A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Vol. III.
Robert Kerr

Part 10 out of 10

afterwards that he had been sacrificed. On being questioned whence they
procured their gold, they answered that it came from the west, frequently
repeating _Culchua_ and _Mexico_, words we did not then understand; but an
interpreter, named Franciso, who had been along with Grijalva, though he
did not understand the language of Tabasco, said that he knew Culchua,
which he alleged lay far inland. On the day following, having erected a
crucifix and built an altar, the name of Tabasco was changed to that of
_Santa Maria de la Vittoria_; and on this occasion, the twenty Indian
women who had been presented to Cortes by the chiefs were baptized by our
chaplain, Olmedo, who preached to them many good things of our holy faith,
Aguilar serving as interpreter. Cortes gave one of these women to each of
his captains. These were the first Christian women in New Spain.

The young native who was baptised by the name of Donna Marina was a woman
of high rank, which she shewed in her and appearance, of a beautiful
person and countenance, a quick genius and high spirit, and rendered very
essential services in the sequel of our expedition. She was a native of
the village of _Painalla_, in the province of _Guacacualca_, or
_Coatzacualco_[10]. Her father was prince or cacique of Painalla and
several other districts, under subjection to the empire of Mexico; but
dying while she was an infant, her mother married another cacique, by whom
she had a son, to whom they wished to give the succession which ought to
have belonged to Marina. For this purpose they gave her away privately to
some merchants of _Xicallanco_, a place on the borders of Tabasco in
Yucutan, giving out that she was dead, and going into mourning for the
daughter of one of their slaves who died at this time, and was much of the
same age. These merchants sold her to some chief in Tabasco, by whom she
was afterwards presented to Cortes, who presented her to Puertocarrero;
and when that cavalier returned to Spain, Cortes took her to himself, and
had a son by her, named Don Martin Cortes, who became a knight of St Jago.
She afterwards married, during our expedition to Higueras, a cavalier
named Juan Xaramillo. During the expedition to Higueras in Honduras, in
the year 1524, in which she accompanied Cortes, she had occasion to see
her mother and brother; as Cortes summoned all the neighbouring caciques
to meet him at Coatzacualco, among whom they came, as they now governed
their territory conjunctly, the second husband being dead. On seeing Donna
Marina, the old lady and her son cried bitterly, being afraid of being put
to death; but Marina assured them of her forgiveness, saying that she
thanked GOD their intended injury had been the means of drawing her from
the worship of idols to the true faith, and was happier in having a son by
her lord and master Cortes, and in the husband she then possessed, than if
she had been sovereign of all New Spain, and gave them at parting a
handsome present of gold. I was personally acquainted with her mother and
half brother, who were both afterwards baptized, the mother by the name of
Martha, and the brother by that of Lazarus. Donna Marina perfectly
understood her native language of Coatzacualco, which is the same with
that of Mexico; and as she could likewise converse with Aguilar in the
_Maja_ language, which is spoken in Yucutan and Tabasco, we thus acquired
a medium of intercourse with the Mexicans, Tlascalans, and other nations
of Anahuac or New Spain, which was of infinite importance to us in the
sequel. In a little time she learnt the Spanish, by which the circuitous
means of double interpretation was avoided. She was always faithful to the
Spaniards, to whom her services were of the very highest importance; as
she not only was the instrument of their negotiations with the various
nations of Anahuac, but often saved their lives by giving them notice of
dangers, and suggesting the means of avoiding them. Don Martin Cortes, her
son, was afterwards most unjustly put to the torture at Mexico in 1568, on
some unfounded suspicion of intended rebellion, his iniquitous and
barbarous judges, paying no regard to the memory of the unequalled
services rendered by his parents to the Catholic king and the Spanish

We remained five days longer in Tabasco, taking care of our sick and
wounded, during, which time Cortes used his endeavours to conciliate the
natives, whom he enjoined to preserve their allegiance to his Catholic
majesty, by which they would secure his protection. They promised
faithfully to perform all that he had enjoined, and thus became the first
native vassals of the Spanish monarchy in New Spain. On Palm Sunday, with
the assistance of the natives, we erected a cross made of a large _cieba_
tree, on the field where the late battle was fought, as a lasting memorial
of our victory, as this tree has the power of reproducing its bark. The
natives attended us in our procession to adore the holy image of the cross,
and they likewise assisted us in our preparations to reimbark, our pilots
wishing to get away from this part of the coast, the anchorage being
unsafe for the ships, as the wind blew strongly on the shore. Every thing
being in readiness, and Cortes having taken leave of the natives, we all
embarked on the evening of Palm Sunday, and set sail next morning for St
Juan de Ulua. While we proceeded along the coast, such of us as had been
there before along with Grijalva, pointed out to Cortes the different
places which we recollected; saying here is _la Rambla_, there _Tonala_,
or St Antonio, there the river of _Coatzacualco_, the _Sierra Nevada_, or
Snowy Mountains, and those of St Martin, the _Roca Partida_, or Pierced
Rock, the rivers of Alvarado, and the Vanderas, _Isla Blanca_,
_Isla Verda_, _Isla de los Sacrificios_, and early in the evening of Holy
Thursday, 21st April, we arrived at the harbour of St Juan de Ulua. While
we were pointing out these places to the general, Puertocarrero came up to
him, saying: "These gentlemen seem to make an exhibition, as who should
say, here you have the Montesinos of France, here you see the great and
flourishing city of Paris, and so forth: But I say, here you have the land
of riches, and look well to your measures." Cortes perfectly understood
the meaning of his words, to which he answered: "GOD grant us good fortune
in arms like the paladin Orlando; for having such gentlemen as you under
my command, I shall know well how to bring our enterprize to a happy

[1] Diaz minutely enumerates and describes all the horses, mentioning who
they all belonged to.--E.

[2] According to Clavigero, II. 7. this armament, by which a great and
populous empire was subverted, consisted of eleven vessels, carrying
1O9 mariners, 508 soldiers, divided into eleven companies, ten
field-pieces, four falconets, and sixteen horses. Alaminos, who had
been pilot to Cordavo and Grijalva, was chief pilot of this

[3] On a former occasion, the chaplain of the expedition was named
Bartholome de Olmedo, but this other clergyman appears likewise to
have attended the expedition.--E.

[4] In Clavigero and other Spanish authors, this person is named de Olid,
but Diaz uniformly gives him the name in the text.--E.

[5] Diaz says that this was the expedition of Cordova; but that was in
1517, two years before. According to Clavigero, Aguilar had learnt the
Maja language, which was spoken by the inhabitants of Yucutan and
Cozumel, and became very useful to Cortes as his interpreter.--E.

[6] This river is called Chiapa by Clavigero.--E.

[7] Clavigero calls the field of battle the plain of _Ceutla_, where he
says there was another Indian town not far distant from Tabasco.--E.

[8] According to Clavigero, this place was named _Madona della Vittoria_,
which was destroyed by the English about the middle of the seventeenth
century, the inhabitants removing to _Villahermosa_, at a greater
distance from the coast.--E.

[9] There are no lions or tigers in America, but Europeans have loosely
given these names to other species of the same genus, such as the
felis onca, or jaguar; F. discolor or jaguarate; and F. concolor, or
puma; which last is often called the American lion, and the jaguar is
the Mexican tiger.--E.

[10] In this account of Donna Marina, the information given by Clavigero,
II. 9. is here combined with that of Bernal Diaz, and the orthography
of the Mexican names of places has been corrected throughout from the
former writer, a native of New Spain, and intimately acquainted with
its language. As the Mexicans do not pronounce the letter _r_, they
used to call her _Malintzin_, tzin being an affix of dignity; from
which she is still remembered in Mexico by the name of _Malinchi_.--E.


_Arrival of the Armament at St Juan de Ulua, and account of Occurrences at
that Place_.

