The author presents a fascinating account of the overthrow of the Aztec Empire under the leadership of Montezuma by the radical Hernan Cortes and his supporters. In the book, Bernal notes that he is one of Cortes’ soldiers, and he explains the manner in which the Spanish settlers landed in Mexico in 1520. Once in the city, the author observes that the Spanish embarked on a mission to develop the cities and establish its administrative authority.
The colonialists went on to exploit the poor by forcing them to work in the mining fields without compensating them. The foreigners were simply interested in extracting valuable ornaments and other treasures, something that the locals were highly opposed forcing them to launch a formidable resistance that threw out the Spanish. However, the foreigners regrouped and fought a tough war that en enabled them to recapture the Aztec capital once more, forcing the locals to obey foreign laws failure of which would result in stern punishment.
In his analysis, Bernal talks about human sacrifice repeatedly by observing that many people were willing to lose their lives to achieve what they wanted. Again, he notes that Hernan Cortes was a great soldier who was determined to spread Christianity in the region.
Unfortunately, he exaggerates the capability of the Spanish and their interest since they were never focused on helping the locals but instead acquiring the much-needed resources and human labor. The author makes the reader believe the Spanish civilization was advanced. He goes on to portray the Mesoamerican civilization as weak and destructive.
The author goes on to refer to the conquering of Aztec by the Spanish as heroic while their real mission was to spread the gospel and extract gold. A critical analysis reveals that this assertion is misleading because it is non-objective in the sense that it is detrimental to the interpretation of the entire process of conquest. The writer shows that the Spanish were simply adventurers with the major aim of becoming heroes, but he does not consider the fact that they had specific economic and political intentions to accomplish.
In one of the statements, Bernal observes, “After spending three fruitless years in Tierra Firme and Cuba, about a hundred and ten of us, settlers from Tierra Firme or Spaniards who had come to Cuba but received no grant of Indians, decided to make an expedition to seek new lands in which to try our fortunes and find occupation.”
The statement means that the Spanish had other objectives apart from visiting the region for explorative reasons meaning that they were searching for wealth and this could only be achieved through the enslavement of the locals. Bernal keeps on referring the Spaniards as redeemer gods, and the locals had predicted the same, but he does not dedicate even a single sentence to quote the locals admitting that the foreigners would rule over the land one day.
In one occasion, he claims that the locals called the Spanish Teules, which refers to either demons or gods. He admits later that it would be difficult to know whether the locals treated them as gods or demons.
Concerning the Mesoamerican civilization, Bernal fails to present a true picture of the socio-political and economic life of the locals. First, he terms the Aztec government as a kingdom, but the use of the word is erroneous. The Mexican culture dictated that the foreigner had to be given a woman as one way of appreciating the visit, but he ends up calling the women prostitutes.
The writer seems accustomed to only one form of government that is ruled by the king, something that makes him adopt a narrow perspective of what constitutes the government. He goes on to refer to Moctezuma and other elected officials as lords, but the system of administration was different in the region since leaders were expected to consult other elderly people before formulating governmental policies.
The writer reports that Moctezuma consulted widely with other locals on the possibility of surrendering to the Spaniards. Unlike European kingdoms, the Aztec nation respected the contributions of women in society, but the writer keeps on referring to the nation as a male society meaning that his observation is deceptive and bogus.
The writer insists on the theme of human sacrifice throughout his analysis, but he ends up exaggerating the issue. Even after admitting that it might be tiresome for the reader to come across human sacrifice in his text and promising not to use it, he continues to mention the term in several pages.
It is concluded that the author manages to convince the reader that his analysis is perfect and breathtaking, but a critical analysis reveals several flaws that need reevaluation. However, this does not mean that what the Spanish say about the conquest is false because they offer important information that shed light on the process of colonization.
The reality is that the Spanish were not simply explorers interested in knowing the world, but instead, they had economic and political interests in the Latin American region. His analysis of the position of women and the idea of human sacrifice are both inaccurate.
The Conquest of New Spain