What we do know cannot support the facts. Although extensive records and diaries were kept by Cortes and other Spanish invaders, none of them ever mentioned human sacrifice. No one ever reported having witnessed one. The only inferences are drawings in the codices, but whether these were symbolic of myths or astrological events or whether they were in fact "real" has never been established.
It is curious that accounts of human sacrifices by the native people are repeated so frequently, even though they cannot be established as true, when the many accounts of massacres by the Spanish are almost totally ignored, even though there is ample historical verification of their truth.
Perhaps there is no good use served in "dredging up the past." Agreed. Let it be understood, then that this paper is written to be read by those who insist upon "dredging up the past" of human sacrifice in Mexico.
"These great towns and temples and buildings rising from the water, all made of stone, seemed like an enchanted vision of the tale of Amadis. Indeed, some of our soldiers asked whether it was not all a dream."Shortly afterwards, one of the same chroniclers, Bernal Diaz, writes:
"Their city was indeed the most beautiful thing in the world . . . They are so well constructed in both their stone and woodwork that there can be none better in any place."
"Even had the Spaniards done it, it would not have been better executed."
"I shall not attempt to describe it at all, save to say that in Spain there is nothing to compare with it." (Cortes)
" . . . all that I then saw is overthrown and destroyed; nothing left standing."The first bishop of Mexico, Juan de Zumarraga, describes the activities of Spanish governor Nuno de Guzman:
"When he began to govern this province, it contained 25,000 Indians, subjugated and peaceful. Of these, he has sold 10,000 as slaves, and the others, fearing the same fate, have abandoned their villages."Bishop de las Casas describes another result of slavery:
"When husbands and wives met, they were so exhausted and depressed that they had no mind for marital intercourse, and in this way, they ceased to procreate. As for the newly born, they died early, because their mothers, overworked and famished, had no milk to nurse them with."Cortes arrived in 1523. The population declined by 90% in 50 years, from 25 million to 2.5 million. By 1600, there were only a million native people alive in Mexico. Juan Bautista Pomar explains in this account of 1582, that the native people were especially vulnerable to diseases, because they were exhausted by hard labor and had lost the will to live:
"The blame goes to affliction and fatigue of their spirits because they had lost the liberty God had given them, for the Spaniards treat them worse than slaves."Motolinia, who landed in Mexico with the Franciscians in 1524, begins his history with the plagues which had stricken the native people. He starts with disease:
"They died in heaps, like bedbugs. Many others died of starvation because they were all taken sick at once, they could not care for each other, nor was there anyone to give them bread or anything else."Another plague mentioned by Motolinia was famine. During the war, there could be not sowing, and even if some grain was sown, the Spaniards destroyed the harvests. But that was nothing compared with the Spanish peasants who were brought in to run the slave gangs:
"These overseers were so absolute in their mistreatment of the Indians, overloading them, sending them far from their land, and giving them many other tasks, that many Indians died because of them and at their hands."Then came the taxes and tributes the Spanish collected. When the native people had no gold left, they were forced to give their children.
"When they were unable to do so, many died because of it, some under torture, and some in cruel prisons, for the Spaniards treated them brutally and considered them less than beasts."Motolinia considered the gold mines as another plague. Heavily laden native people traveled hundreds of miles with provisions.
"The food they carried for themselves often gave out before they could return to their homes . . . Some reached home in such a state that they died soon after. The bodies of these Indians and of the slaves who died in the mines produced such a stench that it caused a pestilence . . . For half a league around these mines and along a great part of the road one could scarcely avoid walking over dead bodies or bones, and the flocks of birds and crows that came to feed upon the corpses were so numerous that they darkened the sun, so that many villages along the road and in the district were deserted."Then there was the rebuilding of Mexico City according to the Spanish plans. The native people were not paid for their labor, and in fact had to pay for the building material. They were not fed, and since they could not work on the buildings and work in the fields, they went hungry. Weakened, many died:
"It would be impossible to count the number of Indians who have, to the present day, died in these mines."
"In the construction, some were crushed by beams, others fell from heights, others were caught beneath buildings which were being torn down in one place to be built up in another."Slavery produced other victims. Motolinia describes how the slaves were branded each time they changed owners:
"They produced so many marks on their faces, in addition to the royal brand, they had their faces covered with letters, for they bore the marks of all who had bought and sold them."Vasco de Quiroga adds another version of the same phenomena:
"They pass from hand to hand and some have three or four names, so that the faces of these men who were created in God's image have been, by our sins, transformed into paper."The monk Jeronimo de San Miguel wrote the king in 1550:
"Some Indians they burned alive; they cut off the hands, noses, tongues and other members of some; they threw others to the dogs; they cut off the breasts of women."The Bishop of Yucatan, Diego de Landa, described a tree he saw from whose branches:
"hanged many Indian women, and from their feet, he also hanged the infant children. There the Spaniards committed the most unheard of cruelties; they cut off the hands, arms, and legs, and women's breasts, and they threw the Indians into deep lakes, and stabbed the children because they could not walk as fast as their mothers. If those whom they had chained together by the neck fell ill or did not walk as fast at the others, they cut off their heads so as not to have to stop to release them."Alonso de Zorita in 1570 wrote about hearing a judge say from the bench:
"If water were lacking to irrigate the Spaniards farms, they would have to be watered with the blood of Indians."
These statements are on the record about the Spaniards, the heroes, written by their own chroniclers.
What do we have of their eye-witness accounts about the human sacrifices of the Aztecs?
Not one word.
Chief Roy Crazy Horse
Powhatan Renape Nation