As already mentioned, we arrived at the port of St Juan de Ulua on the
evening of Holy Thursday, the 21st April 1519, where we came to anchor,
Cortes hoisting the royal standard of Spain. In about half an hour after
our arrival, two large canoes or _piraguas_ full of Mexicans were seen
coming off from the shore towards the flag-ship[1]. On coming aboard, they
inquired for the _Tlatoan_, or general, who was pointed out to them by
Donna Marina, who acted as interpreter on the occasion with the aid of
Aguilar. She translated the speech of the Mexicans to Aguilar in the Maja
language of Yucatan, who again translated that to Cortes in Spanish. The
reply of Cortes was translated by Aguilar to Marina in Maja, which she
again retranslated to the Mexicans in their language. The Mexicans,
approaching Cortes with much respect, said that they were sent to wait
upon him by a servant of their sovereign _Montezuma_, to inquire who we
were, and what was our business; and that, if we were in want of any thing,
they had orders to supply us. Cortes thanked them for their attention,
making them a present of some cut glass and other toys, and invited them
to partake of some refreshments, stating that he had come to trade with
them, and to confer with their king on affairs of the highest importance,
assuring them that no one should receive any injury, but that all should
have reason to be satisfied with his visit to their country.

Next day being Good Friday, we disembarked the cavalry, artillery, and
infantry, on the sand hills where the city of New Vera Cruz now stands,
where we constructed huts for the troops, posting the artillery for the
protection of our cantonment, and erected an altar for public performance
of our devotions. Many of the natives came to visit us next day, bringing
hatchets with them, and assisted us in making our huts more comfortable,
more especially that of our general; they also brought a present of many
large cloths or mantles to protect us from the sun, and made us a
considerable present of fowls, bread, and plumbs, and some gold. The
bearers of this present informed Cortes that the governor of the province
intended to wait upon him on the second day after, being Easter Sunday,
the 24th of April. Accordingly _Teuchtlile_, the governor, came at the
time specified, accompanied by a chief named _Quitlatpitoc_[2], who was
afterwards named Ovandillo, with a great retinue bearing various articles
of provisions with much ceremony and respect. These men advanced, making
three profound reverences to Cortes and the soldiers who were with him;
and, after exchanging civilities, Cortes ordered mass to be performed in
their presence, after which he and the two Mexican lords with several
Spanish officers, sat down to dinner. When this was over, he informed the
Mexican chiefs, that he was the servant of the greatest king in the world,
who had sent him to visit their sovereign, whose fame had reached him, and
who had ordered him to communicate some affairs of the greatest importance.
To this Teuchtlile answered somewhat haughtily: "You are only just arrived
in this land, and yet speak already of seeing our king: receive in the
meantime this present which he has sent you, and we shall speak of other
things hereafter." He then took from a _petlacalli_, or basket of reeds,
many admirably wrought toys of gold, with various artificial works in
coloured feathers, which he presented to Cortes, together with ten loads
of fine garments of white cotton, and an abundant supply of provisions,
such as fowls, fruit, and roasted fish. There were many other articles in
the present made on this occasion which I do not now remember the
particulars of, as it is long ago. Cortes presented them in return with
artificial diamonds, and requested they would encourage the natives to
barter with us, which they engaged to do. We afterwards learnt that these
Mexican chiefs were the governors _Cuetlachtlan_, _Tustepeque_,
_Cuetzpaltepec_, _Tlacatlalpan_, and other districts, which had been
lately reduced under the Mexican empire. Cortes then produced a richly
carved and painted arm-chair, some artificial jewels called _margajitas_[3]
enveloped in perfumed cotton, a string of artificial diamonds, and a
crimson velvet montero cap ornamented with a gold medal of St George
killing the dragon; which he requested _Teuchtlile_ to convey to Montezuma
as a present from the king of Spain, and to signify his request to be
permitted to wait upon him. The chief made answer, that his sovereign
would assuredly be happy to hold intercourse with ours, and that he should
convey a true report of this request to Montezuma, who would instruct him
what answer he should make.

Some able Mexican painters accompanied the two chiefs on this occasion,
who drew accurate representations of Cortes and the other Spanish officers
and soldiers, of Donna Marina, Aguilar, and every circumstance that seemed
worthy of remark, even our dogs, guns, and balls, in order to convey exact
information to Montezuma. On perceiving this, Cortes ordered the cannon to
be loaded, and ordered the cavalry to be exercised in their presence under
Alvarado. He drew off the attention of the chiefs as if by accident, and
had the cannon discharged without any previous notice. The prodigious
noise of the explosion, and the strange effects of the balls among the
trees, impressed the natives with terror and amazement, yet their painters
endeavoured to represent even this for the information of their king.
Teuchtlile happened to notice a partly gilt helmet[4] on one of our
soldiers, which he said resembled one which had belonged to their
ancestors, and which was now placed on the head of _Huitzilopochtli_,
their god of war, and which he wished to carry along with them to
Montezuma. Cortes immediately complied with his request, saying that it
would be proper to return it full of grains of gold, as a fit present for
our emperor, in order to see whether the gold of Mexico was the same with
that of Spain. Teuchtlile now took leave of Cortes, assuring him that he
would very soon return with an answer from Montezuma. Our presents, and
intelligence of all that had passed at this interview, were conveyed with
amazing rapidity to Montezuma by this officer, who was as much
distinguished for swiftness of foot as for his high rank. Montezuma was
particularly struck with the appearance of the helmet, as it impressed him
strongly with the opinion that we were destined by heaven to acquire the
rule over his empire[5]. On the departure of Teuchtlile, the other chief,
Cuitlalpitoc, took up his residence in a temporary building near the camp,
whence his people supplied the table of Cortes with provisions, and our
soldiers procured subsistence by means of barter with the natives.

At the end of six or seven days, Teuchtlile returned to the camp,
accompanied by more than an hundred men bearing presents from Montezuma.
He had another Mexican chief along with him, named _Quintalbor_[6], who
had so strong a resemblance to our general, that the soldiers always
called him _the other_ Cortes. On coming into the presence of Cortes, the
ambassadors touched the ground with their hands, which they kissed in
token of respect, and then fumigated him and the rest of the Spaniards
with incense. After some conversation, the presents were displayed on mats
and mantles spread out on the ground. The first was a plate of gold, as
large as a coach wheel, most admirably wrought, and representing the
sun[7], said to exceed the value of 20,000 crowns. The next was an equally
well wrought plate of silver, but larger, representing the moon. The
helmet was returned as desired, full of native grains of gold to the value
of 3000 crowns; but the information with this circumstance conveyed to us
of the richness of the mines of this country was inestimable. There were
then displayed a number of toys or ornaments of gold, remarkably well
executed, resembling various animals, as deers, dogs, lions, tigers, apes,
ducks, &c. twelve arrows, a bow with its cord, two rods like those used by
officers of justice, five palms long, ten collars, and many other
ornaments, all cast or moulded in fine gold. There were likewise several
representations of plumes of feathers in fillagree work, some of gold and
others of silver, with several fans of the same materials, and some
beautiful plumes of green feathers. There were likewise thirty loads of
the finest cotton cloth, and many other articles which I do not now
remember. The ambassadors then made a speech, in which they desired Cortes
to accept this present in the same spirit of good will in which it was
sent by their sovereign, and to divide it among the _teules_[8] who
accompanied him. They also delivered the following message from Montezuma:
"He rejoiced to hear of the arrival of so many valiant men in his empire;
should be happy to see our sovereign and to interchange presents with him,
and would render us every service in his power; but that a visit to his
court would be attended with numerous difficulties, as the way to it is
through barren deserts and the countries of inimical nations, and he could
not therefore wish us to attempt the journey." Cortes received this
message with the appearance of much good humour, and presented the
ambassadors with fine Holland shirts and other articles of small value;
but made them the following reply: "That, after having passed so great an
extent of sea, he could not possibly return without executing the orders
of his sovereign, which were to wait upon the great Montezuma in person,
and to communicate to him matters of great importance which he was
commanded to deliver." The ambassadors replied, that they would convey his
message to their sovereign, but gave no hopes of bringing back a
favourable answer. Cortes made up a second present for Montezuma out of
our small means, consisting of a Venice drinking glass, curiously gilt and
ornamented with figures, three fine shirts, and some other articles of
European manufacture, with which the ambassadors returned to Mexico,
leaving Quitlalpitoc, as formerly, to supply our camp with provisions.

