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The Rose and the Sword. Hernan Cortes in Mexico
Borja Loma Barrie
Translated by Sofia Chavez
“The Rose and the Sword. Hernan Cortes in Mexico”
Written By Borja Loma Barrie
Copyright © 2016 Borja Loma Barrie
All rights reserved
Distributed by Babelcube, Inc.
Translated by Sofia Chavez
“Babelcube Books” and “Babelcube” are trademarks of Babelcube Inc.
The Rose and the Sword | Hernan Cortes in Mexico | Borja Loma Barrie
The Rose and the Sword, Hernan Cortes in Mexico. | © BORJA LOMA BARRIE 2015. | All rights reserved.
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“Every destiny is formed in an uneven struggle between the individual and something that exceeds him”.
Juan Ángel Juristo.
Mesoamerica is or was a subjugated geographic and cultural space that became the center of important pre-Hispanic civilizations from at least 20.000 A.C.
There is no full consensus about the space, nor the strictly physical order or the strictly chronological order.
Nor either, consequently, in the civilizations, meaning, in the following order that was produced in the cultures, starred by different towns, some in a progress situation and others in a simultaneous decline and decay situation.
Besides, to add complexity –and richness-, was habited by numerous different lineages, similar, related or completely unrelated, that emigrated, fought, made commerce and made alliances among them.
And they had behaviors, occasionally, totally unexplainable, in the same mentioned space, but with influences from other civilizations, north and south, until the tumultuous arrival of Hernan Cortes’ troops.
The correspondent physical limits of Mesoamerica extend, basically, from the center of Mexico, and more concretely the plateau in which it is today the capital of this Republic (with an extension to the north-west that includes the current states of Sinaloa, Nayarit and Jalisco, and with a similar one to the north-east that includes the state of Queretaro), to the south, until reaching west of Honduras and Nicaragua.
Therefore are included in this territorial matter the current independent countries of Guatemala, Belize and El Salvador.
The rest of the Mexican federal states that, consequently, formed or part of Mesoamerica are, north to south, Hidalgo, Colima, south Guanajuato, Mexico, Michoacan, Tlaxcala, Morelos, Guerrero, Puebla, Veracruz, Oaxaca, Tabasco, Chiapas, Campeche, Quintana Roo and Yucatan.
There are some versions about the east limits of Mesoamerica would actually reach Costa Rica and Panama’s isthmus.
Mexico’s conquest properly said, or well in its first phase and probably the most intense one, took place between Mexico’s Valley, center, the capital’s settling, and Yucatan, south, but specially from Tabasco, south-east, up to the north.
In these geographic coordinates took place the bloody episode, which would last essentially in 1519 and 1521, this, the year of Tenochtitlan’s fall, the Mexica or Aztec capital, to the Spanish, after have been previously defeated in it in the Noche Triste.
The ethnic diversity, industries, cultures and pre-Hispanic languages, a true archaeological maze, by its undoubtable plethora and by its unanswerable plurality, makes specialist to look first in the common circumstances among them and then go over in detail of the differential aspects.
In this matter, the generic cultural factors and common to the different Mesoamerican civilizations are the following: construction of truncated pyramids, some of colossal size (although the indigenous experts sector clarifies that they were not “pyramids” in the strict sense, but a series of “platforms” in this geometrical shape). Ball game, Agriculture and preparation of cacao and grinding of boiled corn (nixtamal). Ingest of fermented drinks like aguamiel and pulque (alcoholic). Hieroglyphic writing. Numerical system. Calendars and astronomic studies. Devotion to Quetzalcoatl. Paper use. Ritual human sacrifice (it is unclear if all civilizations did it). Self-mutilations due to religious reasons. Weapons in wood, obsidian (volcanic originated rock), flint (a type of silex), chalcedony (silica) an quartz (crystalized silica with rock origins), prioritizing the macana (wood), maze, and daggers, knives or short swords, decorated with some of the previously mentioned gems (macuahuilt).
Late knowledge about the bow and arrow (both introduced by the invader people). The use of war protection clothes, armoires, shields, bracelets, shin guards and helmets, generally made in cotton. And the non-knowledge of the use of metals such as iron and bronze.
To these common characteristics may also be added others like the social division in castes, with a late preference of the warrior one and the cohesion around a leader, a warrior as well, although with certain religious authority, even in the early times has a considerable influence of the clergy.
