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MEXICO


253


MEXICO


Colonial Period. — (1) Conquerors anri Conquered. — With the captiu-e of Cuahutemotzin, 13 August, 1521, the Aztec empire came to an end, and with it Nahoa civilization, if such may be called the attainments of a nation which, although preserving in some of the brandies of human knowledge remnants of an ancient culture, lacked nevertheless many of the essentials of civilization, practised human sacrifice, polygamy, and slavery, and kept up an incessant warfare with their neighbours for the avowed purpose of providing vic- tims to be sacrificed in a fruitless endeavour to satiate the thirst for blood of their false gods. Most histo- rians attribute the victories of the Spanish conquerors to the firearms they carried, the horses they rode, the horse being entirely unknown to the Indians, the steel armour they wore, and the help of the Indian allies. No doubt all these contributed in a measure, but not as much as is represented. Of the 500 or 600 men that composed the first expedition, only thirteen carried firearms, ami tlii'si' wfiv hra< y riimliri -.mp-


Spanisli victories were due more to the mode of In- dian warfare and in .some cases, as in that of Otumba, to Cortes's indomitable courage and strategy. As has already been said, the Indians did not fight to conquer but to take their enemies prisoners, and the battles after the first assault became a .series of confused liaiul- to-hand fights without order or harmony on the part of the Indians, whereas the Spaniards preserved their unity and fought under the direction of their leader. Valour was not wanting on either side, but the Indians yielded to the temptation of an easy flight, while the Spaniartls fought with the courage of desperation; knowing well that the sacrificial stone was the fate that awaited the prisoner, with them it was to conquer or to die. Historians have been so carried away with the military exploits of Cortes that the men who fought with him, sharing all his dangers, have been over- looked. Greed for gold was not the sole dominant motive of their actions, as has been so persistently as- sortfd; it was a strantre mixture nf indomitable cnur-


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pieces, hard to manage as were all the firearms of that time. The artillery train was primitive, and its capacity limited, and always accompanied the main column. The detachments which were sent out to subjugate or pacify the villages, and which had sharp encounters, could not hamper their movements in this way. The horsemen were but sLxteen in all, and after their first astonishment, not unmixed with awe, the natives soon learned that they could be felled by a single blow. ExcejJt officers, few of the Spaniards wore armour, the majority had quilted cotton suits, and for arms the sword and buckler; the horsemen were armed with lances.

As to weapons, the Indians were quite as well pro- vided as the Spaniards; thick wooden helmets covered with leather protected the head, and all carried the chimalli, a strong shield large enough to almost cover the entire breast. The allies no doubt helped, but in the stubbornly fought battles with the TIaxcaltecs, the Spaniards won singlehanded; their Indian allies in the very heat of battle thinking more of pillage than of fighting, during the siege, when the Spanish cause seemed doomed, the allies forsook them. When later they returned they were such a hindrance on the narrow causeways, that in order to fight freely, the Spaniards were obliged to send them to the rear. The


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age, harshness, tireless energy, cupidity, licentious- ness, Spanish loyalty, and religious spirit. Some of those who had fought most valiantly and who received their share of the spoils, judging their gains ill gotten, laid aside their worldly possessions acquired at such a high price, and embraced the religious life. Later they emerged from the cloister transformed into missionaries, full of zeal and bringing to the arduous task of evangelizing the Indians, the same valour, disregard of fatigue, and untiring energy they had previously displayed in the army of discovery and conquest.

With the fall of the great Tenochtitlan, the first period may be said to close. This was followed by many expeditions of discovery and conquest, ending for the most part in the founding of colonies. Al- varado penetrated as far as Guatemala; Cristobal de Olid reached Honduras, Montejo, father and son, ac- complished the conquest of Yucatan; Cortfe went as far as Lower California. Nuno de Guzmdn, the conqueror of Michoaican (or Tarasco Kingdom) and the founder of the city of Guadalajara, whose career might have been so distinguished for glory, allowed his cruel, avaricious disposition to overrule all his actions. Fleeing from Mexico to avoid the storm that his evil deeds had brought upoa-him, he encountered Tango-