As the uninhabited sand banks on which we were encamped were much infested
with mosquitos, and seemed unfit for a settlement, Cortes sent Francisco
de Montejo with two small ships, to examine the coast in search of a port
in a better situation for a colony. He accordingly proceeded along the
coast as far as the river of Panuco, which the currents prevented him from
passing, and on his return he reported that the only place he could find
for the purpose, was a town or fortress called _Quiabuistlan_[9], twelve
leagues from St Juan de Ulua, near which there was a harbour which his
pilot said was sheltered from the north wind. This place was afterwards
called Puerto del Nombre Feo, from its resemblance to a harbour of that
name in Spain. Montejo employed ten or twelve days in this expedition, in
which time Quitlalpitoc became exceedingly remiss in supplying our wants,
so that we began to be in great distress for provisions. The bread and
bacon we had brought from Cuba became rotten, and we must have starved but
for our success in fishing, as the few natives who occasionally brought
fowls for sale valued them much higher than they had done at the first.
After waiting a long time with much impatience, Teuchtlile returned to the
camp alone, the other ambassador having fallen ill by the way. He
delivered a present of ten loads of the finest cotton garments, four
jewels resembling emeralds, called _calchihuis_, so highly valued by the
Mexicans, that he said each was worth more than a load of gold, and
besides these, some gold ornaments to the value of 3000 crowns, and some
ornamental work in feathers. After delivering this present, Teuhtlile
said, that Montezuma desired to have no more messages, and that henceforth
all farther intercourse between the Spaniards and Mexico must cease.
Though much mortified at this refusal, Cortes made a polite answer; after
which, turning to some of us who were present, he said, "Assuredly this is
a great and rich king; and, with the permission of God, we must see him."
To which we all answered that we were ready to march at his command. At
this moment the bell tolled for the _Ave Maria_, and we all fell on our
knees before the holy cross. The Mexican chiefs were curious to know the
meaning of all this, and asked why we adored that piece of wood. On this,
at the suggestion of Cortes, Father Olmedo explained the mystery of the
cross, by virtue of which the evil spirits were chased away, and
endeavoured to instruct them in the principles of Christianity,
representing the abomination of their idolatry, and the barbarity of their
human sacrifices, the putting a stop to which was the principal object of
our voyage to their country. He then shewed them an image of the Holy
Virgin with the child Jesus in her arms, desiring them to take it with
them and adore it, and to plant similar crosses to that they now saw in
their temples instead of their accursed images. Teuhtlile promised that he
would relate every thing he had seen and heard to his sovereign, and went
his way.

At this time considerable quantities of gold were brought by the natives
to barter with the soldiers for toys, but very few provisions, so that we
were forced to pay away this gold again to our mariners for fish, as
otherwise we should have been reduced to absolute want. Cortes was
perfectly aware of this private traffic, which however he considered as
tending to advance his own schemes, although he carefully concealed his
opinions on the subject; but the adherents of Velasquez began to express
much displeasure at the practice, and demanded of Cortes to take such
measures as might bring all the gold into a public stock under the charge
of a common treasurer, for the benefit of all concerned. Cortes
immediately complied with their requisition, and appointed Gonzalo Mexia
to this office; but said angrily to those who had insisted on this
regulation, "Our brave companions are suffering under a scarcity of
provisions, and I connived therefore at the trifling traffic in gold which
they have been carrying on, because we have great prospects before as of
acquiring much wealth. I have now proclaimed the regulations which you
have demanded; and we shall see in future how the soldiers will be able to
procure food." Soon afterwards we found that all the Mexicans had quitted
our neighbourhood without taking leave, which we learned in the sequel had
been done by orders from Montezuma, who had resolved to allow of no
farther intercourse between us and his empire. This sovereign was
extremely bigotted to the idolatrous worship, established in his dominions,
sacrificing boys every day to his false gods, that they might direct his
proceedings. The priests accordingly pretended, that the gods had
prohibited the reception of the cross into Mexico, and had forbidden any
farther intercourse with the Spaniards. This gave occasion to the removal
of Quitlalpitoc and his attendants, on which we deemed it necessary to
prepare against approaching hostilities, all our remaining provisions
being removed to the ships for security, and the utmost vigilance enjoined
in the camp in case of any sudden attack.

While in this state of uncertainty and alarm, I and another soldier
happened one day to be standing on guard on the sands at some distance
from the camp, when we observed five natives approaching towards us. As
they were so few, we did not choose to occasion any unnecessary alarm, and
allowed them to draw near. They saluted us in a friendly manner, and
desired by signs to be conducted to our general. Leaving my comrade at the
outpost, I attended them to the camp, being then young and active, though
now old and worn down with fatigues. These Indians were very different in
their appearance from the Mexicans, and spoke a different language called
the Totanaquean. They wore large rings of stone painted blue in their ears,
and had some fine leaves of gold depending from their lips. When I
presented them before Cortes, they saluted him with great reverence,
giving the title of _Lopelucio_, which signifies lord in their language.
But as their language was not understood by any of our interpreters, Donna
Marina asked in Mexican if any of them could speak that tongue, on which
two of them said they did. They now delivered their message in the Mexican
language, saying, That their lord, who was chief of the city of
_Chempoalla_, had sent them to congratulate us on our arrival, and would
be proud to serve such valiant men as he was told we were, and would have
waited upon us sooner, but had not dared to approach the camp from dread
of the people of _Culchua_, who were with us. Cortes was much pleased to
discover by this embassy, that Montezuma had enemies in the country, who
bore his yoke with impatience; he treated these people therefore with much
kindness, and dismissed them with presents, desiring them to return thanks
to their chief for his courtesy, and that he would pay him an amicable
visit as soon as possible.

The sands on which we had so long encamped were much infested by the small
mosquito or sand-fly, which is the most troublesome of all, and would
hardly ever allow us to sleep; our bread was all spoiled, and our bacon
became rotten, and we had hardly now any thing to eat. The faction of
Velasquez, and those who had left comfortable plantations in the island of
Cuba, became very impatient of our present situation, which certainly
required a speedy change, and Cortes therefore proposed to take possession
of the fortified town of _Chiahuitztla_, near the new harbour which
Montejo had discovered. The persons already mentioned were much
dissatisfied with this intended movement, complaining that our force was
inadequate to encounter the natives of this vast country, having already
lost more than thirty-five of our number; and that the proper proceeding
under the existing circumstances, was to return to Cuba, and report to
Velasquez all that had been done hitherto. Cortes replied to these
remonstrances, That we had no cause as yet to complain of fortune, the
deaths that had happened being the ordinary fate of war; that it was our
own fault if we wanted provisions in a land of plenty; and that it would
be disgraceful to quit the country without seeing more of it, which, with
the blessing of God, he was resolved to attempt. This reply somewhat
calmed the remonstrants, but by no means extinguished the spirit of the
malcontent party. Cortes had obtained the concurrence of many of the
officers and companions in a scheme for appointing him to the independent
command of the expedition, among whom were Puertocarrero, the Alvarados,
De Oli, Escalente, De Lugo, and myself; but this was suspected by Montejo,
who closely watched all our proceedings. One night, Puertocarrero,
Escalente, and De Lugo, who was my distant relation, came very late to my
hut, desiring me to take my arms and join Cortes who was going his rounds.
On leaving the hut, these gentlemen informed me they wished to have some
conversation with me out of hearing of my comrades, who belonged to the
party of Velasquez, saying, "Senior del Castillo, you have now visited
this country a third time to your great loss. Cortes has deceived us,
having represented in Cuba that he was authorised to establish a colony;
whereas it now appears he has only powers to trade, and means to return to
Cuba, when all the wealth we have acquired will be given up to Velasquez.
Many of us have resolved to take possession of this country under Cortes
for his majesty, electing Cortes for our general until the royal pleasure
is made known, and we expect your vote on this occasion." I concurred with
them heartily in this plan; and we went through all the huts of the camp,
canvassing votes for Cortes.

