In 1519, the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés met the emperor Moteuczoma in Tenochtitlan. The encounter was an extraordinary one: Cortés was brought face to face with the leader of an enormous indigenous kingdom, and Moteuczoma, for the first time, laid eyes on a European. While Moteuczoma welcomed Cortés as a guest, the situation soon changed, and Cortés took the emperor captive shortly thereafter. By 1521, the Aztec empire had fallen to the Spaniards and their indigenous allies.

This passage records the words Moteuczoma said to Cortés, as set down in the Florentine Codex. This great encyclopedic compendium of Aztec history and culture was compiled by a Franciscan, Bernardino de Sahagún and his many Nahua assistants. It supports the idea that Moteuczoma thought Cortés to be the embodiment of the deity Quetzalcoatl, and thus here gratefully cedes his kingdom to this returning god. But given that Franciscans were staunch supporters of Cortés, and Sahagún's native informants were likely born too late to have witnessed this event, these words may well be a post-Conquest fabrication used to justify the conquest of the Aztecs.
Visual Culture
This passage, where Motecuzoma welcomes the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés into his capital city, was originally written in Nahuatl, the indigenous language of Central Mexico. The speech of Nahua elites was heavily metaphoric, and that quality comes through here. The writers of the passage have Moteuczoma using imagery that would have resounded strongly with Nahua readers or listeners. "Upon thy mat, upon thy seat" (in mopetlatzin, in mocpaltzin) was a common visual metaphor for rulership and here it is associated with Cortés. Whoever wrote this passage therefore skillfully connected the imagery of indigenous rulership with that of the new Spanish regime, thus setting the stage for the later 16th and 17th centuries, when indigenous empires were frequently invoked and represented as the predecessor to the Spanish empire.

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