Guilty: Americas Conquest

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On the way to Tenochtitlan, the Spaniards gained the support of the Totonac peoples from the city of Cempoala, who hoped to be freed from the Aztec yoke. After a grueling battle lasting more than five hours, as many as 6, of its people were killed. In the face of their unstoppable advance, Moctezuma stalled for time, allowing the Spaniards and their allies to enter Tenochtitlan unopposed in November For several days, the Spaniards vainly used Moctezuma in an attempt to calm tempers, but his people pelted the puppet king with stones.

Conquest of the Americas

Moctezuma died a few days later, but his successors would fare no better than he did. On June 30, , the Spanish fled the city under fire, suffering hundreds of casualties. Some Spaniards died by drowning in the surrounding marshes, weighed down by the vast amounts of treasure they were trying to carry off. The event would come to be known as the Night of Sorrows.

Hernán Cortés: Brutal conquest of the Aztec Empire

Spain would win the Battle of Otumba a few days later. Skillful deployment of cavalry against the elite Aztec jaguar and eagle warriors carried the day for the Europeans and their allies. Victory allowed the Spaniards to rejoin with their Tlaxcaltec allies and launch the recapture of Tenochtitlan. Waves of attacks were launched on settlements near the Aztec capital. Any resistance was brutally crushed: Many indigenous enemies were captured as slaves and some were even branded following their capture.

The sacking also allowed the Spaniards to build up their large personal retinues, taking captives to use as servants and slaves, and kidnapping others for exchanges and ransoms. Growing in number to roughly 3, people, this group of captives vastly outnumbered the fighting Spaniards. For an assault on a city the size of Tenochtitlan, the number of Spanish troops seemed paltry—just under 1, soldiers, including harquebusiers, infantry, and cavalry.

Even so, the siege of Tenochtitlan was not a given.


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Wounded in one leg, the Spanish leader was ultimately rescued by his captains. Finally, on August 13, , the city fell. The loss of human life was staggering, both in absolute figures and in its disproportionality. But neither does it resemble a country like Nigeria, where the current population is made up almost entirely of the descendants of the conquered.

Mexico lies in the middle of this spectrum, proudly seeing itself as mestizo , a country of mixed race. Mexicans must acknowledge that although they may be descendants of indigenous peoples, they are the true descendants of the Spanish conquistadors. It is understandable that an impoverished, Maya-speaking, native peasant living in Chiapas would not buy the argument that he is the descendant of some conquistador from the 16th century.


  1. Citation Information.
  2. Juan de Oñate.
  3. Aztec capital falls to Cortés - HISTORY.
  4. And how should Spain respond??
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  7. The mostly white politicians propelling reparations into the news cycle are construing themselves as the descendants of the oppressors, rather than counting themselves among the oppressed. As opposed to Italy, Germany, and a few other European nations, Spain has had continuity as a distinct political entity for more than five centuries. In that sense, even though Mexicans may be the descendants of conquistadors, Mexico is not a continuation of the 16th-century European nation in whose name atrocities were committed during the siege of Tenochtitlan.

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    There are complications with this argument. Since the year Cortes arrived in Yucatan , Spain has undergone massive political transformations at one point it was united with Portugal; there was a dynastic change; it was for years ruled by French invaders; etc. As soon as Mexicans secured their independence from Spain in , they chose to include, as their national symbol on the flag, the eagle sitting on the cactus while eating the snake.

    This was the Aztec symbol. If Mexico descends from the Aztecs, then perhaps before it demands Spain offer an apology, Mexico itself must apologize.

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    Once in power, Aztecs waged the so-called Flower Wars in order to capture prisoners to be sacrificed to the gods in their pyramids. This was no trivial thing; about 20, victims were sacrificed each year in these gruesome rituals. Even after independence, Mexico mistreated its own indigenous people.

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    Spain, itself, might wonder why it must apologize before other nations ask forgiveness for invading Spain throughout its long history. Should Italy apologize for the Roman conquest of Hispania? Must the Germans ask for forgiveness for the Visigoth invasions of the Iberian Peninsula? What about Morocco for the Muslim conquest?

    Perhaps Morocco could try to get off the hook by claiming that, although most invaders came from modern-day North Africa, at the time, this conquest was done under orders of the Umayyad caliphate in Damascus.

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