The Fall of the Aztecs
TenochtitlánSpanish EyewitnessMontezuma's Speech
Meeting of Cortés and Montezuma
The fateful meeting of Cortés and Montezuma
Credit: Bettmann/Corbis

Cortés' version of Montezuma's speech on the day the Spaniards entered Tenochtitlán, as he reports in his letter to the King of Spain:

"For a long time we have known from the writing of our ancestors that neither I, not any of those who dwell in this land, are natives of it, but foreigners who came from very distant parts; and likewise we know that a chieftain of whom they were all vassals brought our people to this region. And he returned to his native land and after many years came again, by which time all those who had remained were married to native women and had built villages and raised children. And when he wished to lead them away again they would not go, not even admit him as their chief; and so he departed. And we have always held that those who descended from him would come and conquer this land and take us as their vassals. So because of the place from which you claim to come, namely from where the sun rises, and the things you tell us of the great lord or king who sent you here, we believe and are certain that he is our natural lord, especially as you say that he has known of us for some time. So be assured that we will obey you and hold you as our lord in place of that great sovereign of whom you speak; and in this there shall be no offence or betrayal whatsoever. And in all the land that lies in my domain, you may command as you will, for you shall be obeyed; and all that we own is for you to dispose of as you choose. Thus now as you are in your own country and your own house, rest now after the hardships of your journey."

The Aztec version of the same speech:

"Our lord, thou hast suffered fatigue, thou hast endured weariness. Thou hast come to arrive on earth. Thou hast come to govern thy city of Mexico; thou hast come to descend upon thy mat, upon thy seat, which for a moment I have guarded for thee. For thy governors are departed - the rulers Itzcoatl, Montezuma the Elder, Axayactl, Tizoc, Auitzotl, who yet a very short time ago had come to govern the city of Mexico. O that one of them might witness, might marvel at what to me now hath befallen, at what I see now that they have quite gone. I by no means merely dream, I do not merely dream that I see thee, that I look into thy face. I have been afflicted [troubled] for some time. I have gazed at the unknown place whence thou hast come - from among the clouds, from among the mists. And so this. The rulers departed maintaining that thou wouldst come to visit thy city, that thou wouldst come to descend upon thy mat, upon thy seat. And now it has been fulfilled; thou hast come. Thou hast endured fatigue, thou hast endured weariness. peace be with thee. Rest thyself. Visit thy palace. Rest thy body. My peace be with our lords...."

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