This affair became soon known to the party of Velasquez, which was more
numerous than ours, and its leaders haughtily demanded of Cortes to desist
from these underhand dealings, as it was his duty to return to Velasquez,
because we were not provided for the establishment of a colony. Cortes
answered mildly, that he would return immediately; but we of the other
party exclaimed against this resolution; saying that he had deceived us by
pretending to have a commission to colonize, when it now appeared he only
meant to trade, and we now demanded him to fulfil his original engagement
with us, as most conducive to the service of God and the king. We asserted
that more soldiers would soon join us, if we were once established; and
that he and Velasquez had drawn us to our ruin, by giving us hopes of a
settlement, which was now denied; and we insisted on Cortes accepting the
command of us, who were determined to try our fortunes in this new country,
while such as chose to return to Cuba were welcome to depart. Cortes,
after affecting for some time to refuse our offer, at length complied, and
was appointed by us captain-general and supreme magistrate, in the name of
the king, and without dependence on Velasquez. The worst part of the
business was, that we assigned him a fifth part at all the gold which
might be acquired, after deducting the share belonging to the king. Being
now formally invested by us with the supreme authority, of which a formal
instrument was drawn up by Diego de Godoy, the royal notary, Cortes
proceeded immediately to the settlement of a town, which was denominated
_Villa Rica, de la Vera Cruz_. It was called _Villa Rica_, because of the
words of Puertocarrero formerly mentioned, "behold the rich lands;" and
_de la Vera Cruz_, because he arrived at this place on Holy Thursday and
disembarked on Good Friday. On this occasion we elected civil magistrates
of the new colony; Puertocarrero and Montejo being the two first alcaldes,
Pedro de Alvarado captain of the expeditions, Christoval de Oli maestre de
campo, Juan de Escalente alguazil major, Gonzalo Mexia treasurer, Alonzo
de Avila contador, Corral standard-bearer, Ochoa Viscanio and Alonzo
Romero military alguazils.

These steps gave great offence to the faction of Velasquez, insomuch that
they used many mutinous expressions, and were almost ready to proceed to
acts of violence. They declared that they would not submit to the usurped
authority of Cortes, being resolved to return to Cuba, according to the
orders and instructions of Velasquez. Cortes declared that he had no
desire to detain any against their inclinations, even if he should remain
alone. This pacified many of the malcontents; but Juan Velasquez de Leon,
Diego de Ordas, Escobar, Escudero, and some others were so violent in
their opposition, that Cortes was obliged to have them arrested, and they
were detained for some time in irons. By a private concert with Cortes,
Juan de Escalente demanded by our authority, that the instructions from
Velasquez should be produced, that we might be enabled to lay a detailed
account of the whole proceedings before the king for our justification.
The tenor of these was, "To return as soon as we had procured all the gold
which could be had." This appeared afterwards to have been a very
necessary precaution, from the steps which were taken against us by Don
Juan Rodriguez de Fonseca, bishop of Burgos and archbishop of Rossano.

[1] Clavigero denominates this part of the Mexican empire by the
incommunicable name of Chalchiuhcuecan.--E.

[2] In the work of Bernal Diaz, the names of these two Mexican chiefs are
Tendile and Pitaipitoque. We have here adopted the orthography of
Clavigero in preference, because he appears to have perfectly
understood the Mexican language; and shall continue to do so in the
sequel without farther notice, as often as his work enables us to do
it with certainty--E.

[3] Perhaps mock-pearls, or the word may possibly be the same with what we
term marcasites.--E.

[4] Clavigero calls this a gilt mask or vizor.--E.

[5] According to Clavigero, there was an ancient tradition current among
the Mexicans, that _Quetzalcoatl_, their god of the air, had
disappeared long ago, promising to return after a certain period, and
to govern them in peace and happiness; and on the first appearance of
the Spaniards on their coast, observing certain marks of resemblance
between them and their mythological notions of this god, they believed
their god of the air had returned, and was about to resume the

[6] Clavigero alleges that this name neither is nor can be Mexican, but
does not correct the orthography.--E.

[7] According to Clavigero, this plate was thirty palms of Toledo in
circumference and was worth 10,000 sequins, representing what he calls
the _Mexican centary_, or rather _cycle_ of fifty-two years, and
having the sun in the centre.--E.

[8] By Clavigero this expression is made _Teuctin_, which he says
signifies lords or gentlemen as applied to all the Spaniards; and that
this word having some resemblance to Teteo, the Mexican term for gods,
made them believe that they were considered as gods by the

[9] Chiahuitztla, near which Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz, the first Spanish
settlement in Mexico was built; but which was afterwards removed to
the dry sands at St Juan de Ulua, where Vera Cruz, the port of Mexico,
now stands.--E.


_The Spanish Army advances into the Country, and an account of their
Proceedings before commencing the March to Mexico_.

The hardships we now endured for want of provisions required immediate
relief, and Alvarado was detached with a party of an hundred soldiers, to
search the country for maize and other provisions. These now sent were
mostly of the party of Velasquez, as it was thought prudent that the
adherents of Cortes should remain with him in a body. Alvarado marched to
several small villages belonging to the district of _Costitlan_, which he
found deserted by the inhabitants, who had retired on his approach. In the
temples he found several bodies of men and boys recently sacrificed, and
the stone knives yet smoking with which the horrible ceremony had been
performed. The limbs had been severed from the bodies, and taken away to
be eaten, as our people were informed. Our soldiers were exceedingly
shocked at these abominable scenes; but such were seen by us everywhere in
our after-progress through the country. In these villages, abundance of
provisions were procured, which were brought to the camp; but nothing else
was brought away, as Cortes had strictly forbidden them to touch any thing
else. They returned with the provisions and two prisoners to the camp,
where we were all rejoiced in the novelty of good fare. Cortes, by his
address and good management, soon drew over many of the adherents of
Velasquez to his interest, gaining some by the unfailing influence of gold,
and others by promises. By these means, having brought the prisoners from
the ships, in which they had been hitherto confined, he attached most of
them sincerely to his party, and in a few days set them all at liberty. We
now proceeded towards the fortress of Chiahuitztla, and passed, during the
march, a large fish which had been cast ashore. We arrived at a river
where the town of Vera Cruz now stands, and crossed to a village on the
opposite side in the district dependent on the town of Chempoalla. In some
temples belonging to this village, we found the instruments and remains of
human sacrifices, large quantities of parrots feathers, and certain books
made of a kind of paper, folded up like Spanish cloth. From this village
we altered our line of march, which had been hitherto along the coast, and
advanced inland towards the west, when we came into an extensive plain
without any beaten track, where we saw several herds of deer. Alvarado, on
his swift chesnut mare, gave chace to one of the deer, which he wounded
with his lance, but it escaped from him into the woods. Having advanced
some way into the plain, we were met by twelve Indians bringing a present
of provisions, who had been sent by the chief of a town a days journey
from us, inviting us to come to his residence. Cortes returned thanks for
the provisions, and we proceeded to a village where we halted for the
night, finding as usual the remains of human victims, both male and female;
but as this was universal, I shall not disgust my readers by repeating the
horrid details.

