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"Religious Aspects of the Conquest of Mexico"
Cultural Extremists
On the 'Nican Tlaca' Enigma
The Myth of the Vanishing Race
The Mestizo Concept: A Product of European Imperialism
El concepto de indio en América
OBITUARIES: G. Tantaquidgeon, 106
Christopher Columbus - on trial
Charioteer of the Gods/ Alien Versus Predator
The International Jew
On The Jewish Question
Anthropophagy: TRUE CANNIBALISM!
On Human Sacrifice
Sacrificios Humanos entre los Mexicas, Realidad o Fantasia?
Sacrificios Humanos
Death Be Not Strange
Jack D. Forbes: Eurocentric Concepts Harm Native People and What Do We Mean By America and American
Contra la deformación histórica-cultural
Nuestra Cultura Indígena
On the Spanish Catholic Inquisition
Myths of the Spaniards and Puritans
On the behavior of the Europeans toward the Native Americans
The Role of Disease in 'Conquest'
Germs, Plagues, Famine, Invasion, Friars, And Native Allies!
"Religious Aspects of the Conquest of Mexico"
There is no word for 'Devil' in the Nahuatl Language
Origins of First Americans Research
Links to Further research On the Origins of the First Americans
The Finding and Founding of Tenochtitlan
Attack on the Copernican Theory
Of the basis which the Indians have for worshipping the sun
ADDENDUM II: The Florentine Codex
Rabinal Achi: Act Four--Inside the Fortress
Cultural Visibility and the Cora
Los Voladores and the Return of the Ancestors
War Songs of the Tenochka
Cantares Mexicanos
Viva Mi General Francisco Villa!
In Spirit of Agustin Lorenzo
Corridos y Canciones del Pueblo
Poems & Speeches & Prayers & the Enemy Invasion
Second Chapter, Which Telleth of the Moon
Men Who Became Gods!
The Mexica or Mexiti
In Ixiptla In Teteo!
Teotecpillatolli: Noble Sacred Speech
Nahua Invocations
Cuento: La llorona
Puerta del Diablo: El Salvador
Moctezuma el Magnifico y la Invasion de Anahuak
In Blood and Fire!!
Excerpts of the Geneva Protocols
Amendment V, and The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 18
Paper Wars
The Defense of Duffer's Drift
The Battle of the Bulge
Truth and Falsehood in War-Time
The Bryce Report
Sun Tzu: Arte de Guerra
Sun Tzu: On Spies
We Believe and Profess
Mushashi: Cinco Anillos
Sixth Chapter, which telleth of the men, the valiant men
Seeds of Revolt in the Americas: Synopsis
'Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders' & 'License To Kill'
Jose Ortega Y Gasset: On Plato's 'Republic' and On Forms of Government
Thomas Paine (17371809). Common Sense. 1776 [Excerpts]
Against Exploiters of Lakota Spirituality
Introduction to Deloria's "We Talk, You Listen"
My Tayta Jose Maria and the Indian aspect of the Peruvian Revolution
Philip Deere, Longest Walk speech
Bacbi'awak: 'Made To Die'
Born Gods!
Prologue: "The Stars We Know: Crow Indian Astronomy and Life-ways"
Black Elk Speaks: Visions of the Other World
Miantinomo, Acuera, and Tecumseh, Hatuey Speaks
Chief Seattle Speaks
Chief Red Cloud Speaks
Hopi: A Message for All People
On Judeo-Christianity
"LET'S MAKE A SLAVE" by Willie Lynch
On Slavery
On Indian Casinos
¿Quién Gobierna el Mundo?
Frida Kahlo is Not Our Hero!
Links to Movies and Films
General Links to Musica del Pueblo (Songs and Music Videos)
General Philosophy & Mytho-Religious Links
Links to Online Magazines and Newspaper
Researchers Tools and Links
Links to General Science, Almanacs & Geography
Search Engines
Literature & Biography Links
Links to Art, Architecture, & Museums
LINKS to Political and Cultural Pro-American-Indigenous Organizations

Appendix: Essay on the Sources
"Religious Aspects of the Conquest of Mexico" by Charles S. Braden,

The causal reader will have been satisfied to accept uncritically the
source materials presented in the body of this book, however much he
may have dissented from the writer's conclusions drawn from them.
Students of history particularly want, however, to know something
about the sources employed, by whom written, under what circumstances
and to what degree it is probable that they report the facts
correctly. For such readers a brief critical evaluation of the chief
sources is here attempted.

