Read The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico 1517-1521 by Bernal Díaz del Castillo Free Online
Book Title: The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico 1517-1521|
The author of the book: Bernal Díaz del Castillo
ISBN 13: 9780415344784
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 8.77 MB
City - Country: No data
Date of issue: December 23rd 2004
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Reader ratings: 4.2
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"When we saw all those cities and villages built in the water, and other great towns on dry land, and that straight and level causeway leading to Mexico, we were astounded. These great towns and cues and buildings rising from the water all made of stone, seemed like an enchanted vision from the tale of Amadis. Indeed, some of our soldiers asked whether it was not all a dream. It is not surprising therefore that I should write in this vein. It was all so wonderful that I do not know how to describe this first glimpse of things never heard of, seen or dreamed of before". p 214.
This translation is an abbreviated version of Bernal Diaz del Castillo's account of the conquest of modern Mexico, starting from landings on the coast in Maya areas. Most of the text is taken up by the conquest of the Aztec Empire and occasionally interrupted by troubles with potential colonial rivals back on Hispaniola.
It is a breathless account of a culture clash between the Castilians with their horses, steel weapons and armour, attack dogs, artillery and firearms on the one side and the rich, sophisticated world of late stone-age Mexico on the other. As a result the text overflows with details about the lifestyles and peoples the Spanish come across, fight against, and work with (and they would not have succeeded without their local allies drawn from the Aztec's rivals particularly Tlaxcala) to topple the chocolate drinking Montezuma (view spoiler)[the Aztecs though preferred to drink their chocolate cold and unsweetened (hide spoiler)]. It's not a fine example of prose but the author's sense of wonder and amazement pulls you along through the negotiations, canoe building, town founding and inevitable hauling of artillery pieces up from the coast to the centre of the country.
The Amadis mentioned in the quote above is The Amadis of Gaul one of the favourite books of Don Quixote. In one way the actions of the conquering Spanish seem no less incredible, audacious, destructive, or even insane than those of the Quixote, while in another the same spirit and dreams of great deeds of heroism and chivalry inspired them both. The only difference being that Bernal and his companions won the governorships of islands that were only ever promised to Sancho Panza.
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Read information about the authorBernal Díaz del Castillo (1492 – ca. 1580) was a conquistador, who wrote an eyewitness account of the conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards under Hernán Cortés, himself serving as a rodelero under Cortés. Born in Medina del Campo (Spain), he came from a family of little wealth and he himself had received only a minimal education. He sailed to Tierra Firme in 1514 to make his fortune, but after two years found few opportunities there. Much of the native population had already been killed by epidemics and there was political unrest. So he sailed to Cuba, where he was promised a grant of Indian slaves. But that promise was never fulfilled, leading Díaz, in 1517, to join an expedition being organized by a group of about 110 fellow settlers from Tierra Firme and similarly disaffected Spaniards. They chose Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, a wealthy Cuban landowner, to lead the expedition. It was a difficult venture, and although they discovered the Yucatán coast, by the time the expedition returned to Cuba they were in disastrous shape.
Nevertheless, Díaz returned to the coast of Yucatán the following year, on an expedition led by Juan de Grijalva, with the intent of exploring the newly discovered lands. Upon returning to Cuba, he enlisted in a new expedition, this one led by Hernán Cortés. In this third effort, Díaz took part in one of the legendary military campaigns of history, bringing an end to the Aztec empire in Mesoamerica. During this campaign, Díaz spoke frequently with his companions in arms about their experiences, collecting them into a coherent narration. The book that resulted from this was Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España (English: The True History of the Conquest of New Spain). In it he describes many of the 119 battles in which he claims to have participated, culminating in the fall of the Aztec Empire in 1521.
As a reward for his service, Díaz was appointed governor of Santiago de los Caballeros, present-day Antigua Guatemala. He began writing his history in 1568, almost fifty years after the events described, in response to an alternative history written by Cortés's chaplain, who had not actually participated in the campaign. He called his book the Historia Verdadera ("True History"), in response to the claims made in the earlier work.
Díaz died in 1585, without seeing his book published. A manuscript was found in a Madrid library in 1632 and finally published, providing an eye-witness account of the events, often told from the perspective of a common soldier. Today it is one of the most important sources in understanding the campaign that led to the collapse of the Aztec Empire and the Spanish conquest of Mexico.
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