Early next morning we resumed our march, guided by the friendly Indians
who had joined us the preceding day, and sent forwards some of them to
apprize the chief of Chempoalla of our approach. When about a league from
that place, we were met by twenty principal inhabitants, who presented
Cortes and the cavalry with bouquets of very odoriferous flowers,
apologizing for the absence of the cacique, as he was too fat and unwieldy
to be able to come so far in person. Continuing our march, we arrived at
the town of Chempoalla, viewing with admiration the beauty of its
situation and buildings, and the elegant plantations of trees in its
neighbourhood. Our advanced guard preceded us to the great square, which
had been recently plastered and white-washed, and one of our horsemen was
so amazed at its splendid appearance, that he rode back at full speed to
inform Cortes that the walls of the houses were all of silver. We used
afterwards to laugh at this man, saying that every thing white was silver
in his eyes. The buildings in this square were appointed for our quarters,
where we were all well lodged in spacious apartments, and where the
natives had provided a plentiful entertainment for us, with baskets of
plumbs and bread made of maize. We were much pleased with the place and
our reception; some of the soldiers calling it Seville, and others Villa
Viciosa, on account of its pleasantness[1]. When the fat cacique of
Chempoalla understood that we had finished our repast, he caused Cortes to
be informed that he intended paying him a visit, and came accordingly,
attended by many principal natives of the town, dressed in their richest
mantles, and ornamented with gold. Cortes received him with great ceremony,
embracing him in sign of respect, and they sat down together. The cacique
ordered a present to be laid before Cortes, consisting of mantles and some
gold, but of small value, making an apology for its worthlessness, because
he had lately been forced to submit to the dominion of Montezuma, who had
stripped him of all his gold, and now held him completely enthralled.
Cortes promised to repay his present with good services, and would soon
take measures to free him of the thraldom of which he complained, having
been sent hither by a great emperor to redress wrongs, to punish the
wicked, and to put a stop to human sacrifices, adding many things
concerning our holy religion. The cacique then made a polite answer, and
took his leave.

We resumed our march next morning, attended by above 400 natives who were
appointed to carry our baggage. These Indian porters are called _tamenes_
in the language of the country, who carry a burthen of about fifty pounds
weight, being relieved at the end of every five leagues; and we were
informed that every cacique is bound to provide such men on demand, for
the service of every respectable person who passes through their
territories. We arrived at night in a village near the town of
Chiahuitztla, where we found an abundant supply of provisions, provided
for our use by order from the cacique of Chempoalla. At ten o'clock of the
following morning, we entered the fortified town of Chiahuitztla, which is
situated upon a high rock of very difficult ascent, marching in close
order with our artillery in front. At this time, one Villanueva happened
to quit his rank, on which his captain Alonso de Avilla, a harsh tempered
officer, gave him a thrust of his lance in the arm, which lamed him ever
after. We advanced to the middle of this city, not only without any
resistance, but even without meeting a single individual; but on
approaching the temples in the great square, fifteen persons in rich
dresses came to meet Cortes, carrying pans of incense, who excused the
absence of the people from fear, requesting us to stop and refresh
ourselves in their city, and promising that the inhabitants should return
before night. Cortes gave a similar account of the object of our mission,
with that already given to the cacique of Chempoalla, and made them a
present of some trifles, desiring them to supply us with provisions, which
was immediately complied with. Soon after our arrival, Cortes received
notice of the approach of the fat cacique of Chempoalla in a litter, in
which he was carried by his principal nobles. On his arrival, he and the
chiefs of Chiahuitztla, made bitter complaints of the tyranny of Montezuma
over the whole district of the Totonacas, which contained above thirty
towns, having engrossed all the gold, and oppressed them by heavy tributes,
but particularly by taking away their sons for sacrifices to the idols,
and their daughters as slaves. Cortes consoled them as well as he could,
promising the redress of all their grievances; and while they were thus
conferring, notice was brought that five Mexican collectors of the tribute
had just arrived. This intelligence greatly alarmed the natives, who went
away trembling to receive them, leaving Cortes quite alone.

As the Mexican officers went to their apartments, they passed us in great
state, without deigning even to look towards Cortes. They were dressed in
finely wrought mantles and trowsers, having their shining black hair tied
up on the top of their heads, each carrying a bunch of roses in their
hands; and they were attended by many servants, who fanned them, every one
of whom carried a cord and a hooked stick. On coming to their apartments,
where chocolate had been made ready for their refreshment, they were
attended by a numerous company of the principal people of the place; and,
having taken their chocolate, they sent for the fat cacique of Chempoalla
and the chiefs of Chiahuitztla, whom they severely reprimanded for having
received and entertained us, contrary to the orders of Montezuma; and
after threatening severe punishments, they made a demand of twenty men and
women, to be offered as sacrifices to the Mexican idols, to expiate this
heavy offence. On Cortes being informed of their barbarous exaction, he
proposed to the chiefs to seize these officers, till Montezuma might be
informed of their tyrannical conduct to his subjects; but they were
terrified at the proposal, and refused their concurrence. But Cortes made
them be seized, and ordered them to be fastened by the neck to some large
staves and collars, like a pillory, so that they were unable to move, even
ordering one of them to be soundly beaten, who proved refractory. Cortes
then caused a proclamation to be made, that no tribute or obedience was in
future to be paid to Montezuma, and that every one of his officers who
entered the district should be imprisoned. This intelligence soon spread
over the country; and the natives said that such measures could only be
attempted by _teules_, or superior beings, by which name they
distinguished their idols, but ever afterwards applied to the Spaniards.
The native chiefs were now bent upon sacrificing to their idols those
officers whom before they dared hardly look at, meaning thereby to prevent
them from carrying intelligence to Mexico of what had been done; but
Cortes prevented this by placing them under a guard of our soldiers. He
made two of them be brought before him at midnight, whom he caused to be
unbound; and, pretending ignorance of what had happened, he asked who they
were and why they had been made prisoners. They answered that they were
Mexican officers, who had been made prisoners by the chiefs of that town
by his encouragement. He pretended to know nothing of the matter, and
expressed sorrow for what had befallen them. Then ordering food to be
given them, he treated them kindly, and desired them to inform Montezuma,
that he was exceedingly desirous of becoming his friend and servant, and
that he was much displeased with the Totonacas for having used them ill.
He promised likewise to set their companions free, and to reprimand the
caciques for their conduct. He then desired them to go their ways as
quickly as possible; but they said they would assuredly be destroyed in
attempting to pass through the country of the Totonacas; on which he sent
them in a boat with six sailors, who were ordered to land them beyond the
territory of Chempoalla.

When the caciques discovered next morning that two of their prisoners had
escaped, they were anxious to sacrifice the others immediately: But Cortes,
pretending to be angry at the escape of the two whom he had released,
ordered the others to be sent in chains on board one of the ships, to get
them out of the power of the Totonacas, directing them to be freed from
their chains immediately on getting aboard, with assurance of being soon
allowed to return to Mexico. The caciques now consulted with Cortes in
what manner to defend themselves from the resentment of Montezuma, who
must soon learn the evil treatment of his officers, and would speedily
overwhelm them under the force of his innumerable armies. With a cheerful
countenance, Cortes assured them that he and his valiant companions would
defend them from all attacks of the Mexicans; and the caciques, in return,
engaged to support us with all their forces. They likewise at this time
entered into promise of allegiance to the king of Spain, of which a formal
instrument was drawn up before the royal notary, Godoy, and proclamation
of this change of dominion was made through the province, to the great joy
of the natives for being relieved from the vexatious exactions of the
Mexican officers.

No time was lost in taking advantage of this important alliance, and we
immediately proceeded to lay the foundations of a colony in a plain about
half a league from Chiahuitztla, where we now were. The foundations of a
church, square, fort, and arsenal were traced out, and all the buildings
were raised to the first story, as also the walls and parapets of the fort,
which were provided with loop-holes and barbicans. Cortes gave an example
of industry, in carrying earth and stones for the buildings, and in
digging out the foundations, and was imitated by all the officers and
soldiers; some in digging, others in constructing the walls of clay, some
in carrying water, or in making bricks and tiles, while others prepared
the timber, and the smiths were busy in making ready the iron work. By
these means, and by the aid of the natives, we soon nearly completed the
fort, with the church and houses.

