A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies/Chapter 9

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Chapter IX: Of New Spain in particular

Among other Slaughters this also they perpetrated in the most spacious City of Cholula, which consisted of Thirty Thousand Families; all the Chief Rulers of that Region and Neighboring places, but first the Priests with their High Priest going to meet the Spaniards in Pomp and State, and to the end they might give them a more reverential and honourable reception appointed them to be in the middle of the Solemnity, that so being entertained in the Appartments of the most powerful and principal Noblemen, they might be lodged in the City. The Spaniards presently consult about their slaughter or castigation (as they term it) that they might fill every corner of this Region by their Cruelties and wicked Deeds with terror and consternation; for in all the Countries that they came they took this course, that immediately at their first arrival they committed some notorious butcheries, which made those Innocent Sheep tremble for fear. To this purpose therefore they sent to the Governours and Nobles of the Cities, and all Places subject unto them, together with their supream Lord, that they should appear before them, and no soner did they attend in expectation of some Capitulation or discourse with the Spanish Commander, but they were presently seized upon and detained prisoners before any one could advertise or give them notice of their Captivity. They demanded of them six thousand Indians to drudge for them in the carriage of their bag and baggage; and as soon as they came the Spaniards clapt them into the Yards belonging to their Houses and there inclosed them all. It was a thing worthy of pity and compassion to behold this wretches people in what a condition they were when they prepared themselves to receive the burthens laid on them by the Spaniards. They came to them naked, their Privities only vail'd, their Shoulders loaden with food; only covered with a Net, they laid themselves quietly on the ground, and shrinking in their Bodies like poor Wretches, exposed themselves to their Swords: Thus being all gathered together in ther Yards, some of the Spaniards Armed held the doors to drive them away if attempting to approach, and others with Lances and Swords Butcher these Innocents so that not one of them escaped, but two or three days after some of them, who hid themselves among the dead bodies, being all over besprinkled with blood and gore, presented themselves to the Spaniards, imporing their mercy and the prolongation of their Lives with tears in their Eyes and all imaginable submission, yet they, not in the least moved with pity or compassion, tore them in pieces: but all the Chief Governours who were above one hundred in number, were kept bound, whom the Captain commanded to be affixed to posts and burnt; yet the King of the whole Countrey escaped, and betook himself with a Train of thirty or forty Gentlemen, to a Temple (called in their Tongue Quu) which he made use of as a Castle or Place of Defence, and there defended himself a great part of the day, but the Spaniards who suffer none to escape out of their clutches, especially Souldiers, setting fire to the Temple, burnt all those that were there inclosed, who brake out into these dying words and exclamations. O profligate Men, what injury have we done you to occasion our death! Go, go to Mexico, where our supream Lord Montencuma will revenge our cause upon your persons. And 'tis reported, while the Spaniards were engated in this Tragedy destroying six or seven thousand Men, that their Commander with great rejoycing sang this following Ayre;

Mira Nero de Tarpeia, Roma como se ardia, Gritos de Ninos y Vieyot, y el de nadase dolia.

From the Tarpeian still Nero espies Rome all in Flames with unrelenting Eyes, And hears of young and old the dreadful Cries.

They also committed a very great Butchery in the City Tepeara, which was larger and better stored with Houses than the former; and here they Massacred an incredible number with the point of the Sword.

Setting sail from Cholula, they steer'd their course to Mexico, whose King sent his Nobles and Peers with abundance of Presents to meet them by the way, testifying by divers sorts of Recreations how grateful their arrival was and acceptable to him: but when they came to a steep Hill, his brother went forward to meet them accompanied with many Noblemen who brought them many gifts in Gold, Silver, and Robes Emboidered with Gold and at their entrance into the City, the King himself carried in a golden Litter, together (with the whole Court) attended them to the Palace prepared for their reception; and that very day as I was informed by some persons then and there present by a grand piece of Treachery, they took the very great King Montencuma, never so much as dreaming of any such surprize, and put him into the custody of eighty Soldiers, and afterward loaded this Legs with irons; but all these things being passed over with a light pencil of which much might be said, one thing I will discover acted by them, that may merit your obervation. When the Captain arrived at the Haven, to fight with a Spanish Officer, who made War against him, and left another with an hundred Soldiers, more or less as a Guard to King Montencuma, it came into their heads, that to act somewhat worth remembrance, that the dread of their Cruelty might be more and more apprehended, and greatly increased.

