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The Aztec Account of the Spanish Conquest of Mexico
 
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 An Eighteenth Century Nahua Testimony

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PostSubject: An Eighteenth Century Nahua Testimony   Tue Jun 30, 2009 12:38 pm

(Introduced as if it were a text from 1531)

The vanquished communities became involved in innumerable litigations to defend themselves and their lands. The General Archives of the Nation in Mexico City, along with others throughout the country, preserve thousands of documents in Nahuatl produced during the lawsuits, some of which include native drawings and glyphs. In the following example from this legal genre one can make out the language of bitter protest and resignation of the people of Santo Tomas Ajusco, a community in the southern part of the Federal District that encompasses Mexico City. The words, attributed to a native leader said to have founded the town in 1531, were presented to the Spanish authorities in 1710 by the community's inhabitants. Through the invented narrative the descendants of the Aztecs sought to support their rights to the town's adjacent lands. The aim was to present the text as a copy of a lost original while contending that its testimony represented speech uttered almost two hundred years before.

From internal evidence this text can be related to the several manuscripts known as Techialoyan codices, which made their appearance early in the eighteenth century as copies of or supplements to the much required but by then lost pre-Hispanic communal and titles. To the extent that this text is of the same type, the Ajusco testimony has a double significance: as a Nahuatl document used in litigation and as an eighteenth-century representation of the sorrowful expressions the Nahuatl ancestors should have pronounced when, as refugees, they established themselves on the slopes of the Ajusco mountain. The text asserts that in 1531 their chief had taken possession of their communal lands.

My beloved children, today on the second day of Toxcati one of the 20-day months of 1531, on the day that belongs to the one true God, who is in heaven and on the earth and everywhere in the world; know that everywhere the lords who are in charge of the people are very sad because of what the white men of Castile have done and are still doing.

It is obvious how they punish the revered lords of the towns, those who were in charge of the people, who had the rod (symbol of authority); it is clear how they are put in prison, because the men of Castile are not satisfied with what they are given, and they do not surrender their gold nor their precious stones.

It is well known how they jeer at our revered women and daughters. They are not quiet, except solely with gold and precious stones. They make fun of the wives of those who ruled.They are not quiet but when they burn the others, as they burned alive the greatly revered lord of Michoacan, the great Caltzontzin. Thus they behaved with other great lords who were in charge, who ruled there in Xalapan, TlaxcaIan, Tecuantepec, Oaxyacac, and other towns and chiefdoms where the envious, gold-hungry Christians also entered. How much blood was shed! It was our fathers' blood! And what for? Why was it done? Learn it once and for all: because they want to impose themselves upon us, because they are utterly gold hungry, voracious of what belongs to others: our chiefdoms, our revered women and daughters, and our lands.

It is known that the Castilian Cortes, the recently named Marques del Valle, was authorized, there in Castile, to come to distribute our lands. Thus it is said that secretly the lord Marques will come to take our lands, take possession of ourselves and establish new towns. And where will they throw us? Where will they place us? A very great sadness afflicts us. What will we do, my sons?

Still my heart recovers. I (i.e., the supposed founder of the city) remember, I will establish a town here on the slopes of Axochco mountain, in Xaltipac on the sand's surface. Because from down there to here is the place of the men of Axochco. From down there on, this land is ours, it was left to us by our grandfathers, it was their property since ancient times.

I remember, I will establish a little temple where we will place the new god that the men from Castile have given us. Truly this new god wants us to worship him. What will we do, my sons? Let us receive the water on our heads (be baptized), let us give ourselves to the men of Castile, perhaps in this way they will not kill us.

Let us remain here, do not trespass by going on another's land, perhaps in this way they will not kill us. Let us follow them; thus, perhaps we will awaken their compassion. It will be good if we surrender entirely to them. Oh, that the true god who resides in heaven will help us coexist close to the men of Castile.

And in order that they will not kill us, we will not claim all our lands. We will reduce in length the extension of our lands,and that which remains, our fathers will defend.

Now I declare that, in order for them not to kill us we accept to have water poured on our heads, that we worship the new god, as I declare he is the same as the one we had.

Now I reduce in length our lands. Thus it will be. Their limits will begin in the direction from which the sun rises and continue (he mentions each of the limits).

I presume that for this small piece of land they will not kill us. It does not matter that it was much larger. This is my decision because I do not want my sons to be killed. Therefore, we will work only this little piece Of land, and thus our sons will do so. Let us hope in this manner they will not kill us.
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