In the meantime, on receiving information of the rebellion of the
Totonacas, and the usage his officers had received, Montezuma was enraged
against Cortes, and ordered two armies to march, one for the punishment of
the rebels, and the other against us. But when they were ready to march,
the two officers arrived who had been liberated by Cortes, and gave a
favourable report of the treatment they had received while in our hands.
This lessened his anger, and induced him to send us an amicable message,
which was brought by two of his nephews, under the care of four old nobles
of the highest rank belonging to his court. These brought a present of
gold and mantles, worth about 2000 crowns, and delivered a complimentary
message to Cortes, thanking him for liberating the officers, yet
complaining of him for instigating the Totonacas to rebel whom he would
severely punish hereafter, yet refrained from doing so while we were among
them, since he believed we were of the same ancestors with himself, and
were the people of whom their ancient prophesies had made mention. Cortes
desired the ambassadors to believe that he and all his people were
entirely devoted to the service of the great Montezuma, on whose account
he had protected the officers; and causing the other three who were on
board ship to be brought, he delivered them to the ambassadors. He then
complained of the unkindness of Montezuma, in ordering Cuitlalpitoc and
the natives to desert us, by which incivility we had been deprived of
provisions, and had been under the necessity of coming into the country of
the Totonacas, who had received us with much kindness. He farther trusted
that Montezuma would pardon what had happened, who could not now look for
tribute from that province, the inhabitants of which had become vassals to
the king of Spain. He desired them likewise to say, that he hoped soon to
have it in his power to pay his respects in person to the great Montezuma,
when he had no doubt of settling everything to his entire satisfaction. He
then presented glass diamonds and coloured beads to the young princes, and
ordered out the cavalry to perform their evolutions in his presence, at
which they were extraordinarily astonished and much pleased. After all
this, the ambassadors returned to Mexico, much satisfied with their
reception. This embassy had a great effect on the natives of the country
in our favour, as they concluded we must certainly be very formidable
indeed, since even the great Montezuma seemed afraid of us.

At this time the fat cacique of Chempoalla complained to Cortes of certain
outrages committed by the soldiers of a Mexican garrison in a town called
Cincapacinga, nine leagues off Chiahuitztla, where we were then quartered,
and requested his assistance. Turning to some of the Spaniards who were
about him, Cortes said jocularly: "You see that these people esteem us as
superior beings; let us encourage their prejudice, and make them believe
that one of us can drive an army of the natives before him. I will send
old Heredia the musketeer, whose fierce scarred countenance, great beard,
one eye, and lame leg, will terrify them." Heredia had served in the wars
of Italy, and was ordered by Cortes to proceed only to the river, where he
was to fire a musket as a signal, meaning only to try how far the
credulity of the Indians would carry them. As Heredia was present, Cortes
pointed him out to the Indians, and desired him to go with his _teule_,
who would kill or make prisoners of all their enemies. The caciques set
out accordingly with their warriors, headed by Heredia, who went firing
his musket before them. As soon as they reached the river, the old soldier
made the appointed signal, and Cortes sent to recal them, having
sufficiently tried their faith, and informed them that he would march
against their enemies with all his troops. When the soldiers were ordered
to prepare for this duty, those who were of the party of Velasquez refused
to obey, and insisted on returning to Cuba. The mutineers who avowed
themselves on this occasion were only seven in number; and on being
reprimanded by Cortes, they insolently replied, that they wondered at his
temerity, in attempting to establish a colony among such prodigious
multitudes of natives with so small a force; that they were already tired
of being so dragged about, and were resolved to go back to their
plantations in Cuba. Though he disapproved their conduct, Cortes declared
he would not oppose them; on which they embarked, taking on board their
provision of bread, vegetables, and oil for the voyage, and one of them
named Moron sold a good horse to Juan Ruano, receiving its price in an
assignment over some property in Cuba. When the vessel was about to sail,
we all waited on Cortes, having the civil officers of the colony at our
head, and requested that no one should be allowed to quit their colours,
for which these men rather deserved to die, than to be thus permitted to
depart. Cortes appeared at first unwilling to recal his permission, but at
last acceded to our wishes, and the seven deserters were obliged to return,
under the ridicule of us all. Moron in particular was most laughed at, as
having lost his horse, which Ruano refused to return, referring to the
assignment in Cuba for the agreed payment.

The discontents being for the present appeased, Cortes set out against
Cincapacinga with 400 soldiers, and was joined at Chempoalla by 1000 of
our allied natives, divided into four companies. We marched five leagues
the first day, and reached the outskirts of Cincapacinga next day, which
we found situated among steep rocks of difficult access. Eight of the
principal inhabitants of the place waited on Cortes, whom they asked with
tears in their eyes what misconduct of theirs had induced him to destroy
them; adding, that the ill will of our allies of Chempoalla proceeded from
an ancient dispute about boundaries, and they now took the advantage of
our assistance to rob and murder them unjustly. They acknowledged that a
Mexican garrison had been in their town, but assured him that it had
retired when the officers of Montezuma were arrested at Chiahuitztla, and
earnestly entreated to be admitted into favour. Cortes gave immediate
orders, forbidding the allies to advance; but they were already engaged in
plundering the suburbs, at which Cortes was very angry, and ordering the
Chempoallan captains into his presence, he reproached them for their
misrepresentations, when their obvious purpose was to employ us, who were
bound to prevent and redress injustice, to aid them in plundering their
neighbours. He commanded them therefore, on pain of death, instantly to
liberate all their prisoners, to restore their plunder, and to withdraw
for the night with all their men from the town; with all which orders they
immediately complied. By this just conduct, Cortes won the hearts of the
people in this district to our cause, and the chiefs and priests listened
attentively to his exhortations to abandon their abominable idolatry and
barbarous human sacrifices, coming under engagements of allegiance to our
king, and making heavy complaints against the tyranny of the Mexican
government. Next morning, Cortes brought the chiefs of Chempoalla and
Cincapacinga together, and effectuated a complete reconciliation between
the two districts. We then set out on our return, taking a different route
from that by which we advanced, and halted after a fatiguing march, in a
village belonging to the district of Cincapacinga. While here, one of our
soldiers took two fowls from one of the inhabitants, and Cortes got notice
of the transaction, who was so highly incensed at the commission of such
an outrage in a peaceable district, that he immediately ordered the
soldier to be hanged; but captain Alvarado cut the rope with his sword in
time to save his life. We proceeded from that village to another in the
district of our first allies, where the cacique of Chempoalla waited for
us with a supply of provisions, and next day marched back to our quarters
at Chiahuitztla, into which we were escorted by all the chiefs. Our
conduct on this expedition raised us higher than ever in the esteem of the
natives, who could distinguish the excellence of justice, though untaught,
and saw that the behaviour of Cortes corresponded with his professions of
having come into their country to redress injuries, and to put an end to

The natives were now under great terror of the power and vengeance of
Montezuma for revolting from his authority. They proposed therefore to fix
our abode in their country by inducing us to marry their women; and for
this purpose, eight young women of the principal families of the district
were introduced, all richly dressed and decorated with gold collars and
ear-rings, attended by many female slaves. The fat cacique then made a
speech to our general, in which he said that seven of these women were
intended for the captains of our army, and the eighth, who was his own
niece and proprietor of several villages and many vassals, was meant for
himself. Cortes received this offer with thanks; but observed, that in
order to establish an entire friendship between them and us, they must
first renounce their gross idolatry, the shameful custom of male youths
appearing in female attire, and their barbarous human sacrifices; as we
were daily shocked by seeing four or five horrid murders, the miserable
victims being cut up and exposed as beef is in our public markets. The
chiefs and priests replied that they could not consent to renounce the
accustomed worship of their gods, but were willing to abolish the other
evil customs of which he complained. We were by no means satisfied with
this answer, and having made sure of our hearty co-operation, Cortes
ordered us all under arms, and informed the chiefs that we were determined
upon suppressing their idolatrous worship by force at the hazard even of
our lives. On hearing this resolution, the fat cacique ordered all his
people to arm for the defence of the temple; and when we were about to
ascend the great flight of steps, he expostulated with Cortes for
attempting a measure which would ensure the destruction both of them and
us, by incensing their gods. Cortes replied that their remonstrances were
all in vain, as he was determined to hurl their pretended gods down the
steps of the temple. Then fifty of us went up to the summit of the temple,
whence we threw down and dashed in pieces all the abominable idols we
could find, some like dragons, others having half human figures, and
others again like dogs. At this sight, the chiefs and priests wept and
prayed us to desist, but the warriors seemed ready to attack us; on which
we immediately seized the fat cacique and six other chiefs and priests,
exclaiming that we would put them all instantly to death, if any
resistance or outrage was attempted. The cacique then ordered his warriors
to desist, and the tumult being appeased, Cortes made them a long harangue
on the subject of religion. He then gave orders that the fragments of the
broken idols should be burnt; on which eight priests, who were accustomed
to take care of them, brought all their fragments into the temple, where
they were consumed to ashes. These priests were dressed in long black
mantles like sheets, hanging down to the ground, with hoods hanging on
their shoulders like our cannons, and other smaller hoods resembling those
of our Dominican friars. Their long hair was matted together with clotted
blood, some of them having it so long as to hang down to their feet, and
others only to the waist. Their ears were all torn and cut, and they smelt
horribly of putrid flesh. These priests were said to be all of noble