In the interim all the Nobility and Commonality of the City thought of nothing else, but how to exhilarate the Spirit of their Captive King, and solace him during his Confinement with varity of diversions and Recreations; and among the rest this was one, viz., Revellings and Dances which they celebrated in all Streets and Highways, by night and they in their Idiom term Mirotes, as the Islanders do Arcytos; to these Masques and nocturnal Jigs they usually go with all their Riches, Costly Vestments and Robes, together with any thing that is pretious and glorious, being wholly addicted to this humor, nor is there any greater token among them then this of their extraordinary exultation and rejoycing. The Nobles in like manner, and Princes of the Blood Royal every one according to his degree exercise these Masques and Dances, in some place adjoyning to the House where their King and Lord is detained Prisoner. Now there were not far from the Palace about 2000 Young Noblemen who were the issue of the greatest Potentates of the Kingom, and indeed the flower of the whole Nobility of King Motencuma, and a Spanish Captain went to visit them with some Soldiers, and sent others to the rest of the places in the City where these Revellings were kept, under pretence only of being spectators of the solemnity. Now the Captain had commanded, that, at a certain hour appointed they should fall upon these Revellers, and he himself approaching the Indians very busie at their Dancing, said, San Jago (that is St. James it seems that was the Word) Let us rush in upon them, which was no sooner heard, but they all began with their naked Swords in hand to pierce their tender and naked Bodies, and spill their generous and Noble blood, till not one of them was left alive on the place, and the rest following his example in other parts, (to their inexpressible stupefaction and grief) seized on all these Provinces. Nor will the Inhabitants till the General conflagration ever discontinue the Celebration of these Festivals, and the Lamentation and Singing with certain kind of Rhythmes in their Arcytos, the doleful ditty of the Calamity and Ruin of this Seminary of the antient Nobility of the whole Kingdom, which was their frequent Pride and Glory.

The Indians seeing this not to be exampled cruelty and iniquity executed against such a number of guiltless persons, and also bearing with incredible patience the unjust Imprisonment of their King, from whom they had an absolute Command not to take up Arms against the Spaniard, the whole City was suddenly up in Arms fell on the Spaniards and wounded many of them, the rest hardly escaping; but they presenting the point of a Sword to the Kings Breast, threatned him with death unless he out of the Window commanded them to desist; but the Indians for the present disobeying the Kings Mandate, proceeded to the Election of a Generalissimo, or Commander in Chief over all their Forces; and because that the Captain, who went to the Port returned Victor, and brought away a far greater number of Spaniards then he took along with him, there was a Cessation of Arms for three or four days, till he re-entred the City, and then the Indians having gatherered together and made up a great Army, fought so long and so strenuously, that the Spaniards despairing of their safety, called a Council of War and therein resolv'd to retreat in the dead time of night and so draw off their Forces from the City: which coming to the knowledge of the Indians they destroyed a great number Retreating on the Bridges made over their Lakes in this just and Holy War, for the causes above-mentioned, deserving the approbation of every upright Judge. But afterward the Spaniards having recruited and got together in a Body, they resolved to take the City and carried it at last, wherein most detestable Butcheries were acted, a vast number of the people slain, and their Rulers perished in the Flames.

All these horrid Muders being commited in Mexico and other Cities ten, fifteen and twenty miles distant. This same Tyranny and Plague in the abstract proceeded to infest and lay desolate Panuco; a Region abounding with Inhabitants even to admiration, nor were the slaughters therein perpetrated less stupendous and wonderful. In the same manner they utterly laid wasate the Provinces of Futepeca, Ipilcingonium and Columa, every one of them being as large as the Kingdoms of Leon, and Castile. It would be very difficult or rather impossible to relate the Cruelties and Destruction there made and committed, and prove very nauseous and offensive to the Reader.

