No wonder the Spanish killed the Aztec…

How can you be that civilized and not know Jesus? Of course they had to be taught how wrong they were

The battle-hardened, armour-clad soldiers stopped in their tracks and stared in amazement. Rising out of the waters of the vast lake before them was a majestic island-city of wide streets and white stucco-fronted houses.

Bathed in bright sunshine and against a backdrop of snow-covered mountains, palaces and temples towered into the clear blue sky.

‘Glorious!’ exclaimed the Catholic monk who accompanied the gold-seeking adventurers from Spain on their journey of exploration from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

They might have expected to find little more than a settlement of mud huts when they landed on this foreign shore more than 5,000 miles from home.

Instead, gleaming there in the winter sunlight of November 1519, was the magnificent capital of the rich and thriving Aztec civilisation.

It went by the name of Tenochtitlan and was larger than any place these Europeans had ever seen or even dreamed of.

With a population in excess of 200,000, it was bigger than London, Madrid and Rome put together. It drew its immense wealth presiding over an area the size of Britain.

It was larger and cleaner than anything back home. They had public baths, private toiletries, food galore, tobacco, cactus beer. And the chocolate. Praise the Aztec gods for chocolate! Praise Moctezuma, leader of the people!

Oh, to live in London and have the British Museum right there to pop into when exhibitions like this come in. Oh, jealous am I. So, too were the Spanish, at the time. The biggest question that has plagued historians is why the famed Montezuma rolled over and let the Spanish run ripshod over all they’d done. Oh right, human sacrifices.

What has over the centuries been held against him, and his people, was discovered by Cortes and his men as they reached the precise geometric centre of the city, a huge plaza containing the Great Temple.

From a platform high up on this stone pyramid ran steep flights of wide steps. The horror was that, from top to bottom, they were streaked red with human blood, while alongside them were rack upon rack of skulls. A rank smell of putrefaction hung in the air.

It became clear to the invaders from Christian Europe that, in this otherwise perfect city of hospitable and well-mannered people, human sacrifice was practised on a massive scale.

A stone at the top of the steps was where men – usually but not always tranquillised with ‘magic mushrooms’ – were held down while the high priest slit open their chests with a sharp blade made from flint or volcanic rock, and plucked out their hearts.

According to one Spanish account, he would hold up the steaming heart to the sun – to whom the sacrifice was made – before throwing it into a stone urn to burn.

Quick time-line question comes to mind. Did they discover the Aztecs before or after the Spanish Inquisition? Turns out it was after. The tribunal organized itself in 1478:

to maintain Catholic orthodoxy in their kingdoms, and to replace the medieval inquisition which was under papal control. The new body was under the direct control of the Spanish monarchy. It was not definitively abolished until 1834, during the reign of Isabella II.

But that wasn’t sacrifice; that was just punishing people who weren’t Orthodox. And punishing, and punishing, and punishing, and burning them alive without the aid of sedatives.

But, back to the Aztec. After the hearts were cut out and burned, the bodies themselves were carved up for some good eating. Well, that’s just sensible when you don’t have electricity and refrigeration – can’t let all that meat go to waste. And, it was a great honour to be chosen to die by the blade, besides.

For the coronation of one king, 80,400 hearts were cut out in four days and the lines of victims waiting for their slaughter stretched back to the far ends of the city’s four causeways.

There never was, recorded a priest in the entourage, ‘a people more idolatrous and given over to the killing and eating of men’.

But the Aztecs made no apologies for their bloodthirsty traditions. Rather, these rites were at the core of their beliefs. Only if the gods were fed blood – or ‘precious water’ – would the soil be fertile and rains return.

They claimed the victims, most of whom were prisoners taken in battle, went willingly to their deaths, knowing that their sacrifice would keep the cycle of life turning.

The killing was done with respect and veneration, not in hate or anger. The sacrifice blessed both the dying and the living and was a fate to be embraced.

Aztec belief reassured those about to die that they would toil helping the sun god to banish the night, and after four years return to life as hummingbirds and butterflies.

I make bold the beliefs that made this mass slaughter an honour. They truly believed they were helping the world when they gave their blood to god. Hummingbirds and butterflies for goodness sake! Isn’t that a beautiful belief? I’d love to believe in reincarnation if I can come back as something that sweet and necessary.

What was the Inquisition for again? Oh right. Convert to Christianity or die horribly. What a choice. Oh, but all that and what every other European king did to their people was right and just because they were acting on behalf of the One True God(tm).

So what happened to Moctezuma, “Angry Lord,” this fearsome king and priest who’d pierced himself and could only be looked upon by his four beautiful handmaidens and would wear the skin of the first enemy fallen in battle? What happened to the Aztec civilization?

Three hundred bizarrely dressed metal men baffled the bejezzus out of him. The article makes the point that had he been thinking straight, his entire army could have massacred them in less than a day. But they came over the water using things the people had no word for and Montezuma made what later turned out to be the wrong call — he welcomed them.

Well, why not, I guess. The size of his army would be a deterrent to most invaders anyway, so why not make nice while you figure out what the hell they’re doing there. Unfortunately, Cortes was a lot more savvy than poor old Monte. Why take a few gifts when you can bide your time and perhaps get everything? Cortes already knew about Montezuma before he set foot in the capital city. He’d seen every village along the way, and already knew who hated the old king and wanted to see his monarchy fall. So the locals and the Spaniards made some “arrangements” long before Cortes and Montezuma ever looked each other in the eye. But the master stroke came as a complete and total fleecing, a con job Keyser Soze would envy.

Once settled inside the city, Cortes played his masterstroke in one of history’s most brazen and successful acts of deception. In a speech of welcome, Moctezuma mentioned how Aztec lore spoke of the return one day of a great overlord, to whom he would pledge allegiance.

Seizing on this, Cortes told the startled Aztec he came on behalf of just such a supreme emperor. Cortes invited him to submit to the overlordship of this emperor, which the obliging Moctezuma duly did.

I don’t know if Cortes meant his own Emperor or Jesus Christ. Either way, this declaration opened up the chance to put a cross up — right there on top of the sacrificial temple for the everyone to see. Cortes slowly took over Montezuma’s rule, held captive and allowed to rule as a puppet over his own lands. The Aztec priests were kicked out of their temples, Jesus bling replaced local iconography, and the conquistadors massacred thousands of priests and worshipers when they did get together for a festival because they feared the worst – an uprising.

Wasted effort. An uprising happened anyway, led by Montezuma’s own brother. And scholars are unclear if the brother killed the puppet king or if the Spaniards dealt the final blow. Either way, the brother had the upper hand and the Spanish were forced to retreat. For a while. They later came back with reinforcements and Spain prevailed. Cortes was named Govenor of New Spain and that was that. Monte’s brother got hanged and the Aztec civilization was no more.

I wonder how different the world would be if countries had sent their people out to explore and trade rather than conquer. Or had trade always been the point of exploring, until everyone realized how much better the other places had it and then decided to conquer everyone and take it home instead? How different would the world have been if Europeans had tried to get along rather than tried to take over?

About 1minionsopinion

Canadian Atheist Basically ordinary Library employee Avid book lover Ditto for movies Wanna-be writer Procrastinator
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