One group of sources is the considerable number of books or codices
which have been preserved. The Mexicans possessed the art of picture
writing and of book-making. There were many codices in existence at
the time of the conquest and a few of them have been preserved. Some
of those that remain were produced about the time of the coming of
the white man, other shortly after. Some of them are clearly the
work of Christians, and the interpretation of all of them has been
the work of Christians, though employing in that task the aid of
older Indians, who still were able to read them.

Alfredo Chavero, to whom we are indebted for much of the information
regarding the sources, has written at length regarding them in the
introduction to the first volume of "Mexico a traves de los Siglos."
There is just one thing to be noted about Chavero which may have
affected his judgment in regard to questions of religion. He has
displayed in his writings an anti-Catholic bias, at times almost
violent. Yet it has seemed to the writer that, in his weighing of
the sources, he has kept this feeling under control and that his
estimates of the value of the religious material is essentially

Regarding these codices and their interpretation, made for the most
part shortly after the conquest, "some by aged Indians who translated
them into the common tongue," he says:

"It would seem at first sight that such interpretations ought to be
given entire credence, but they must be taken seriously in all that
refers to religion, for from the beginning the Spanish writers and,
naturally, the Indians neophytes who followed them, showed the
tendency to correlate aboriginal traditions with Biblical narratives
and since then have sought in their paintings to discover the
accounts of the flood, the tower of Babel, the confusion of tongues,
etc. They sought also from time to time to hide all that encourage
the conservation of the dethroned idolatry, which resulted in their
leaving the explanations incomplete."

Speaking particularly regarding the interpreter of the Codex
Vaticanus, Padre Rios, he says,

"He shares the defect already indicated of wanting to explain all
their antiquities by Biblical ideas."

Of the interpreter of the Codex Borgiano, Padre Luis Fabrega, he says,

"He likewise falls into the common error of subjecting the beliefs of
the Mexicans to the traditions and ideas of the Christians."

One of the most valuable of the Codices is the Codex Ramirez. It was
written by an Indian about the time of the conquest. He was
doubtless a Christian. He refers with severity to the ecclesiastics,
calling them indolent in the matter of Christian instruction, saying
that they did not baptize Montezuma because the priests who came with
the Spaniards were more concerned with seeking riches than in
catechising the poor Indians. The Codex purports to have received
the facts narrated from eye-witnesses. It is early date is evidenced
by the fact that the author speaks of the ruins of the great temple
as it still existed at the time he wrote. Chavero considers this the
purest of the historical sources and the most important for the
genuine tradition of the Mexican people. It contains a long story
regarding the patron god of the Mexicans quoted in part on pages 43-
44. This codex has been published recently in English by Paul Radin,
who also rates it very highly. ("Sources and Authenticity of the
History of the Ancient Mexicans")

There exist also a few other ancient poems and writing which throw
some light on the native religion. Brinton has collected these and
published them with an introduction telling their origin.
(Brinton, "Rig Veda Americana, Sacred Songs of Ancient Mexicans")
Some of them very clearly antedate the period of the conquest. Care
must be taken in the use of these writings to consider them as the
expression of a very limited number of people out of the mass of
Indians. They do not in any sense reflect the thought of the people
as a whole.

The most complete description of the religion of the Indians is to be
found in the works of the early Spanish writers, most of them
ecclesiastics, though not all. Great care must, of course, be
exercised in taking the description of a religion from its
opponents. Even though some of the writers were laymen and soldiers,
they were without exception so thoroughly Catholic that they could
but look with horror upon the religious practices of the natives.
The chief authorities of this sort are as follows:

Bernandino de Sahagun was born early in the 16th century in the town
of Sahagun, in Spain; was educated in the university of Salamanca,
and arrived in New Spain in 1529 together with nineteen other priests
to help in the conversion of the Indians. He became a close student
of the Indian languages and history. He wrote a considerable number
of books in the native tongue and about 1566 finished his great
history of New Spain in twelve books. This was written in the native
language and later translated into Spanish. The manuscript was sent
to Spain but was not published for more than two hundred years. It
was finally discovered in the Franciscan convent at Tolouse, in
Navarre, and published almost simultaneously by Kingsborough in
London and by Bustamante in Mexico, about 1829.

