Saturday, April 09, 2011

Cholula: Díaz vs. las Casas.

This is getting to be quite an interesting contrast. las Casas makes all kinds of accusations against the band of Cortes, but Díaz is presenting nearly an exact opposite portrait:

"I think that my readers must have heard enough of this tale of Cholula, and I wish that I were finished with it. But I cannot omit to mention the cages of stout wooden bars that we found in the city, full of men and boys who were being fattened for the sacrifice at which their flesh would be eaten. We destroyed these cages, and Cortes ordered the prisoners who were confined in them to return to their native districts. Then, with threats, he ordered the Caciques and captains and papas of the city to imprison no more Indians in that way and to eat no more human flesh. They promised to obey him. But since they were not kept, of what use were their promises?

Let us anticipate a little and say that these were the great cruelties about which the bishop of Chiapas, Fray Bartolome de las Casas, wrote, and was never tired of talking ..." - The Conquest of New Spain, The March to Mexico, 1519

las Casas claims the conquistadors were guilty of unbelievable cruelty. Díaz says it was the natives. Having read all of the account of las Casas and half of Díaz, I think Díaz is by far the more credible. las Casas accuses the conquistadors of raping and pillaging to acquire slaves. These sorts of slaves are only useful if you can get them to market, but Cortes sank his ships. Besides, if you read anything of military history you know that an ill-disciplined band that pursues pillaging is easily defeated. Díaz claims that they always slept in their armor and military gear for fear of attacks at any time. las Casas says they were raping every female they could find. las Casas mentions specially bred and trained dogs for hunting people. Díaz mentions one greyhound.

Finally, Díaz was there and talks of what he remembered. las Casas wasn't there and does not give his sources of information. Something to meditate on the next time I struggle over the different manifestations of Chulula.


Delirious said...

Man's inumanity to man never sees to astound me.

Inklings said...

Jinx, Delirious, I was about to make the same comment, word for word except I was going to say amaze instead of astound. :0) You'd think we were sisters or something.