Aztecs, Fiestas, and Spaniards REVIEWING The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico

Welcome back to The Real World According To Sam! 

Today I'd like to discuss a non-fiction text within a subject that I enjoy reading about: Southwest America/Mexico history. 

The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico

Author: Miguel Leon-Portilla
Genre: Non-Fiction History
Year: 1959 (my edition - 1966)


Until 1959, when this book was published for the first time, the only organized testimony about the Conquest was the victorious chronicle of the Spaniards themselves. Miguel León-Portilla had the incomparable success of organizing texts translated from Nahuatl by Ángel María Garibay Kintana to give us The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico.

An account of the omens that announced the disaster, a description of Cortes' progress, a chronicle of the heroic battle of the ancient Mexicans in defense of their culture and of their own lives, a civilization that was lost forever, a great epic poem of the origins of Mexican nationality, The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico is already a classic book and an indispensable reading work. 


Coming from a family with history going back to Mexico and Europe, I've always been a bit fascinated with the American Southwest, the history of Mexico, and certain aspects of European history and exploration. It's part of my home, my heritage, and my culture. I needed a book to take with me out of town. One that was interesting, but wasn't too long since I knew I'd still have to do reading for my work as a comic news writer. This one was sitting amongst all the other books in my house, I hadn't read it yet, and it only had 157 pages. It was a perfect selection for my purpose. 

This is a very interesting book. It's a translation of a compilation of accounts of the conquest of Mexico from the Aztecs and native informants. It brings together parts of various historical texts, such as the Codex Florentino, Historia de Tlaxcala, Codex Aubin, and many other texts. Many of these texts are said to be eyewitness accounts of the events or relations of those events passed on to Spaniards or through multiple generations of oration. The most well-known accounts of these events are usually the letters written by Cortes himself or True History of the Conquest of Mexico by Bernal Diaz del Castillo - which naturally have discrepancies from the accounts in this book. I've read neither of the European texts. I'm generally familiar with the conquest of Mexico and the existence of Cortes, La Malinche, and Moctezuma, but hadn't delved into the history in great detail yet.

That being said, I cannot speak to the potential historical accuracy of this text, nor can I say "THIS is the definitive account of what happened." What I can say is that this is a very intriguing presentation of the conflicts that occurred between the Aztecs, the Spanish, and the other indigenous Mexican groups of the time who were included. I would definitely like to read the alternate accounts, to see what the correlations are and what discrepancies there are. After all, there are always at least two sides to every story. 

As far as structure goes, this book largely presents a chronological occurrence of events, from the omens observed by the Aztecs to the fall of Tenochtitlán. It also has an Appendix with additional accounts from throughout that timeframe that add to the narrative or include a few discrepancies. Each chapter has an introduction mentioning the overview of what's to be discussed, followed by divided sections of events. The sections and chapters are all rather brief, making this a surprisingly short book compared to other history texts I've read before. Nonetheless, it is very interesting and I do feel like I have a better grasp on the time and the overview of events, which I can supplement with further reading. It's definitely a good read for anyone interested in indigenous accounts within Latin American history (or any country's indigenous history, really). 

The Broken Spears also includes illustrations from the various accounts pulled from, such as the aforementioned codices. This adds an additional layer of interesting information to the text, since it provides visual interpretations of the events and illustrations such as these were a major means of recording history within these cultures. I greatly enjoyed their inclusion and would like to read other books that focus moreso on this element of art history and art as a means of communication within history. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and while it may not be of interest to everyone - and the format might not be everyone's cup of tea - I found it highly informative and interesting. I give The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico a Lone Star rating of ✯✯✯✯ stars. If you're interested in this particular era of history then definitely try to give it a glance. 

Thanks for joining me for today's Force Friday here at The Real World According to Sam, where I bring the books to your computer screen and even put in my two cents about them! See you at the next review!