It will be worth our while to examine the method which the author
employed in securing the material which the books contain.
Fortunately a detailed description of his procedure is given in his
introduction. He says:

"All writers seek to authenticate their writings as fully as
possible, some by trustworthy witnesses, others by reference to
previous writers who have secured sure testimony as to the facts,
still others by reference to the Holy Scripture. But these means are
wholly lacking in my case for the twelve books I have written, and I
see no other way of authenticating what I have written than by
stating here the extreme care which I exercised in securing the
data. As stated elsewhere, I was ordered by my superiors to write,
in the Mexican tongue, whatever I thought would be useful for the
doctrine, the culture and the maintenance of the Christianity of the
natives of New Spain and would help those who are seeking to
indoctrinate them. As soon as I received the command, I made, in
Spanish, a list of all the subjects that ought to be treated. I then
went to the town of Tepeopulco and began to seek material. I went
about it in this way. I had the head man of the village, D. Diego de
Mendoza, an old man of great ability, well practiced in things
priestly, military, political and even idolatrous, call together the
chief men of the place. When they were met, I proposed what I wished
to accomplish and asked that they furnish me with skillful and
experienced persons with whom I could talk, who would be able to
explain to me the things I might ask. They replied that they would
confer together about it and would let me know next day …. Next day
they came together again and with much solemnity assigned ten or
twelve of the chief older men, saying that I might communicate with
them and that they would explain all that I might ask. . . .
With these I conversed over a period of two years (following the list
that I had made). Everything about which we conferred they gave me
in paintings, which was their method of writing. The grammarians
(four of these had been pupils of his in an earlier period)
translated them into the common language writing the explanations at
the bottom of the pictures. I still have these originals. . . .
Later I went to live at Santiago de Tlaltelolco, where I gathered
together another group with whom I might explained what was already
written. The governor assigned eight or ten of the chief men who
were well trained in their own language and well acquainted with the
ancient traditions. With these and with four or five students, all
of whom spoke three languages, we spent more than a year amending and
adding to what I had brought already written from Tepeopulco."

He then relates in detail how he submitted the work to different
individuals and groups and secured their approval of it. What shall
we say as to his writings? Certainly no more careful piece of work
was done in that early day. But may we trust it as a true
description of the religion, remembering that he was a priest, and
that most of the men whom he questioned were Christians, at least
nominally? In his introduction to the book dealing with the religion
of the people he states as his reason for writing it that the
physician who would cure an ill must know what the ill is. He says:

"It is not enough to say that among these people there exist no
longer sins of drunkenness, dishonesty and carnality. There are
other sins and much more serious which are in great need of a remedy,
the sins of idolatry, idolatrous rites, idolatrous superstitions and
auguries and idolatrous ceremonies. These are by no means all

To preach against these things and indeed to be able to know whether
they exist or not, it is necessary to know how they were used in the
time of idolatry." (Sahagun, "Relacion de las Cosas de la Nueva
Espa`na, I, xiii.)
It seems to the writer that, notwithstanding his bias, he has come
nearer giving the facts than any other writer of his time save
possibly one other, Bernal Diaz del Castillo, of whom we shall speak
later. As simple description of what was done, Sahagun can probably
be safely considered as trustworthy, though where interpretation
enters in, caution should be used in following him.

Fray Toribio de Motolina was another of the very early writers whose
works are still preserved. He was a Franciscan monk who came to New
Spain as a missionary in 1524. His principal work appeared in 1541
under the title "Historia de Los Indios de la Nueva Espana."
Prescott, author of the "History of the Conquest of America," says of

"Never losing sight of his mission for a moment, the author
interrupts the sequence of the subject which immediately occupies him
to relate an anecdote or tell of some event which illustrates his
ecclesiastic interests. He recounts the most marvelous happenings
with grave credulity. . . . He repeats as true a host of miracles
more than sufficient to provide for the rising religious communities
of New Spain. Nevertheless in the midst of all this, the
investigator of Mexican antiquities will find much important and
curious material. The long and intimate association of the author
with the Indians gave him opportunity to acquire a vast knowledge of
their theologies and science. The deduction in which the
superstitions of the age and peculiar character of the author are
reflected cannot be taken with entire confidence; but since his
integrity and his means of gaining his knowledge are indisputable, he
is a first authority in the study of antiquities of Mexico.
(Prescott, "History of the Conquest of Mexico", II, p. 98.)

