The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico
By Miguel León-Portilla
Why this book?
A vivid account of life in the Aztec world and the tragic Aztec-Spanish War told by Indigenous scribes writing in Nahuatl during the decades following these events and the transformation to colonial New Spain. Mexican authors began publishing translations of Native-author sources in the late eighteenth century; yet, together with his former advisor, Ángel María Garibay, León-Portilla did more than any other twentieth-century scholar to elevate the voices and perspectives of Nahua peoples, the descendants of the prehispanic Aztecs. The Broken Spears was first published in Spanish in 1959 and translated to English in 1962. It has been translated into many other languages and revised versions since. Its key sixteenth-century texts include portions of Book 12 of the Florentine Codex, compiled by the Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún, and sections of the Annals of Tlatelolco. Within these composite sources, readers can sense the multivalence of the Native authors and the micro-patriotism on behalf of the Mexica of Tlatelolco, as well as the subtle critiques they levied against the Mexica from the much larger and more powerful sister city of Tenochtitlan. The texts highlight what Nahuas found both interesting and horrifying about the bearded foreigners who invaded their lands; their nostalgia for the material culture and poetic rhetoric of the former Aztec world; and the sorrow they felt over its demise.
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