Meaning that, the first complex regimes of instated governments in Mesoamerica were theocratic. While in the last were strictly military, produced by the war situation more or less general that spread in almost all their geography in the XII and XVI centuries. And that was led very particularly by the Mexica or Aztecs, whom had dominated most of the indigenous nations or were at war against the ones that resisted when Hernan Cortes irrupted.
Another common aspect can be the sudden and enigmatic massive abandon of important urban centers, by unknown causes.
In Mexico’s Valley was possibly one of the most populated places in Mesoamerica, besides Yucatan’s peninsula and other territories between them. And was where different cultures existed, also in different times. It’s for this that the continuation of industries is divided in five great periods (relatively related with another areas of the place):
The first, between 20,000 A.C. and 5,000 A.C., called Pre-Agriculture, in which hunting-collecting nomadic hoards occurred, very likely related to the Asian Mongolic hoards that in 40,000 A.C. could have crossed Bering strait (Russia-Alaska) chasing their hunting preys. And whom after descended south (reaching even the Argentinian Patagonia) between glaciation and glaciation. They starred in Mexico San Juan Industry and Tepexpan Industry (11,000 A.C.)
The second period, between 5,000 and 2,000 A.C., called Archaic, was characterized by the first crops and the first agriculture sedentary settlings. Its principal center was Puebla (in three phases: Coxcatlan, Abejas and Purron, 5,000-2,300 A.C.). Corn discovery was likely to happen around 2,000 A.C. In an initial phase, maybe, from the Mayas, settled in the east of Mesoamerica, mostly in Yucatan, Campeche, Tabasco, Chiapas, Quintana Roo, Belize and Guatemala. The miscegenation of the Mayas (or the towns that really formed the Mayas) generated linguistic families like the Totonac, Huaxteca, Lacandon, Itzae or Itze, Quiche, Zutuhil and Zotzil.
The third, between 2,000 A.C and 100 D.C., called Pre-Classic, in which the first pottery pieces appeared and the consolidation and expansion of agriculture occurred. Also was characteristic of this period the use of massive ornaments in people, due to the manufacturing of instruments with which took out great volumes of rocks (the colossal heads carved in stone by the Olmec) and due to the start of the urbanism, specially related to religious centers settled to this purpose.
The principal cultures in the south were Zacateco and Copilco (H.H. II-I A.C.) and then Ticoman and Cuicuilco, that lasted in other periods. In the V century A.C., also at midday, the Huaxtecas split off from the Mayas during a migration to Petén (and ended up being completely absorbed by the Mexica centuries later).
The main focus of the pre-classic were Guanajuato, Oaxaca and Guatemala.
The fourth, between 100 and 900, called Classic, was characteristic by a high production in agriculture (henequen, tobacco, cotton and fruit trees, products grown by the Mayas) accelerated by irrigation channels. By the construction of big cities, temples and palaces. By the presence of a really numerous priesthood due to the multiplication of gods, or vice versa, and the consequent establishment of theocratic regimes (some indigenous experts also point out that the concept of “god” was unknown to Mesoamerican people, so they favored the concept “creation” instead of the other). By stone sculptures carving. And by getting to the algid point in astronomic knowledge, which was equally coincidental with the perfecting of the numerical system.
Going to 550 came the Olmec and Mayas originals from the north. Their neuralgic points were Teotihuacan and Cholula, while Tikal was for the east Mayas, along with Copan (Honduras), Chichen Itza (Yucatan) and Palenque (Chiapas). Also were Monte Alban, in Oaxaca’s Valley (Zapotec) and El Tajin, in the shore of the Gulf (Totonac), along with Cempoala (Totonac), among others.
In Teotihuacan ruled a dynasty of Toltec between the centuries V and X, until it was abandoned. The Olmec had their splendor time between the centuries I and VIII. The Totonac started from the V.
The fifth period, between 900 and 1519 (or 1521 or 1522), called Post-Classic, distinguished by the consolidation of the Aztec empire. By the mysterious abandonment of the big cities they lived in by the population. By the invasions of northern civilizations (Chichimec) and the massive emigration (Pipiles) from Mexico´s Valley to the east, until the Mesoamerican countries of Central America. Circumstance that produced miscegenation of Chichimec with Toltec and remaining Pipiles. And the establishment of Tula as the capital.
