left them behind in it. And when they went to conquer Michoacan, Jalisco, and Colhuacan, and there at Panuco and there at Oaxaca and Tchuantepec and Guatemala, we were the only ones who went along while they conquered and made war here in New Spain until they finished the conquest; we never abandoned them, in no way did we prejudice their war-making, though some of us were destroyed in it. There was no one as deserving as we, for we did our duty very well. But as to those Tlaxcalans, several of their nobles were hanged for making war poorly; in many places they ran away, and often did badly in the war. In this we do not lie, for the conquerors know it well.
Our lord sovereign, we also say and declare before you that your fathers the twelve sons of St. Francis reached us, whom the very high priestly ruler the Holy Father sent and whom you sent, both taking pity on us so that they came to teach us the gospel, to teach us the holy Catholic faith and belief, to make us acquainted with the single deity God our Lord, and likewise God favored us and enlightened us, us of Huejotzingo, who dwell in your city, so that we gladly received them. When they entered the city of Huejotzingo, of our own free will we honored them and showed them esteem. When they embraced us so that we would abandon the wicked belief in many gods, we forthwith voluntarily left it; likewise they did us the good deed of telling us to destroy and burn the stones and wood that we worshiped as gods, and we did it; very willingly we destroyed, demolished, and burned the temples. Also when they gave us the holy gospel, the holy Catholic faith, with very good will and desire we received and grasped it; no one frightened us into it, no one forced us, but very willingly we seized it, and they gave us all the sacraments. Quietly and peacefully we arranged and ordered it among ourselves; no one, neither nobleman nor commoner, was ever tortured or burned for this, as was done on every hand here in New Spain. The people of many towns were forced and tortured, were hanged or burned, because they did not want to leave idolatry, and unwillingly they received the gospel and faith. Especially those Tlaxcalans pushed out and rejected the fathers, and would not receive the faith, for many of the high nobles were burned, and some hanged, for combating the advocacy and service of our Lord God. But we of Huejotzingo, we your poor vassals, we never did anything in your harm, always we served you in every command you sent or what at your command we were ordered. Therefore now, in and through God, may you hear these our words, . . . so that you will exercise on us your rulership to console us and aid us in this trouble with which daily we weep and are sad. We are afflicted and sore pressed, and your town and city of Huejotzingo is as if it is about to disappear and be destroyed. Here is what is being done to us: now your stewards the royal officials and the prosecuting attorney Dr. Maldonado are assessing us a very great tribute to belong to you. The tribute we are to give is 14,800 pesos in money, and also all the bushels of maize.

Our lord sovereign, never has such happened to us in all the time since your servants and vassals the Spaniards came to us, for your servant Don Hernando Cortes, late captain general, the Marques DelValle, in all the time he lived here with us, always greatly cherished us and kept us happy; he never disturbed nor agitated us. Although we gave him tribute, he assigned it to us only with moderation; even though we gave him gold, it was only very little; no matter how much, no matter in what way, or if not very pure, he just received it gladly. He never reprimanded us or afflicted us, because it was evident to him and he understood well how very greatly we served and aided him. Also he told us many times that he would speak in our favor before you, that he would help us and inform you of all the ways in which we have aided and served you. But perhaps before you he forgot us. How then shall we speak? We did not reach you, we were not given audience before you. Who then will speak for us? Unfortunate are we. Therefore now we place ourselves before you, our sovereign lord.

Your poor vassals who bow down humbly to you from afar,

Don Leonardo Ramirez, governor, Don Mateo de la Corona, Toribio de San Cristobal Motolinia.
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Letter of the Council of Huejotzingo to King Philip 11, 1560
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