'Tis observable, that they entred upon these Dominions and laid waste the Indian Territories, so populous, that it would have rejoyced the hearts of all true Christians to see their number upon no other title or pretense, but only to enslave them; for at their first arrival they compel'd them to swear the Oath of Obedience and Fealty to the King of Spain, and if they did not condescend to it, they menace them with death and Vassalage, and they who did not forthwith appear to satisfie the unequitable Mandates, and submit to the will and pleasure of such unjust and Cruel Men were declared Rebels, and accu's of that Crime before our Lord the King; and blindess or ignorance of those who were set over the Indians as Rulers did so darken their understanding that they did not apprehend that known and incontrovertible Maxim in Law, That no Man can be called a Rebel, who is not first proved to be a subject. I omit the injuries and prejudice they do to the King himself, when they spoil and ravage his Kingdoms, and as much as in them lies, diminish and impair all his Right and Title to the Indians, nay in plain English invalidate and make it null and void. And these are the worthy Services which the Spaniards do for our Kings in those Countries, by the injust and colourable pretences aforesaid.

This Tyrant upon the same pretext sent two other Captains, who exceeded him in impiety and cruelty, if possible to the most flourishing and Feril (in Fruits and Men) Kingdoms of Guatemala, Situate toward the South, who had also received Orders to go to the Kingdoms of Naco, Hondera, and Guaymura, verging upon the North, and are Borderers on Mexico three hundred miles together. The one was sent by Land and the other by Sea, and both well furnished with Horse and Foot.

This I declare for a Truth, that the outrages committed by these two, particularly by him that went to Guatimala (for the other not long after his departure died a violent Death) would afford matter sufficient for an entire Volume, and when completed he so crouded with slaughters, injuries, butcheries and inhuman Desolations, so horrid and detestable as would Ague-shake the present as well as future ages with terror.

He that put out to Sea vexed all the Maritime Coasts with his cruel Incursions; now some inhabitants of the Kingdom of Jucatan which is seated in the way to the Kingdoms of Naco and Naymura, to which places he steered his course, came to meet him with burthens of Presents and Gifts: and as soon as he approacht them, sent his Captains with a party of Soldiers to depopulate their Land, who committed great spoils and made cruel slaughters among them; and in particular a Seditious and Rebellious Officer who with three hundres Soldiers entred a Neighboring Country to Guatimala, and there firing the Cities and Murdering all the Inhabitants, violently deprived them of all their goods, which he did designedly, for the space of an hundred and twenty miles; to the end that if his Companions should follow them, they might find the Country laid wast, and so be destroyed by the Indians in revenge for the dammage they had received by him and his Forces which hapned accordingly: for the Chief Commander whose order the abovesaid Captain had disobey'd and so became a Rebel to him, was there slain. But many other bloody Tyrants succeeded him, who from the year 1524 to 1535. did unpeople and make a Desert of the Provinces of Naco and Hondura (as well as other places) which were lookt upon as the Paradise of delights, and better peopled then other Regions; insomuch that within the Term of these eleven years there fell in those Countries above two Millions of Men, and now there are hardly remaining Two Thousand, who dayly dye by the severity of their Slavery.

But to return to that great Tyrant, who outdid the former in cruelty (as hinted above) and is equal to those that Tyrannize there at present, who travelled to Guatimala; he from the Provinces adjoyning to Mexico, which according to his prosecuted journey (as he himself Writes and testifies with his own hand in Letters to the Prince of Tyrants) are distant from Guatimala four hundred miles, did make it to his urgent and dayly business to procure Ruin and Destruction by slaughter, Fire and Depopulations, compelling all to submit to the Spanish King, whom they lookt upon to be more unjust and cruel then his inhumane and bloodthirsty Ministers.