When all this was ended, Cortes made a harangue to the people, saying,
That we were now really brothers, and that Montezuma should not oppress
them any more, for he would place them under the protection of the Mother
of God, whom we adored; and he added many good and holy arguments
exceedingly well expressed, to all of which the people listened most
attentively. He then had the walls of the temple cleared of blood and new
plastered, employing a number of Indian masons for this purpose, using
lime which the place afforded in plenty. After having thus cleaned and
purified the temple, he ordered a new altar to be erected, which he hung
all round with rich mantles, and adorned it with wreaths of odoriferous
flowers; and ordering four native priests to cut off their hair and to put
on white garments, he committed the altar to their care, on which he
planted the holy cross, before which our chaplain Olmedo celebrated the
mass. He also instructed the natives to make wax candles, and enjoined the
four priests to keep some of these always burning before the altar. All
these things being arranged, he placed a lame old soldier named Juan de
Torres, to reside in the temple as a hermit, and to keep the native
priests to their new duty. In this first Christian church of New Spain,
the principal persons of the surrounding districts attended divine service,
and the eight native ladies, already mentioned, having been previously
instucted in our holy faith, were solemnly baptized. The niece of the fat
cacique of Chempoalla, who was as ugly as possible, was named Donna
Catalina; yet the general took her by the hand very affectionately.
Puertocarrero was more fortunate, as his lady, who was called Donna
Francisco, was very handsome for an Indian, and her father, named Cuesco,
was a cacique of considerable power. Having thus cemented a firm
friendship with the Totonacas, we returned to our new settlement of Villa
rica. We found there a vessel newly arrived from Cuba, under the command
of Francisco Sauceda, called _el pulido_ or the beau, from his affectation
of finery and high manners. In this vessel there had arrived an able
officer named Luis Marin, accompanied by ten soldiers and two horses. He
brought intelligence that Velasquez had received the appointment of
_adelantado_ of Cuba, with authority to barter and colonize in New Spain.
This news gave much satisfaction to the friends of Velasquez in our army,
but made no change in the plans of Cortes.

As the works of Villa Rica were nearly completed, many of us became eager
for the proposed visit to Montezuma, and expressed our wishes to Cortes
that we might try our fortune in that expedition. It was resolved in the
first place in a grand consultation, to send a deputation to Old Spain, to
give an account to his majesty of all our proceedings, together with all
the gold and other articles of value which we had hitherto obtained. For
this purpose Ordas and Montejo went through among all the officers and
soldiers, and persuaded them to allow of the whole treasure being sent to
the king, as it was for the general interest to renounce our claim for a
partition. Puertocarrera and Montejo were appointed agents for Cortes and
the army, our general having gained Montejo to his party by a present of
2000 crowns. By these gentlemen Cortes sent a letter to his majesty, the
contents of which we were not made acquainted with. The cabilda or council
of the new settlement wrote also a letter to the king, in conjunction with
those soldiers who were most solicitous for the settlement of the colony,
and had voted in the election of Cortes as captain-general. Nothing was
omitted in this letter which seemed calculated to establish our cause at
court, and my name was signed to it along with the rest.

Beginning with expressions of our most profound respect, we related all
the events which had occurred from our setting out on the expedition, down
to the election of Cortes as our captain-general, till the pleasure of his
majesty might be made known on the subject, together with our engagement
to allow Cortes a fifth part of the treasure, after deducting the kings
part. We gave an account of our having discovered two Spaniards in the
country; of our having procured two excellent interpreters; of our war in
Tabasco; of the interviews with the messengers of Montezuma; our march
into the country, and our alliance with the natives, who had renounced
their allegiance to Montezuma and submitted themselves and their country
to his majesty; of our expedition to Cincapacinga; the abolition of
idolatry at Chiahuitztla, and the establishment of Christianity; the
construction of our fortress of Villa Rica; and of our present
determination to march to the court of Montezuma, the great sovereign of
Mexico. We gave likewise a succinct account of the military establishment
and religious observances of the natives, an enumeration of the articles
of treasure we had transmitted to his majesty by our agents, and that we
had sent over four natives, whom we had rescued from the cages at
Chempoalla, where they were fattening for victims to the false gods of the
country. We then stated that we were only 450 soldiers, surrounded by
innumerable multitudes of enemies, yet ready to sacrifice our lives for
the glory of God and the service of his majesty; and we earnestly
entreated that he would be graciously pleased not to bestow the government
of this great and rich country upon an unworthy person, expressing our
fears of what Velasquez might attempt to our prejudice, by means of his
patron the bishop of Burgos, whom he had secured in his interest by
grants of valuable estates in Cuba which ought to have belonged to his
majesty. In conclusion, we awaited the return of his gracious answer with
the most profound reverence; yet humbly assured his majesty, if the bishop
of Burgos sent over any person to assume the command, we were resolved to
suspend our obedience till his majesty's pleasure were clearly made known
to us, remaining in the mean time, as now, under the command of his
majesties most faithful servant and our general Hernando Cortes, whose
merits we painted in glowing colours. When this was extended in due form,
Cortes asked permission to read it, and expressed his perfect satisfaction
with the whole, excepting two articles, the mention of his share of the
treasure, and the names of Cordova and Grijalva as having previously
discovered this country; as he assumed the whole merit to himself in his
private letter. He wished therefore to have these passages expunged, but
some of us roundly told him, that his majesty must not only be informed of
the truth, but of the whole truth.

When this important affair was completed, our agents set sail from Villa
Rica on the 26th July 1519[2], with strict injunctions not to touch at the
Havanna or the port of _el Marien_, as we wished to keep the whole from
being known to Velasquez. Yet they went directly to the Havanna, the pilot
Alaminos being over-persuaded into this measure, under pretence of
Puertocarrero being sick, and that Montejo wanted to procure provisions
from his estate of El Marien. As soon as the ship came to anchor, Montejo
sent letters on shore to Velasquez, giving an account of all that had
taken place during the expedition; and as the messenger went through the
island, he everywhere communicated the news of all that had occurred to
our army. On receiving this intelligence from Montejo, Velasquez was
highly enraged against Cortes, and heartily cursed his secretary and
contador, who had persuaded him to confide the expedition to his guidance.
He immediately dispatched two armed vessels to detain our ship, but soon
got the unwelcome news that she was considerably advanced on her voyage to
Europe. Besides writing to his patron the bishop of Burgos, he lodged a
complaint against Cortes before the royal audience at St Domingo; but the
members sent him an answer highly favourable to us, with whose good
services they were already acquainted. All these untoward circumstances
gave the adelantado infinite vexation, insomuch that from being very fat,
he became quite lean. But he used every exertion to collect a powerful
armament on purpose to overwhelm us as rebels against his legitimate
authority, going about the whole island in person to incite the settlers
to take up arms in his cause, and prepared a fleet of eighteen sail of
vessels for the expedition against us, which was confided to the command
of Pamphilo de Narvaez, of which we shall give an account hereafter.

