Page:The Story of Mexico.djvu/40

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riety seems a world of its own, until within the period of modern inventions all but inaccessible to the lower country and the ocean beyond, we find the traces of an ancient civilization, reaching backward until it is lost in legend. Long before the invasion of Anahuac by Cortés, it was inhabited by intelligent races of men. The mystery which hangs about these people makes the search for their history full of interest. In the present native population, we seek to find some clue to the manners and customs of the first inhabitants, by which to read the meaning of the monuments they have left. They are gone, their institutions overthrown by a power stronger than they were, by reason of the resources of advancing civilization, their idols and temples overturned by the zealots of another belief.

Outraged by the human sacrifices of the Mexican tribes, Cortés destroyed, with a reckless hand, all the evidences of what he regarded heathen worship. In so doing, the records of the race were lost, together with carved images of gods. It is unfortunate that his zeal was not tempered with discrimination, for it is now difficult, through the clouds of exaggeration surrounding the Spanish Conquistadores, to find out what sort of people they were, who preceded them on Anahuac.

Empires and palaces, luxury and splendor fill the accounts of the Spaniards, and imagination loves to adorn the halls of the Montezumas with the glories of an Oriental tale. Later explorers, with the fatal penetration of our time, destroy the splendid vision, reducing the emperor to a chieftain, the glittering