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La obra de Bernal Díaz del Castillo no es un hilván desteñido de noticias ordenadas cronológicamente, sino una obra de arte de altísimo valor humano, de fuerte y cristalino valor social. Es un trozo de vida con amplio carácter homérico porque no está construida para destacar y hacer admirar la figura de un héroe, sino que nos muestra a la multitud de los conquistadores, inLa obra de Bernal Díaz del Castillo no es un hilván desteñido de noticias ordenadas cronológicamente, sino una obra de arte de altísimo valor humano, de fuerte y cristalino valor social. Es un trozo de vida con amplio carácter homérico porque no está construida para destacar y hacer admirar la figura de un héroe, sino que nos muestra a la multitud de los conquistadores, individualizado cada uno en su propia fisonomía, cualidades y defectos, actos de valor y desfallecimientos momentáneos de desaliento o de miedo; y esto dentro del ambiente en que se movía aquella gesta, que ya nos parece legendaria, en un mundo exterior nuevo, antes nunca visto, y en el momento mismo en que chocan dos civilizaciones, dos conceptos de la vida y del mundo distintos....

Title : Historia Verdadera de la Conquista de la Nueva España. (Sepan Cuantos, #5)
Author :
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ISBN : 9789700773315
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 701 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Historia Verdadera de la Conquista de la Nueva España. (Sepan Cuantos, #5) Reviews

  • Jan-Maat
    2019-01-19 13:06

    When we saw all those cities and villages built in the water, and other great towns on dry land, and that straight and level causeway leading to Mexico, we were astounded. These great towns and cues and buildings rising from the water all made of stone, seemed like an enchanted vision from the tale of Amadis. Indeed, some of our soldiers asked whether it was not all a dream. It is not surprising therefore that I should write in this vein. It was all so wonderful that I do not know how to describe this first glimpse of things never heard of, seen or dreamed of before. p 214.This translation is an abbreviated version of Bernal Diaz del Castillo's account of the conquest of modern Mexico, starting from landings on the coast in Maya areas. Most of the text is taken up by the conquest of the Aztec Empire and occasionally interrupted by troubles with potential colonial rivals back on Hispaniola.It is a breathless account of a culture clash between the Castilians with their horses, steel weapons and armour, attack dogs, artillery and firearms on the one side and the rich, sophisticated world of late stone-age Mexico on the other. As a result the text overflows with details about the lifestyles and peoples the Spanish come across, fight against, and work with (and they would not have succeeded without their local allies drawn from the Aztec's rivals particularly Tlaxcala) to topple the chocolate drinking Montezuma (view spoiler)[the Aztecs though preferred to drink their chocolate cold and unsweetened (hide spoiler)]. It's not a fine example of prose but the author's sense of wonder and amazement pulls you along through the negotiations, canoe building, town founding and inevitable hauling of artillery pieces up from the coast to the centre of the country.The Amadis mentioned in the quote above is The Amadis of Gaul one of the favourite books of Don Quixote. In one way the actions of the conquering Spanish seem no less incredible, audacious, destructive, or even insane than those of the Quixote, while in another the same spirit and dreams of great deeds of heroism and chivalry inspired them both. The only difference being that Bernal and his companions won the governorships of islands that were only ever promised to Sancho Panza.

  • Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
    2019-01-31 09:59

    The author started writing this when he was over 70, made his fair copy of it at age 76, and wrote a preliminary note for it at age 84. Five years later, he was dead.Arguedas's "Deep Rivers" and Galeano's "Genesis (Memory of Fire 1)", which I recently read, both have an unmistakable bias against the Spanish conquistadores of the Americas during the 16th and 17th centuries. Here, for a change, I listen to one of these conquistadores, for the author Bernal Diaz del Castillo was a Spanish soldier who served under Hernando Cortes, conqueror of the Aztec empire based then in Mexico. The events narrated here happened between 1519 to 1521 when the author was in his mid-20s.For a 70-year-old guy you will be amazed not by how much Diaz had forgotten (noted in the translator's footnotes) but how much he remembered of events which took place half a century before. He was a wonderful storyteller. Some things I learned about life in that part of the world almost 500 years ago:1. the Indians/Aztecs practiced sodomy, human sacrifice and cannibalism. They open up the body while the poor victim is very much alive, scoop out his/her heart, and offer his/her still-beating heart to their gods/idols in their temple. The limbs they eat, the rest they throw away;2. their own kind whom they intend to sacrifice and turn into their favorite dishes they first fatten up inside cages like they're domesticated pigs or cattle being prepared for slaughter;3. a patriarchal society, it seemed that women among the Indians had no role except do menial jobs, bear children and be given (by their fathers) as gifts to other men. There was only one Indian woman here who sort of stood out from Diaz's entire narrative. She was given as a gift to Cortes who, in turn, gave her to his favorite officer, and who later acted as their interpreter in dealing with the Indians. Fond of juicy gossips, Diaz didn't fail to mention that Cortes had a child by her later;4. for the Spaniards, the way to get rich then was to go out there, discover new lands, conquer their people and get their gold in the name of the Spanish monarch. Whatever they get the latter is automatically entitled to one-fifth thereof, the so-called "Royal Fifth"; and 5. these Spanish adventurers would first try to befriend the native Indians, try to convert them to Catholicism and to make them vassals of Spain. If friendly persuasion doesn't work, they subdue them by force of arms and take everything they want.In the book's blurb there is the claim that "(t)he defeat of the Aztecs by Hernan Cortes and his small bad of adventurers is one of the most startling military feats in history." This could mislead. As if Cortes' 500 or so Spanish soldiers were, by themselves, able to defeat the Aztecs numbering tens of thousands. Actually, several Indian tribes fought along Cortes and--although Diaz was silent about this--did most of the dying. I agree, however, that Cortes was a brilliant military leader: BRAVE (he fought with his soldiers, got wounded and almost died several times), CUNNING (he made Indians fight fellow Indians, outmaneuvered not only his Indian enemies but his Spanish enemies as well) and LUCKY (maybe because he was so damn brilliant that he became a living demonstration of the chess players' well-known adage: "A good player is always lucky.").Bernal Diaz praised Cortes to high heavens but he likewise didn't mince words in implying that this great leader was also a thief (or maybe Diaz was also praising Cortes as a good BUSINESSMAN?). An amusing anecdote he related towards the end of this book where, after the conquest of Mexico, the common soldiers like Diaz were grumbling about the very little share they will get of the booty:"While Cortes was at Coyoacan, he lodged in a palace with whitewashed walls on which it was easy to write with charcoal and ink; and every morning malicious remarks appeared, some in verse and some in prose, in the manner of lampoons. One said the sun, moon, and stars, and earth and sea followed their courses, and if they ever deviated from the plane for which they were created, soon reverted to their original place. So it would be with Cortes' ambition for command. He would soon return to his original (humble) condition. Another said that he had dealt us a worse defeat than he had given to Mexico, and that we ought to call ourselves not the victors of New Spain but the victims of Hernando Cortes. Another said he had not been content with a general's share but had taken a king's, not counting other profits; and yet another: 'My soul is very sad and will be till that day when Cortes gives us back the gold he's hidden away.' It was also remarked that (Cortes' fellow adventurer) Diego Velazquez had spent his whole fortune and discovered all the northern coast as far as Panuco, and then Cortes had come to enjoy the benefit and rebelliously taken both the land and the treasure. And other words were written up too, unfit to record in this story."When Cortes came out of his quarters of a morning he would read these lampoons. Their style was elegant, the verses well rhymed, and each couplet not only had point but ended with a sharp reproof that was not so naive as I may have suggested. As Cortes himself was something of a poet, he prided himself on composing answers, which tended to praise his own great deeds and belittle those of Diego Velazquez, Grijalva, and Francisco Hernandez de Cordova. In fact, he too wrote some good verses which were much to the point. But the couplets and sentences they scrawled up became every day more scurrilous, until in the end Cortes wrote: 'A blank wall is a fool's writing paper.' And next morning someone added: 'A wise man's too, who knows the truth, as His Majesty will do very soon!' Knowing who was responsible for this (a certain Tirado, a friend of Diego Velazquez and some others who wished to make their defiance clear) Cortes flew into a rage and publicly proclaimed that they must write up no more libels or he would punish the shameless villanins."Many of us were in debt to one another. Some owed fifty or sixty pesos for crossbows, and others fifty for a sword. Everything we had bought was equally dear...."For God, Country and King? No. Then, and as always, it has always been about the gold, stupid.