Our agents passed through the Bahama channel, under the direction of the
pilot Alaminos, being the first ship which took that passage from the West
Indies for Europe. After touching at the island of Tercera for
refreshments, they proceeded for Seville, and arrived a few days
afterwards at Valladolid, where the court was then held. Our agents
immediately waited on the bishop of Burgos, who was president of the
council of the Indies, expecting a favourable reception, and requested him
to transmit our letters and present them with all speed to the emperor,
who was then in Flanders. The bishop gave them a haughty and repulsive
answer, saying, That he would make a proper representation of our conduct,
for having thrown off our obedience to Velasquez. The arrival of Benito
Martinez, chaplain to the governor of Cuba, contributed to place our
affairs in an unfavourable light; and as Puertocarrero made a remonstrance
to the bishop, he caused him to be thrown into prison, on a frivolous
charge of having taken away with him a woman from Medellin to the Indies.
The bishop made a represention of our affairs to his majesty, stating
every thing in the most favourable light for Velasquez, and as much as he
possibly could against us, suppressing all mention of our letters and
present, and even appropriated a great part of the latter to his own use.
But our agents concerted matters with Martin Cortes, our generals father,
and the licentiate Nunez, his near relation, who had an office in the
royal council, and by means of some noblemen who were jealous of the
bishop and disgusted with his haughty demeanour, they procured duplicates
of all our letters to be transmitted to his majesty, together with
complaints of the partiality of the bishop. These letters got safe to his
majesty, with which he was well pleased; and for a long time his court was
full of the praises of Cortes and of us his soldiers. The emperor
conceived much displeasure against the bishop of Burgos for his conduct on
this occasion; who became quite furious against Cortes and the rest of us,
when he heard of the light in which our affairs had been seen at the court;
but about two years afterwards the bishop became quite crest-fallen, as he
was censured by the emperor, while we continued to be esteemed as loyal
subjects. On receiving these duplicates of our letters, the emperor was
pleased to say, That he would soon return to Spain, when he would attend
to our memorials, and would reward our faithful services.

Four days after the departure of our agents, a plot was discovered which
had been concerted among the enemies of Cortes, for seizing a vessel to
carry over intelligence to Velasquez of the departure of our agents, and
of the measures which had been taken by us against the authority of the
adelantado. Among the conspirators were, Escudero, Cermeno, Umbria a
pilot, Bernardino de Coria, a clergyman named Juan Diaz, and some sailors
who had been whipped at the island of Cozumel; but the plan had been
suggested by some persons of consequence, who were enraged at Cortes for
preventing their return to Cuba, and for having been deprived of their
shares of the treasure which was sent to the emperor. This plot was
revealed only a few hours before the vessel was to have sailed, by the
repentance of de Coria. All the before-mentioned conspirators were
immediately seized, and having confessed the whole plot, they were all
condemned to die except the priest, who was in a terrible fright. Escudero
and Cermeno were hanged; Umbria had his feet cut off, and each of the
sailors received 200 lashes. When Cortes signed the ratification of this
sentence, he exclaimed with a sigh: "Happy is he who cannot write, that he
may not have occasion to sign the death-warrants of other men." In my
opinion, this sentiment is often affected by judges, in imitation of Nero,
at the time he counterfeited the appearance of clemency. As soon as the
sentence was put in execution, Cortes set off full speed for Chempoalla,
ordering 200 soldiers and all the cavalry to follow him to that place,
where likewise he sent orders for a detachment that was then out under
Alvarado to march.

In a consultation respecting our intended expedition to Mexico, Cortes was
advised by his friends to destroy the fleet, in order to prevent all
possibility of the adherents of Velasquez deserting to Cuba, and likewise
to procure a considerable augmentation to our force, as there were above
an hundred sailors. In my opinion, Cortes had already determined on this
measure, but wished the proposal to originate with us, that we might all
become equally responsible for the loss. This being resolved upon, Cortes
ordered his friend Escalente to dismantle all the ships and then sink them,
preserving only the boats for the purpose of fishing. Escalente bore
inveterate enmity against Velasquez, who had refused him a good district
in Cuba, and went immediately to Villa Rica where he executed this service
effectually. All the sails, cordage, and every thing else that could be
useful were brought on shore, and the whole of the ships sunk. Escalente
then came back to Chempoalla with a company formed of the mariners, many
of whom became excellent soldiers. Cortes now summoned all the chiefs who
had renounced their allegiance to Montezuma into his presence, whom he
exhorted to give every service in their power to the detachment he meant
to leave in Villa Rica, and to assist them in completing the town: Then
taking Escalente by the hand, whom he had appointed to command there in
his absence, he presented him to the caciques as his brother, desiring
them to obey him in every thing, and assuring them that he would protect
them against their enemies. The chiefs all engaged to perform every thing,
he had enjoined. Escalente was left in charge of this port as a person in
whom Cortes could entirely confide, to repel any attempts that might be
made against him by Velasquez, while absent on the expedition to Mexico.
Soon after the destruction of the vessels, Cortes assembled us one morning
after mass; and, after some discourse on military affairs, he said, That
we now knew the business in which we were engaged, wherein we had no other
alternative but conquest or death; for in case of defeat we had no means
of escape, and must depend entirely, under GOD, on our own valour;
afterwards adding many comparisons of our present situation with incidents
drawn from the Roman history. We unanimously answered, That we were
prepared to obey and follow him wherever he chose to lead, the lot being
now cast, as Caesar said on passing the Rubicon, and we devoted ourselves
to the service of God and our emperor. He then addressed us in an eloquent
speech; after which he called for the fat cacique, whom he informed of our
intended march to Mexico, and gave him strict injunctions to take great
care of the holy cross and the church we had established.

When we were ready to depart on our expedition to Mexico, a letter was
brought from Escalente, informing Cortes that a strange ship had come to
anchor in a river about three leagues from Villa Rica, from which he could
get no answer to his signals. Cortes left the command of the army during
his absence to Alvarado and Sandoval, and set out with four horsemen for
Villa Rica, leaving orders for thirty of the lightest armed infantry to
follow, who accordingly arrived that night. Escalente offered to go with
twenty men to the vessel, lest she might escape; but Cortes set out along
the coast without delay, and fell in with four Spaniards on the road, who
had been sent on shore by Alonzo Alvarez de Pineda, the captain of the
vessel, to take formal possession of the country. One of these was a
notary, named Guillen de la Loa, and the rest attended him to witness the
act. From these men Cortes was informed that Francisco de Garay, governor
of Jamaica, had procured a commission from the court as adelantado of such
districts as he might discover on this coast to the north of the river of
St Peter and St Paul, and had sent three ships with 270 soldiers under
Pineda, who was then in the river of Panuco. Cortes wished to have got
possession of the ship, but no signals could induce the people to land, as
we were informed by de la Loa that their captain was aware of our being on
the coast. As a stratagem to decoy them on shore, Cortes dressed four of
his soldiers in the clothes of the Spaniards he had taken, and left them
on the spot, returning along-shore towards Villa Rica, that he might be
noticed from the ship; but after we had got out of sight, we made a secret
detour through the woods, and got back about midnight to the rivulet where
we had left our disguised companions, where we carefully concealed
ourselves. Early in the morning, our disguised men went down to the shore,
making signals to the people of the ship, in consequence of which a boat
put off with six sailors, two of whom landed with casks to take in water.
Our men held down their faces to avoid being noticed, pretending to wash
their hands; but on being spoken to by the men in the boat, one of them
desired them to come on shore; when alarmed by the strange voice, they put
off. We were going to fire upon them, but Cortes would not permit, and
they escaped. We thus missed our object, and returned to Villa Rica,
having procured six men as a reinforcement to our small force.

[1] Chempoalla appears to have been a place of considerable size, both
from the testimony of eye-witnesses and the extent of its ruins.
Torquimada in one place says its inhabitants amounted to twenty or
thirty thousand; in another place he extends their number to 50,111,
and in his index to 150,000. Like many others of the Indian cities in
New Spain, it dwindled down, by the diseases and vexations of the
sixteenth century, and at length became entirely
depopulated.--Clavigero, II. 21.

[2] Bernal Diaz has given no dates of the transactions of Cortes in Mexico,
from the 21st of April till now, the 26th of July, a period of 3
months and 5 days.--E.



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