Alfredo Chavero says of him:

"We consider Motolinia as the first and principal source of our
written history and whatever eulogy we might write regarding his work
would be of little account in comparison with his merit. ("Mexico a
Traves de los Siglos", I, xiv).

It will be noted that he is rated very highly by both these men as an
authority in purely historical matters, but no so highly in matters
of religious.

Other early authorities are Gonzalo Fernando de Oviedo y Valdes who
published, in 1535, an extensive general and natural history of the
Indies, "Historia General y Natural de las Indias." What he did not
actually see himself he took from eye-witnesses. He is not so
valuable a source for religious investigation as for historical and
geographic study.

Among the most valuable ought to be the writings of Ixtlilxochitl,
himself a descendant of the emperors of Mexico. His mother was the
daughter of the next to the last Mexican emperor. He served in his
later years as interpreter in the Indians court. However, he is not
to be relied upon as exact in all his statements. In the first place
he was a Christian and writers from that standpoint. What seems to
be one of the most important stories pointing toward an advanced idea
of the One God, we owe to him. It is recounted twice in his
different books. We cannot be sure, however, that he has not read
back into the experience more than was really there. Chavero says of
"He wished to represent his forebears always as conquerors and twists
the history of Mexico to that end. He invented for them an
impossible culture given the epoch and the social milieu in which the
people lived." ("Mexico a Traves de los Siglos," I, x1viii)

Spence in his book "Myths of Mexico and Peru," says:

"He was cursed with or blessed by a strong leaning toward the
marvelous and has colored his narratives so highly that he would have
us regard the Toltec or ancient Nahuan civilization, as by far the
most splendid that ever existed. His description of Tezcuco, if
picturesque in the extreme is manifestly the outpouring of a romantic
idealist mind, which in its patriotic enthusiasm desired to vindicate
the country of his birth from the stigma of savagery and to prove its
equality with the great nations of antiquity." (p. 46)

If one approaches his writings with this fact in mind and is careful
in using his materials, there is a great deal of value to be found in
his work.

Bernal Diaz del Castillo was one of the companions of Cortes
throughout the whole conquest and seems to have been quite close to
his commander. He was not a learned man in any sense, nor practiced
the art of writing. His history is just the story of what he saw and
heard during the years of fighting that won Mexico to the crown of
Spain. He makes no pretence of any literary skill, indeed he
constantly laments his inability as a writer. Nevertheless, or it
may be chiefly just because of this, his narrative is generally
accredited to-day ["1930"] as true. Chavero says of him:

"This soldier-historian, companion of Cortes, was eye-witness of the
events which he describes. He has written only that which he saw
with his eyes and heard from the Indians. He is an honest and
trustworthy witness. His genuineness is revealed on every page and
his account may be taken as the very truth." (Mexico a Traves de los
Siglos, I, 1.)

although one must recognize the extremely bias of Diaz, the very
naivete of his descriptions strikes the writer as being the best
evidence of the accuracy of what he writes. Ramirez says of him:

"with his genius for investigation he inquired into everything with
his natural frankness told everything, leaving us, thus, in his rude
writings the most precious gem of Mexican history." (Jose F.
Ramirez, "Bautismo de Moteuhzoma Novena Ray de Mexico," Boletin de la
Sociedad Mexicana de Geografia y Estadistica, la epoca (1863), X,

invaluable in any study of the period of the conquest are the letters
of the man whose genius made it possible, the Conquistador himself,
Hernando Cortes. He wrote five long letters to the emperor, Charles
V, relating the story of his adventures, at some point in very great
detail. They were written very soon after the events they narrate,
so that it may be supposed that the reports are faithful accounts of
what happened, unless we are to suspect that, in some cases in which
Cortes own character or his own fortunes are involved, he may have
colored his narrative. He has been charged with this by his
enemies. The dates of the letters are, July 10, 1519; October 30,
1520; May 15, 1522; October 15, 1524; and September 3, 1526.
Fortunately these have been made available to English readers by
Francis A. MacNutt who has edited them and added valuable notes and
comments, in two large volumes, published by Putnam's, N.Y., in

Aside from those longer letters, scores of letters and government
orders of all sorts from the hand of Cortes are to be found in the
great collection, "Coleccion de Documentos Ineditos," which are quite
as valuable, or possibly even more so, as those to the emperor, since
many of these were doubtless written without thought of their
teaching the imperial eye, and may therefore be more trustworthy.

