Link to enlarge K6042 (Las Bocas - Ceramic Vessel) THE FOUNDATION RESEARCH DEPARTMENT

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



Chapter   1
Chapter   2
Chapter   3
Chapter   4
Chapter   5
Chapter   6
Chapter   7
Chapter   8
Chapter   9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24


DURING the year 1917 occurs the four hundredth anniversary of the discovery of México. Early in February, 1517, Diego Velasquez, Governor of Cuba, sent out three vessels under the command of Hernandez de Cordova to explore the waters to the westward of that island. As pilot of the expedition went Anton Alaminos, who as a youth had accompanied Columbus in 1508 on his fourth voyage of discovery. On this trip Columbus set sail from Santo Domingo, and made the mainland of Central America, along the Honduras coast. While tarrying here for a few days, a great trading canoe arrived from the north laden with people and merchandise, giving Columbus tangible evidence of the existence of a people having a higher culture than that found in the Antilles. This canoe had come from the province of Yucatán, and if Columbus [8] had but turned his eyes in this direction, to him would have fallen the glory of the discovery of México. Instead, however, he pushed on with his fleet to the east and southeast, against adverse currents and contrary winds, and finally reached Panama. Cordova was undoubtedly influenced by the pilot Alaminos to steer in the direction of the region to which Columbus had turned his back, and on February 8, 1517, he sighted the island of Cozumel, close to the Yucatán coast.

One of the chief sources of information regarding this eventful voyage is furnished us by Bernal Diaz del Castillo, who was not only on this expedition, but went in 1518, with Grijalva, when he was placed in charge of an expedition to continue the discovery of the Mexican coast, which had been skirted by Cordova as far as what is now the city of Vera Cruz. Again in 1519, Bernal Diaz was a member of the larger expedition commanded by Hernan Cortes, under whose intrepid leadership the discovery and conquest of the so-called empire of Montezuma, [9] México, was added to the laurels of the Spanish crown. The complete work of Bernal Diaz relating to these memorable expeditions has only recently been published, and a masterly translation into English with scholarly annotations by Alfred P. Maudsley, has just been printed by the Hakluyt Society in five volumes, the final volume having been issued in 1916.

In the work of Bernal Diaz we have the written account of but one of four eyewitnesses of the Conquest of México. Foremost in importance are the five letters of the conqueror himself, Hernan Cortes. These were sent to the King of Spain, Charles the Fifth, and the second, third, and fourth were soon printed. The first letter sent from the coast of México has been lost, but the information contained in it has been supplied by a letter, apparently containing the same information, sent at the same time to the King, by the just established Municipality of the new town of Vera Cruz. The fifth letter related to an overland journey made [10] by Cortes from the city of México to Honduras during the years 1526-1527. This letter and the letter of the Municipality, were only found and published during the past century. These five letters have been translated into different languages and published many times, but not until 1908 was an adequate translation in English of all five published collectively, when Francis A. MacNutt issued them with annotations in a two-volume edition.

The accounts of the two other eyewitnesses and participants, in the conquest of México, the Anonymous Conqueror and Andres de Tapia, have never been published in English, and it seems fitting at this time, the four hundredth anniversary of the discovery of México, to undertake the publication of translations of these two documents to supplement the letters of Cortes and the history of Bernal Diaz.

The narratives will be published separately, and in the series the Itinerary of Grijalva and other accounts, relating not only to the [11] discovery and conquest of México, but also of Peru and other Latin-American countries, will be included, giving only such documents and narratives as have not been heretofore published in the English language.

The valuable document relating to the conquest of México by the Anonymous Conqueror, which is here published in English for the first time, has come down to us from the celebrated collection of voyages and travels brought together in Italy, and published in the Italian language by Ramusio. This great collection has not been reprinted in recent times like the great works of Hakluyt and Purchas, and it has never in its entirety been translated into English.

The following notes relating to the different editions of the work of Ramusio are taken from the learned introductory treatise of the great Mexican scholar Joaquin Garcia Icazbalceta, to his translation from the Italian into Spanish of the document which we have now rendered in English from his Spanish translation, and compared with the original [12] Italian text published by Ramusio. The Spanish translation of this report was published by Icazbalceta in his "Coleccion de Documentos Para La Historia de México," volume I, México, 1858.

Volume I of Ramusio was first printed in 1550, and was reprinted 1554, 1563, 1588, 1606, and 1613. The second volume did not appear until 1559, when Ramusio was already dead. It was reprinted in 1574, 1583, and 1606. The third volume was exclusively devoted to America, and in it is found the report of the Anonymous Conqueror. It was first published in 1556, and was reprinted in 1565 and 1606. Ramusio had brought together material for a fourth volume, and it had already been delivered to the printer, but the establishment was burned in 1557, and with it the manuscript, a few months after the death of Ramusio. The loss of this material is to be lamented, as it probably contained further documents relating to America.

The original Spanish text of the report of [13] the Anonymous Conqueror is lost; at least its present whereabouts has not yet come to light, and we have to rely upon the Italian text. Much speculation has arisen as to the identity of the writer, and it has been held by some to be the work of Francisco de Terrazas. The evidence has been studied carefully by Icazbalceta, the result being that we are still at a loss as to the authorship of this valuable document. In the publication of Ramusio it is simply ascribed to a "Gentleman of Cortes." It is a matter of deep regret that the author did not write a more extensive account, or if he did, that it should have been lost, for as Icazbalceta remarks, "it is without doubt one of our best historical documents."

There is a translation into French of the Anonymous Conqueror by Ternaux Compans, published by him in his "Recueil de Pièces relatives à la Conquête du Mexique," Tome X, of "Voyages, Relations et Mémoires Originaux pour servir à l’Histoire de la Découverte de l’Amerique," 1837-1841. [14]

The two illustrations found accompanying the report in the Spanish translation of Icazbalceta are reproduced by him from the text of the edition of Ramusio of 1556, with the remarks that "the drawings are pure caprice, and that of the temple has acquired a certain celebrity that it does not merit."

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