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The Broken Spears Focus paper Essay

In The broken spears, author Miguel Leon-Portilla gives accounts from the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire in 1519. These accounts include several texts written by surviving indigenous people of the Aztec civilization; these perspectives truly shows the emotion, fear, and uncertainty the Aztec’s felt in depth during this time. With the accounts in our textbook and the broken spears, we are able to draw conclusions viewing both facts and experiences through this prevailing point in world history. 1492 was a turning point for the Spanish, Columbus’s successful settlements in the new world encouraged further expeditions to discover resources and spread Christianity abroad. As we learned last week the Columbus story has two sides; heroic for finding new land and recourses and evildoer for destroying an entire civilization. I found the overthrowing of the Aztec civilization very similar in context, when comparing the Columbian exchange in both texts the broken spears includes vivid imagery while Traditions & encounters is very factual in nature.

Throughout the Broken spears there are numerous accounts of the Columbian exchange supported by the historical facts in Traditions and encounters. Diffusion of the Columbian exchange is evident in the broken spears starting in chapter two when Cortes arrived at the shore of Tenochtitlan where a macehual views the Spaniards boats. In the chapters following Motecuhzomas messengers come in contact with the Spaniards and there fire arms, animals, food, and advanced iron armor. The messengers explain the foreign technology and animals as, “a thing like a ball of stone comes out of its entrails: it comes out shooting sparks and raining fire”. “There deer carry them on their backs wherever they wish to go,” and; “towers or small mountains floating on the waves of the sea.”1 Traditions & encounters explain this as, “European peoples possessed powerful weapons, horses, and ships that provided them with technological advantages over the peoples they encountered.”

2 Chapter seven of the broken spears shows accounts of Cortes and the Spaniards spreading Christianity among the people in Tezcoco, most predominate is the account of Ixtlilxochitl becoming a Christian and the thousands of baptisms following. Traditions & encounters explains how European explorers and settlers had the desire to spread Christianity, the text states; “over time, and despite considerable initial resistance, Christianity did win adherents.”

3 Traditions & encounters fail to explain the initial resistance of the religious battle, although the broken spears explain the massacre during the fiesta honoring Huitzilopochtli in great detail in chapter eleven. Chapter eleven in the broken spears also describes how small pox broke out in Tenochtitlan, “sores erupted on our faces, our breasts, our bellies; we were covered with agonizing sores from head to toe.”

4 The text continues in dramatic detail about the pain, suffering, and deaths the people of Tenochtitlan experienced. Traditions & encounters vaguely describes this epidemic as, “Small pox raged though the city, killing inhabitants by the tens of thousands.”

5 Ten years before the arrival of the Spaniards the Aztecs experienced eight bad omens described by Sahaguns informants. These accounts show how terrified the Aztecs were during this time, describing how, “the natives were overcome with terror, weeping and shouting and crying out.”

6 In the following chapters the reports and experiences make you understand how the omens made the people of Tenochtitlan believe war or a crisis was approaching. Following the arrival of the Spaniards, the story portrays the Spanish, who were believed to be Quetzalcoatl, as appalling people who exploited the Aztecs and killed them for no reason. The accounts also portray the Spaniards as greedy, constantly wanting more starting when Motecuhzomas messengers brought the Spaniards gifts and the Spaniards replied, “And is this all?”

7 I envision a civilization confused, scared, unsure, and contempt when reading the text; as the story goes on Motecuhzoma is portrayed as a weak leader who “struggled with his fears and uncertainties.”

8 The point of view portrayed in the broken spears is that disastrous mistakes and over sights by the Aztecs and Motecuhzoma lead to that fall of their civilization, although many other factors including small pox had their role. If Motecuhzoma never believed the Spaniards were gods returning to destroy the Aztecs, he would have never tried to convince them not to destroy the Aztecs and the Spaniards would have never made alliances with their sworn enemies from Tlaxcala to overthrow them. Both texts play their role in explaining the overthrowing of the Aztec empire, but Traditions & encounters fails to mention the events that lead up to the Spaniards arrival. The omens concluded in the broken spears gives you a feeling of what the natives believed and felt about the Spaniards when they arrived. Though Traditions & encounters also omits vivid details about the wars that went on during this time, after reading both texts I understand the full spectrum of what happened in Mexico in 1519 and why.

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