Two others of Cortes' companions have left brief records of the
conquest which are highly regarded by historical students. The
author of one is unknown, being known simply as El Conquistador
Anonimo. It was edited and published by Joaquin Garcia Icazbelceta,
in volume two of his "Coleccion de Documentos Para la Historia de
Mexico." Chavero thinks it may have been written by Francisco
Terrazas, father of the early Mexican poet Terrazas. It has but
little to say regarding religion, aside from one chapter which
describes the native temples, rites and ceremonies. The other was by
Andres de Tapia, one of the officers of the conquering army, under
the title "Relacion sobre la conquista de Mexico," and is published
by Icazbalceta in the same volume with the former. In the
introduction he says of it:

"This document, until now entirely unknown, is of the greatest
importance. Its author was one of the most notable captains in
Cortes' army. He was in all the wars and expeditions, figured
prominently in the discord between the governors of Mexico, went with
Cortes to Spain, and returning, lived neighbor to him until his
death." (Garcia Icazbalecta, "Coleccion de Documentos para la
Historia de Mexico, Intro. P. 1xi.)

Perhaps the best known of all the early writers on Spain in the New
World is Bartolome de las Casas, fiery champion of the Indians
against their exploitation at the hands of the Spaniards. His
writings have enjoyed probably a wider circulation than those of any
other writer of the period, having been translated into English,
Dutch, French, and German at least, particularly his one
work "Brevisima Relacion de la Destruccion de las Indias," which he
first published in Seville in 1552. In it he recounted the fearful
cruelties and injustices practiced upon the Indians by their
conquerors. It doubtless made very interesting reading and effective
propaganda against Spain in the enemy-territories, though many of
them were no less guilty than she of grossly mistreating the
conquered peoples under their sway in the New World.

While, doubtless, there was much of truth in what Las Casas wrote, he
is too much under suspicion as a propagandist for his writings to
rank high as sober history. He wrote with such passion, and in some
cases so evidently overstated his case that his statements require
rigorous checking before they can be used. Oddly enough, one of his
most powerful opponents and critics was the gentle self-effacing
Franciscan friar, Toribio Benevente, better known by his
Indian `sobre-nombre' Motolinia, concerning whose work we have
already written, himself also a staunch friend of the Indians.
Several of his letters condemning Las Casas are extant.

Only slight use of Las Casas is made, in one section of the paper.
The fact that he is not used more extensively, given the character of
his writings and the popular esteem in which he is held, requires
this explanation. What is said here is no reflection at all on the
great service which the fearless and tireless friend of the Indians
rendered them, and no man in the whole history of this stirring drama
of conquest proved himself a more genuine or more powerful friend of
the oppressed natives. The judgment here is wholly as to the merit
of his literary work as source-material for our present purpose.

Francis A. MacNutt, the translator of Cortes' letters, has written a
monograph on Las Casas, including the translation of the "Brevisima
Relacion", in which he vigorously defends the "protector" and assigns
greater worth to his historical writings than that conceded by most
Spanish writers.

Other first-hand writers consulted have been so little used that they
need not be discussed here. They are Suarez de Peralta who wrote in
1589 his "Noticias Historicas de la Nueva espa`na; Dorantes de
Carranza, "Sumaria Relacion de las Cosas de la Nueva Espa`na;
Saavedra Guzman, who wrote a lengthy poem, "Peregrino Indiano,"
which, while lacking great poetic merit, does furnish valuable
material, particularly for the secular [lay] historian.

Among the most valuable sources, especially regarding the work of
conversion by the priests and the development of the church in
Mexico, are the following:

"Concilios Provinciales, Primero y Segundo, Celebrados en la Ciudad
de Mexico en 1555 y 1565," published by archbishop Francisco Antonio
Lorenzana of Mexico City. It bears the date of 1769, but was taken
from the original proceedings of these councils, the manuscripts of
which were preserved in the Metropolitan church in the capital. The
third council, held in 1585, is said by Lorenzana to have furnished
the norm for ecclesiastical procedure in his own time. Unfortunately
a copy of its decrees has not been found in any of the libraries to
which we have access. It was published by Don Juan Perez de la Serna
in 1622. However, the volume of the Archbishop is of very great
value, for it gives not only the proceedings of the two formal
councils, but of the very first "Junta Apostolica," which took place
during the closing days of 1524 and the early days of 1525. the
original minutes of the gathering have been lost but the summary
taken from Torquemada and Mendieta is given and probably represents
fairly well what was done at that time. It was not dignified with
the name of Council, because at that time there was no bishop of
archbishop in Mexico. By means of a comparison of the three
documents it is possible to see something of the progress that was
being made and of the problems that were emerging. These are
official pronouncements, and while they probably by no means always
represent what was actually practiced, they do show what the church
was attempting to do and the ideals for which she stood.