In 987 civil war upraised in Tula which generated a big exodus to Chichen Itza and Mayapan, conquered by force from the Mayas, event that caused Tula and the Toltec decay.
Since 1007 took place the Mayan rebirth or the New Empire, in Yucatan, where Totonac were also found, archenemies of the Mexica or Aztecs. Was a thriving time for cities like Chichen Itza, Mayapan, Uxmal and Labna, with a substantial Toltec contribution, which virtually resurrected the dying Mayan culture.
The warrior expansion of the northern civilizations produced the alliance of the League of Mayapan between these, Chichen and Uxmal, in the XI century. Tula was also completely inhabited to the year 1156. Was in this phase where the invasion of the Pames-Chichimec occurred armed with bows and arrows.
The Totonac had their splendor between the centuries XIII and XIV, in Cempoala, finally submitted by the Aztecs.
In 1204 the region was totally unstable when Mayapan broke the alliance and declared war to Chichen.
This conflagration lasted irregularly over three hundred years. And was still in progress by the arrival of Cortes.
Everything points out that Mayapan made and alliance with Tenochtitlan imposing in Mesoamerica, especially since 1441. That also produced a division in the manors, ruled by military, finally dominated almost all by the Mexica or Aztec, mainly in 1461. Making exception, among some others, of Tlaxcala, which resisted and allied quickly with Cortes against Tenochtitlan.
Among the protagonist towns of Mesoamerica’s development the Olmec stood up.
The Olmec are considered by some as the protagonists of the first great Mesoamerican civilization. The term “Olmec” is attributed to the Chichimec and means “person from the rubber country”.
The dates of the Olmec settling in Cholula, their main nucleus, are between the 1500 and 800 A.C., although it is possible that their presence, mainly in the states of Veracruz and Tabasco, went back to the 2,300 A.C. Certain sources refer they came by sea, in canoes, from several Caribbean islands, they were surely well received by the Toltec who were already in the place. Their main peculiarity consisted in the construction of enormous stone heads, all with mongoloid features, up to 25 tons of weight. They were dedicated to agriculture, hunting and collecting. Worked with singular skills jade and showed refined taste in pottery. They are supposed to be the creators of one of the first calendars. And they knew a type of writing, believed by some to be even more ancient than the Mesopotamic one (Asia). They equally built several cities.
The Olmec civilization, which created an empire, but not necessarily trough war, is divided in its history in two periods, “Olmec I” from 1,200 to 400 A.C. and “Olmec II” from 400 to 100 A.C.
The second Olmec period was branded by a strong Mayan influence.
In the last mentioned year, 100 A.C., the Olmec civilization disappeared. Maybe absorbed by the Mayas (whom had descended from them) or maybe not.
The Toltec origin was Nahua and arrived from the north to the south-east of Mexico, with a splendor era in the X century. They worshipped Quetzalcoatl or the “feathered snake” whom was represented by the Toltec as for the rest of the Mesoamerican towns in an ophidian form with bird feathers. Was also represented as an anthropomorphic god fair skinned and bearded who taught the ancient Toltec the laws, arts and science; and whom before leaving Mesoamerica told his followers that he would “come back”. And this is a fundamental cue to Mexico´s conquest by Hernan Cortes because the Mexica or Aztec emperor totally believed that the Spanish commander was in deed the very same Quetzalcoatl who was coming back, as it was predicted and was written in the sacred books and who will take the throne away from him. The Toltec built Teotihuacan city (H.H. 710) where they built one of the biggest temples in honor to Quetzalcoatl, along the one that was built in Cholula. They also built in Tula (H.H 950) and truncated big sized pyramids, especially the Tlahuizcalpantecutli one, equally in Quetzalcoatl’s honor. These pyramids were taken care off by a numerous priesthood.
One of the Toltec kings, the second, called Hueman, founder of Teotihuacan, wrote the Sacred Book or Teomoxtli. The Toltec conveyed in creating a confederation of cities from which Tula or “The City of the Sun” was the capital. With the Chichimec expansion first, and then Aztec, the Toltec decayed gradually, until they were finally absorbed by the Mexica under emperor Moctezuma I reign (1390-1469), probably the most dominant and militarized emperor from this nation (Aztec or Mexica).