Hernando Cortez

While in Tlascala, Cortez received various embassies from provinces in the neighborhood anxious to secure his good-will. About the seine time an embassy was received from Montezuma himself, entreating Cortez not to place any reliance upon the Tlascalans, whom he represented as treacherous barbarians; and now inviting him, in cordial terms, to visit his capital, pointing out the route through the city of Cholula as the most convenient. This route was accordingly adopted, and the Spaniards, accompanied by an army of six thousand Tlascalan warriors, advanced by it towards Mexico. Their approach gave great alarm, and Montezuma set on foot a scheme for their massacre at Cholula, which, however, was discovered by Cortez, who took a terrible vengeance on the sacred city. Montezuma, overawed, again made overtures of reconciliation, and promised the Spaniards an immense quantity of gold if they would advance no farther. This Cortez refused, and the Spanish army, with the Tlascalan warriors, left Cholula, and proceeded on their march, met everywhere by deputations from neighboring towns, many of which were disaffected to the government of Montezuma. The route of the army lay between two gigantic volcanic mountains, and the march, for a day or two, was toilsome, and bitterly cold. At last, turning an angle of the sierra, they suddenly came on a view which more than compensated their toils. It was that of the valley of Mexico; which, with its picturesque assemblage of water, woodland, and cultivated plains, its shining cities and shadowy hills, were spread out like some gay and gorgeous panorama before them. Stretching far away at their feet were seen noble forests of oak, sycamore, and cedar; and beyond, yellow fields of maize, and the towering maguey, intermingled with orchards and blooming gardens. In the centre of the great basin were beheld the lakes, their borders thickly studded with towns and hamlets; and in the midst, like some Indian empress with her coronal of pearls, the fair city of Mexico, with her white towers and pyramidal temples, reposing, as it were, on the bosom of the waters - the far-famed " Venice of the Aztecs."

Descending into the valley, the Spaniards halted at Ajotzinco, a town on the banks of the southernmost of the five lakes. Meanwhile Montezuma was in an agony of indecision. When intelligence reached him that the Spaniards had actually descended into the valley, he saw that he must either face the strangers on the field of battle, or admit them into his capital. His brother, Cuitlahua, advised the former; but his nephew, Cacama, the young lord , of Tezcuco, was of the contrary opinion, and Montezuma at length sent him to meet the Spaniards, and welcome them to his dominions.

Cacama accordingly set out in state, and arrived at Ajotzinco just as the Spaniards were about to leave it. When he came into the presence of Cortez, he said to him, 'Malintzin, here am I and these lords come to attend you to your residence in our city, by order of the great Montezuma.' Cortez embraced the prince, and presented him with some jewels. After a while Cacama took his leave, and the Spaniards resumed their march. Traveling along the southern and western banks of Lake Chalco, they crossed the causeway which divides it from Lake Zochichalco, and advanced along the margin of the latter to the royal city of Iztapalapan, situated on the banks of the great Tezcucan lake over against. Mexico. To the eyes of the Spaniards, all they saw in their journey seemed fairy land.


It was on the 7th of November, 1519, that the Spaniards arrived at Iztapalapan and here they spent the night, lodged in magnificent palaces built of stone, the timber of which was cedar. From this position the eye could sweep over the whole expanse of the Tezcucan lake. Canoes of all sizes might be seen skimming along its surface, either near the middle, or close to the banks, where the thick woods came down to the water's edge. Here also, moving slowly along the margin of the lake, might be seen a still stranger sight - the chinampas, or floating-gardens - little islands consisting of earth laid on rafts, planted with flowers, shrubs, and fruittrees, and containing a small hut or cottage in the centre, occupied by the proprietor, who, by the means of a long pole, which he pushed against the bottom, could shift his little domain from place to place. But what fixed the eyes of the Spaniards above all else was the glittering spectacle which rose from the centre of the lake - the queenly city of Mexico, the goal of their hopes and wishes for many months past. In a few hours they would be within its precincts a few hundred men shut up in the very heart of the great Mexican empire! What might be their fate there!