There exist also an interesting appendix to these council reports,
though it is not always bound with the volume by Lorenzana. The copy
found in the Ayer Collection at the Newberry Library (Chicago) was
bound separately. It is called "Apendice a los Concilios, Primero y
Segund Mexicanos, and contains a "Carta Original de los Obispos de
Mexico, Guatemala y Oaxaca," asking for instructions regarding the
matter of attending the general council of Trent; inquiring
concerning different points, such as tithes; and seeking directions
for the sound planting of the faith in the new world. This letter,
written in 1537, was the result of a meeting held at the request of
the king through the viceroy, that they might discuss matters
relating to the good of the Indians and their conversion and
instruction in the Holy Faith. It is signed by the three bishops;
Zumarraga of Mexico City, Zarate of Antequera, and Marroquin of

In reply to this letter the emperor expressed the desire that they
should assemble the bishops and other ecclesiastical leaders to draw
up rules for governing the church and the spreading of Christianity.
Such an assembly met in 1539. The bishops had drawn up for their
consideration a tentative set of rules which were discussed and the
response of the clergy to each section was inserted in the margin.
Why this was not technically called a council does not appear. The
document is found also in the "Apendice a los Concilios", thus
furnishing a complete file of the group pronouncements of the early
church of Mexico.

Another source of very great value is the "Recopilacion de Leyes de
Los Reinos de la Indias," printed and published by order of King
Charles II. The royal order fir its printing is dated 1681. The
edition from which quotations are taken is the second edition,
Madrid, 1756. It consists of four large volumes of some six hundred
pages each, double column. The first book, containing two hundred
forty-six pages is wholly devoted to religious and ecclesiastical
matters. Some of the titles of chapters are: Concerning the Holy
Catholic Church; Concerning Archbishops, Bishops and Visitors; The
Clergy; Religious Teachers. Some of the chapters of titles, as they
are called, have as many as fifty laws or more. Besides this first
book, laws relating to like matters are scattered throughout the
whole compilation, which may be easily found by a system of cross-

Here are brought together the royal orders and those of the royal
council of the Indies which were promulgated from time to time from
the very beginning of the new era of discovery. In each case the
date of the order and its author are given. The place to which it is
particularly meant to apply usually appears also, though most of them
are general prescriptions for use throughout the whole domain. It
is, of course, the source-book for all official pronouncements
regarding the conversion of the Indians and their treatment. Just
the reading of the headings of the various chapters and laws provides
an excellent running commentary on the world of that day.

No other single individual has contributed more to the study of the
history of Mexico, particularly the phase of it that engages us here,
than has Don Joaquin Garcia Icazbalceta, who has edited and published
sound critical introductions to them. It was he who edited and
published Motolinia's great work and volume I of his "Coleccion de
Documentos para la Historia de Mexico." It was he who, in the second
volume, gave us the "Relacion de Andres de Tapia, El Conquistador
Anonimo" and various other documents of great worth. It was
Icazbalceta who edited Mendieta's "Historia Eclesiastica Indiana,"
one of the very best sources, discussed in more detail on pages 325-
326; and it was he who edited a remarkably valuable collection of
documents in five volumes under the title, "Nueva Coleccion de
Documentos para la Historia de Mexico."

Volume one of this collection entitles "Cartas de Religiosos de Nueva
Espana, 1539-1594", contains a wealth of material which reflects the
religious conditions at various periods during the sixteenth
century. If it offered no more than the eight letters of Mendieta
which appear there, it would be of immense worth, but it has a great
many other letters as well; for example, one expressing the opinion
of the Franciscans regarding the "Repartimiento" of the Indians in

Volume two, "Codice Franciscano," is one of the most important
sources for this study. It gives more explicitly than any other
document just what the Indians were to be taught. The doctrine which
they used is here represented both in Spanish and the Indian dialect
[language: there are hundreds of "Indian dialect" in one "Indian
language"… just my thought]. In addition there are many letters,
mostly of ecclesiastics, all Franciscans, covering the years 1533-
1569. Volume three contains two "Relaciones," one that of Pomar, a
half breed of Tezcuco who wrote under the title "Breves y Sumaria
Relacion de los Se`nores y Maneras y Diferencias que habia en la
Nueva Espa`na y en Otras Provincias." Neither is of great value for
our purpose save as they here and there open up a window through
which one catches momentary glimpses of the religious changes that
were taking place. Volumes four and five form what he calls
the "Codice Mendieta." Not all the letters and document are by
mendieta, but Icazbalceta thinks that many of those not specifically
attributed to him were really his.

