Narrative of Some Things of New Spain and of the Great City of Temestitan,1 México.
Written by a Companion of Hernan Cortes, The Anonymous Conqueror.
Edited by Alec Christensen
When the Spanish arrived on the shores of México in 1517, they were confronted with a wonderful world that was completely new to them. Their primary goal was the conquest of this world and conversion of its natives to Christianity, but some of them were inspired to write down what they saw as well. These first-hand accounts provide us with much valuable information about the Aztecs and other natives of Mesoamerica, although it is obviously filtered through European eyes.
The following account is one of the briefer and lesser-known such descriptions of Tenochtitlan and Aztec society in 1519. We do not even have the original Spanish text, only an Italian translation of the lost original, and the identity of the Anonymous Conqueror who wrote it remains unknown. Marshall H. Saville, the editor and translator of this version, follows Carlos María de Bustamante in his suggestion of Francisco de Terrazas, but this is far from certain. Federico Gómez de Orozco suggested that the account was a misrepresentation if not a fraud, composed by Alonso de Ulloa in Spain based on the accounts of others who had actually seen México.
I present here the 1917 translation by Marshall H. Saville (New York: The Cortes Society), which in turn draws upon pre-existing French and Spanish translations. The introduction and notes are Savilles, although he also gives numerous notes taken from Icazbalcetas and Ternauxs translations. Although his references are clearly outdated, the explanatory notes are largely valid. Throughout the text, red numbers in brackets indicate the pagination in Savilles edition.
I. THE LAND OF NEW SPAIN [p.15]
II. OF THE ANIMALS [p.17]
III. OF THE SOLDIERS [p.19]
IV. OF THEIR OFFENSIVE AND DEFENSIVE ARMS [p.21]
V. DRESS OF THE MEN [p.29]
VI. DRESS OF THE WOMEN [p.31]
VII. OF THE THREAD WHICH THEY WORK [p.33]
VIII. OF THE FOODS WHICH THEY HAVE AND USE [p.35]
IX. OF THE DRINKS THAT THEY USE [p.39]
X. HOW THEY MAKE THE CACAO [p.41]
XI. OF OTHER KINDS OF WINE WHICH THEY HAVE [p.43]
XII. OF THE ORDER OF THE GOVERNMENT [p.45]
XIII. OF THEIR RELIGION, WORSHIP, AND TEMPLES [p.47]
XIV. WHAT THESE TOWERS WERE LIKE [p.49]
XV. OF THE SACRIFICES [p.51]
XVI. OF THE CITIES OF THIS LAND AND DESCRIPTION OF SOME OF THEM [p.55]
XVII. THE LAKE OF MEXICO [p.57]
XVIII. OF THE GREAT CITY OF TEMISTITAN, MEXICO [p.61]
XIX. OF THE STREETS [p.63]
XX. OF THE PLAZAS AND MARKET-PLACES [p.65]
XXI. OF THE TEMPLES AND MOSQUES THAT IT HELD [p.69]
XXII. OF THE HABITATIONS [p.73]
XXIII. MARRIAGE [p.77]
XXIV. OF THE BURIALS [p.79]
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