Hernando Cortez

The islet on which Mexico was built was connected with the mainland by three distinct causeways of stone, constructed with incredible labor and skill across the lake, and intersected at intervals by drawbridges, through which canoes might pass and repass with ease. The causeway by which the Spaniards must pass connected the island with the southern bank of the lake, about half way across to which it branched off into two lines, one leading to the city of Cojohuacan, the other meeting the mainland at a point not far from Iztapalapan, where the Spaniards were quartered. This causeway was about eight yards wide, and capable of accommodating ten or twelve horsemen riding abreast. It was divided, as before-mentioned, by several drawbridges; a circumstance which the Spaniards observed with no small alarm, for they saw that, by means of these drawbridges, their communication with the mainland could be completely cut off by the Mexicans.

On the morning of the 8th of November, 1519, the army left Iztapalapan, and advanced along the causeway towards the capital. First went Cortez, with his small body of horse; next came the Spanish foot, amounting to not more than four hundred men; after them came the Indian tamanes, carrying the baggage; and last of all came the Tlascalan warriors, to the number of about five thousand. As they moved along the causeway, the inhabitants of the city crowded in myriads to gaze at them, some finding standing-room on the causeway itself, others skimming along the lakes in canoes, and clambering up the sides of the causeway. A little more than half way across, and at a distance of a mile and a half from the city, the branch of the causeway on which the Spaniards were marching was joined by the other branch; and here the causeway widened for a small space, and a fort or gateway was erected, called the Fort of Xoloc. On arriving at the gateway, the army was met by a long procession of Aztec nobles, richly clad, who came to announce the approach of the emperor himself to welcome the Spaniards to his capital. Accordingly, when the remainder of the causeway had been almost traversed, and the van of the army was near the threshold of the city, a train was seen advancing along the great avenue. 'Amidst a crowd of Indian nobles, preceded by three officers of state bearing golden wands, the Spaniards saw the royal palanquin of Montezuma, blazing with burnished gold. It was borne on the shoulders of nobles, and over it a canopy of gaudy featherwork, powdered with jewels, and fringed with silver, and was supported by four attendants of the same rank. They were barefooted, and walked with a slow measured pace, and with eyes bent on the ground. When the train had come within a convenient distance, it halted; and Montezuma, descending from his litter, came forward, leaning on the arms of the lords of Tezcuco and Iztapalapan - the one his nephew, the other his brother. As the monarch advanced under the canopy, the obsequious attendants strewed the ground with cotton tapestry, that his imperial feet might not be contaminated by the rude soil. His subjects, of high and low degree, who lined the sides of the causeway, bent forward with their eyes fastened on the ground as he passed, and some of the humbler class prostrated themselves before him.'

Cortez and the Mexican emperor now stood before each other. When Cortez was told that the great Montezuma approached, he dismounted from his horse, and advanced towards him with much respect. Montezuma bade him welcome, and Cortez replied with a suitable compliment. After some ceremonies, and the exchange of presents, Montezuma and his courtiers withdrew, the Spaniards following. Advancing into the city, wondering at all they saw - the long streets, the houses which, in the line along which they passed, belonged mostly to the noble and wealthy Mexicans, built of red stone, and surmounted with parapets or battlements; the canals which here and there intersected the streets, crossed by bridges; and the large open squares which occurred at intervals - the Spaniards were conducted to their quarters, situated in an immense square in the centre of the city, adjoining the temple of the great Mexican war-god. Montezuma was waiting to receive them; and the Spaniards were surprised and delighted with the princely generosity with which he supplied their wants.