Another collection of original documents is the large
work, "Coleccion de Documentos Ineditos Relativos al Descubrimiento,
Conquista y Colonizacion de las Posesiones Espanolas," the second
series of which is still being published. These include hundreds of
letters and government orders, many of them having direct reference
to the religious phase of the conquest. The orders given by
Cortes "for the good government of the people," orders from the king
to the viceroy, reports from the viceroys to their kings, reports of
law suits, criminal trials, and commercial contracts—all throw some
light on our problem. The particular sources within the collection
are cited when quotations are used from them. Just the titles of
those read in the search for pertinent material would fill many

Other less extensive and less valuable collection exist, and they
have been consulted, but so little material has proved to be germane
to this particular field of investigation, that they need not be
discussed here. They are merely name in the bibliography.

Thus far the sources discussed have, in the main, been original first-
hand writings by people who lived during the period covered by their
writings. Passing to the group of writers at second-hand, probably
Gomara ought to be mentioned first, for he wrote much earlier than
many of those who were actual participants in the events which they
so graphically describe. His great work "Historia de las Conquistas
de Hernando Cortes," was finished in about 1553. The sources of his
information were various. He is said to have had personal contact
with many of the conquerors who returned from Mexico. Ramirez
declares that Gomara's work may be thought of almost as the testimony
of an eye witness, and to have the authority of Cortes own writings,
since it was likely written under his inspiration and perhaps even
his dictation. In a footnote, Ramirez quotes Garcilaso de la Vega,
the Peruvian writer ("Comentarios Reales del Peru," Libro II,
Capitulo viii) as saying that Cortes himself wrote it. He affirms
that he knows "trustworthy gentlemen" who told him so, and he laments
that Cortes did not publish it under his own name. Ramirez adds that
where Cortes own personal character is involved, the book should be
read with caution, for Gomora was an apologist for Cortes whom he
served as chaplain while the latter was in Spain. Bernal Diaz del
Castillo criticizes his narrative at many points, indeed one motive
which the "true historian" alleges for writing his own confessedly
imperfect narrative is that he may correct the mistakes of Gomora.

Mendieta, of whose letters we have already spoken, is for this study
one of the chief sources, for he wrote particularly of the subject
which engages our attention, the conversion of the Indians, under the
title "Historia Eclesiastica Indiana" (Ecclesiastical History of the
Indies). Chavero says of him:

"If he is not one of the first hand writers, he must not be confused
with those who wrote at second hand, although he himself says that he
made use of the writings of Olmos and Motolinia. Although less
original than Motolinia, he writes more extensively and observed
better order and more precise method. At every step he reveals his
vehemence of character which is still more clearly shown in his
letters." (Mexico a traves de los siglos, pp. li-lii)

Garcia Icazbalceta who, as stated above, had edited much of his work,
says that his Historia Ecleciastica was finished in 1596, but that it
was sent to Spain for publication and he never saw it again. No
writer after Torquemada made use of it though he used the manuscript
extensively. It was not until 1861 that the manuscript again came to
light and it was published by Icazbalceta in 1870. He says of the

Mendieta, a man of strong character, possessed of the spirit of his
Order (Franciscan), jealous for the honor of God, lover of justice
and truth, living more nearly in the times of the conquest, witness
of the great miracles of the Indians and their quest, witness of the
great miracles of the Indians and their hardy defender, although not
blind to their defects, looses his pen and without fear or favor
points out and even exaggerates the vices, disorders, abuses,
tyrannies and evils of the conquerors, not excepting the governors,
nor even the king himself. If Mendieta is not in the strict sense of
the word an eye-witness, he is original in his acts as well as
judgments and merits a distinguished place among our historians."
(Nueva Coleccion de Documentos para la Historia de Mexico, I, xxxix)

Of course, for the purpose of this study, while he is not an eye-
witness of the earliest attempts, he is a prominent actor in the
later efforts at conversion and deserves high rank as indicating the
progress which Christianity had made.

