Page:The Story of Mexico.djvu/183

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As we have seen, the little province of Tlaxcalla was situated in an isolated position among the mountains, holding itself independent, and always hostile to the Confederates of the Valley, as the Mexicans and their allies are now called. The Conquistadores describe it as a formidable state, bearing the name of a republic, of ancient origin and advanced civilization. They speak of its capital as a splendid city, divided into four quarters, each governed by an hereditary chieftain, who exercised his authority over a number of dependent villages assigned to him. They give to the little republic, which contained scarcely fifty square miles, the dignity of a confederacy of four separate states with one common head.

In this constant exaggeration we must remember that Cortés was in the hands of the interpreters, one of them Malintzi, who may have used the word for republic when she meant tribe, and splendid city instead of pueblo. We may allow ourselves to think that.

The Tlaxcallans were an orderly, excellent people; to gain the friendship of such a tribe was highly important to the Spanish conqueror. To their