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False Deities Cruch Aztecs

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False Deities Crush the Aztecs

Without question one of the most important events in the Age of Exploration, and the Spanish Empire, the Aztec conquest still leaves many questions for debate. How did Cortes and his small Spanish Army defeat a glorious Aztec Empire, a revered group of natives known for their brave and skilled warriors? Of all the possible arguments to justify the Aztec's defeat, it is Aztec religion that ultimately dooms their empire.

When first word of the Spanish ships reached Motecuhzoma, they were described as, "a mountain range or small mountain, floating in the midst of the water and moving here and there without touching the shore." he continues saying, "we have never seen the like of this, although we guard the coast and are always on watch." (16). This unexplained event, along with the numerous omens that have occurred in recent time, make Motecuhzoma believe that the Gods are returning from Heaven. When questioned, the Aztec magicians predict, "The future has already been determined and decreed in heaven, and Motecuhzoma will behold and suffer a great mystery which must come to past in his land." (15). He thought that the Spaniards was, the Aztec God, Quetzalcoatl and his other deities. In the Aztec religion, Quetzalcoatl was characterized by light skin, red hair, and light eyes, and was supposed to return to earth, and rightly take the throne of Mexico. The resemblance between the description of the Quetzalcoatl and the Spaniards was astonishing. He feared that the "gods" were angry at his people and were coming to Tenochtitlan in fury. In reverence to, and hopefully to appease the gods, Motecuhzoma had his finest craftsman make them a plethora of fine gifts of gold and quetzal feathers. When Motecuhzoma's messengers presented the gifts to the Spaniards, Cortes recognized how profitable this land was and, with the native people bowing at his feet, it would be no trouble marching in and claiming the land in the name of Spain.

Later on, Motecuhzoma sent out wizards and magicians to try to please the Spaniards, and to see if they could find a way to harm them. In addition to food and gifts he also sent captives with the envoy to be sacrificed to the "gods". When word came back that the Spanish were disgusted by the sacrifice as they, "spat on the ground, or wiped away their tears, or closed their eyes and shook their heads in abhorrence." (33), Montecuhzoma became even more horrified. He even thought of fleeing his city.

This thought of the Spaniards being angry gods terrified the Montecuhzoma and the rest of Tenochtitlan. "There were meetings and arguments and gossip in the street; there was weeping and lamenting. The people were downcast: they went about with their heads bowed down and greeted each other with tears" (35). With the Spaniards eyes fixed on the city of Mexico all hope was lost, there was no wizard or magician that could harm them, no warrior that could kill them, and fighting them, when they reached Tenochtitlan, was hopeless. This gave the Spanish a huge advantage when they arrived in Motecuhzoma's kingdom.

It wasn't just Motecuhzoma, and the people of Tenochtitlan, who believed that the "strangers from the great sea" were gods or divine beings. On Cortez's march towards the city of Mexico other groups bowed before him. The Tlaxcaltecas bowed down before them and even allied with the Spaniards. Now, Cortez has allies that know the lay of the land, how to get from city to city, and even shortcuts. They also supplied the Spaniards with information about the Aztecs. Motecuhzoma, unknown to this fact, tried to pass off Tzihuacpopocatzin as himself. However, when Tzihuacpopocatzin tells the Spaniards that he was Motecuhzoma the Tlaxcaltecas cut in and call out the imposter saying,

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