Fray Diego Duran based his work chiefly on the "Codex Ramirez," but
greatly enlarged it, taking much of his material from
contemporaries. Says Chavero:

"We do not hesitate to say that his "Historia de las Indias de la
Nueva Espana y las Islas de Tierra Firme" is the best and most
complete account we have of the ancient history of the Mexicans."
(Mexico a traves de los Siglos, I, lii)

He was a Dominican monk, born in Mexico shortly after the conquest.
He finished his work in 1581, but it was not published until 1867 and
1880. The elements used by him that were not found in the "Codice
Ramirez" were taken from ancient Mexican paintings, and from Indians
and Spaniards contemporary with the conquest.

"La Historia Natural y Moral de las Indias," by Jesuit Fray Jose de
Acosta appeared in 1590 in Seville. The work has been extensively
circulated, for it was translated into English, German, Flemish,
Latin, and French. It was very highly regarded by earlier
historians, but Chavero denounces it as simply plagiarism of the work
of an Indian writer who gave us the "Codice Ramirez." This, however,
while it discredits Jose de Acosta, does not take away from the value
of the work itself which has very great merit.

Next to Mendieta, perhaps Juan Torquemada, among secondary
authorities, is of most importance for this study, for of his great
work, "Monarquia Indiana," written during the first decade of the
17th century, he devotes the greater part to the religion of the
natives and the efforts at their conversion. He relied largely on
what had already been written, but he himself lived early enough and
was keen enough observer to record much invaluable material for
tracing the progress of the gospel among the Indians. Chavero says
of him:

"He took word for word whatever he found in Motolinia, Olmos, Sahagun
and Mendieta, paying no attention to the contradictions which arose
from such different opinions. Yet his work is very important for he
gathered up what had already been said. He lacked the critical
faculty, but the materials for criticism are there." (Ibid., p. liii)

Ramirez calls him the "most illustrious and recommendable of our

We have thus far discussed the original sources and the writing of
those who were but little removed in point of time from the events
which they recounted. There were many later writers who have left
very valuable material, but they depended largely on those already
mentioned, adding very little that was not at least implied in the
earlier works. Herrera, Solis, Betancourt, Boturini, Clavigero,
Baron Humboldt, Orozco y Berra, Palacios, Alfredo Chavero, our own
Prescott and Bancroft, and others have made rich contributions to the
field, but all on the basis of the originals.

In the matter of native myth and tradition we acknowledge
indebtedness particularly to Daniel G. Brinton, the American writer
who has gone most thoroughly into the study of Mexican religions. He
rendered a very useful service to all students of the subject by
editing and publishing many original Indian writings. We cannot
always agree with Brinton in his interpretation of the myths, for he
seems to be entirely obsessed with the notion that all mythology
centers about light and darkness, but if this be kept in mind as he
is read, his books are filled with excellent material.

Lewis Spence writes much more popularly than Brinton and is not so
profound a student as the latter, but does make a contribution to the
field. Albert Reville, the French historian of religion, in
his "Native Religions of Mexico and Peru," has given perhaps as
satisfactory a discussion as any that has appeared.

Listed in the bibliography will be found a large number of books of
travel and description of Mexico written at intervals throughout the
history of Mexico. In these we have constantly sought to find
mirrored the religious life of the period with the view of comparing
the situations and trying to determine what has been the religious
trend since the beginning of the conversion. Unfortunately few
writers of books of that character are skilled observers, and most of
them had no particular interest in the matter we are studying. Hence
a great deal of reading has netted but meager results. One of the
most valuable works of the sort was E.B. Tylor's "Anahuac; Mexico and
the Mexicans, Ancient and Modern."

In the attempt to follow down one conspicuous instance in which an
ancient Mexican shrine was taken over and devoted to the Virgen, a
number of books recounting the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe have
been consulted, all of them save one bearing the "Imprimatur" of the
ecclesiastical authorities. What a queer mixture of fact and legend!
No historical accuracy is demanded of these sources, for their
interest lies not so much in the exactness of their statements, as in
the fact that such statements and claims could be made and believed.
They do, nevertheless, establish clearly enough that the Virgin did
displace the ancient pagan goddess Teo-tenantzin.

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