  • Christopher
    2019-01-26 12:43

    Whatever you heard about Cortés in grade school is probably true enough, but wow, the details are amazing.Sure, Cortés might have been a deceitful, gold-hungry, womanizing, slave-taking, blood-soaked psychopath (and alleged poisoner), but that's part of what makes him a great character, because he was also a brilliant and charismatic velvet-glove-over-iron-fist diplomat, an incredibly savvy and calculating strategist, and a fervent Christian (lecturing people constantly on the Trinity and reverence for the Virgin Mary) who honestly believed the locals were the bad guys who needed to quit their human sacrifices, idolatry, cannibalism, robbery, and sodomy ASAP--or at least right after they pointed him toward the gold and helped him get it. And he was certainly among the bravest, most audacious leaders in history.Furthermore, Diaz's history of the conquest of Mexico is as readable as a contemporary novel, and it's just loaded with intriguing tidbits. Well, there are big things like how Cortés scuttles his own ships to ensure there's no going back, or how the governor of Cuba sends a force to reel him in and Cortés takes a break from fighting the locals to fight a force of Spaniards and wins, or how Cortés takes Montezuma prisoner but eventually gets kicked out of the city but eventually comes back for a long, grueling, inch-by-inch conquest wherein people are throwing the heads of Spaniards back at them or sacrificing them on altars within sight as the battle goes on.But there's also the little stuff, like the guy who has a volcano put on his coat of arms, or the sorceror/astrologer in Cortés's force who has a spirit totem and some weird (possibly sex-related) items on him, or the soldier who farts at Montezuma while guarding him, or all the amazing details about Tenochtitlan (public restrooms, a section of the city set aside for circus performers, Montezuma's zoo, etc.), or the guy who told Cortés he'd been in the Italian campaigns and knew how to build a catapult but in fact built one that fizzled, and so on.There's plenty to doubt about Diaz's recall and point of view, but as first person historical narratives go, this one's hard to beat.

  • karl
    2019-01-26 13:39

    This is a 2-volume English translation of Castillo’s memoirs centered on his years with Cortes’ expedition-invasion of Mexico and Mexico City in the 1519-21 period. Castillo was one of the 550 original conquistadors w/Cortes. In his later years he was an official in Guatemala. Castillo wrote his memoirs beginning in 1568 and he indicates towards the end of the book that he is one of 5 surviving original conquistadors.The book approaches 1000 pages. It has 213 chapters. I read it on and off over a year on my Kindle, but must admit it was a slog to read (think of a text book). Yet it was amazingly interesting at times – especially describing battles, the way the Mayans sacrificed humans, and how driven for gold they all were. Castillo claims at the end of his book that he fought in over 100 battles. I was too exhausted to have counted, but certainly they had numerous battles with the natives. Castillo is appreciative and respectful of Cortes, but much of the book he tries to point out how important all the soldiers were to the ultimate success of their conquest. He opines they were not rewarded with sufficient land grants, areas to govern (and tax), and Indians (slaves).I wish I had had two good maps of the relevant region when I read the book. There were so many names of rivers, mountains and towns they went through on the various campaigns that the reader is overwhelmed. One map would be a modern one, and the other from about 1540 of the same area. The short version story of Cortes is he has been living in Cuba and Hispaniola (i.e., D.R.-Haiti) for about 15 years when he leads a large expedition to explore what is now Mexico. They land at Vera Cruz in the Yucatan. They fight with and then work together with the Mayans, who do not like the Aztecs to the West - who are rich and keep invading them. So, Cortes and most of his men along with many Indians opposed to the Aztecs march to Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City) and confront Montezuma. At first all is well and the conquistadors are overwhelmed with the buildings, dikes, temples, gold. Events occur and they are forced to flee barely surviving and rush back to the Yucatan, but not before losing a lot of men and a lot of gold. A couple of years later they return with overwhelming force and take the city. Tid bits: Generally on their campaigns they were short of food, so they had to scrounge around - beg, borrow, and steal from the natives. As part of the peace making process the natives gave gold, cloth, food, and women! The Spanish had a unique advantage with horses, which terrified and amazed the Indians. Their muskets, cannons, armored vests, steel bladed swords and steel –tipped lances also gave them an advantage. Humans sacrificed by the Indians were taken to the top of pyramid-like temples, and the native priests would pull out the beating heart to offer to the gods. The body was thrown down, and folks would grab and cook parts for dinner. There were a lot of ways to die – infections, TB, venereal disease, malaria, let alone from battles. The conquistadors were very religious – they brought their monks with them. Their goal was to baptize the Indians. They felt compelled and did share about 20% of all gold and treasures with the King of Spain. I was amazed at how litigious the conquistadors and subsequent arrivers to Mexico were over land and control of districts; and, how the Spanish crown sent many accountants and lawyers to help keep order and protect its own.

  • Juan
    2019-01-22 14:49

    Escrito por Bernal Díaz del Castillo, uno de los soldados que participó en la conquista de México, “Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España” es una excelente fuente histórica de lo que ocurrió entre 1519 y 1521 cuando Hernán Cortés, desobediendo ordenes superiores, decidió comenzar la conquista de la América continental.El libro no es fácil de leer, es muy extenso, está escrito en español antiguo y en un estilo pobre que tiende a ser repetitivo. Sin embargo es uno de los pocos libros de historia escrito por alguien que de hecho participó en el desarrollo de los acontecimientos que narra. No solo contiene hechos históricos interesantes y de primera mano, sino que es como una totalidad un libro que vale la pena por los increibles sucesos que narra: el encuentro de dos culturas tan diferentes, la impresión de ambos ante los otros, las dificilísimas condiciones que los españoles hubieron de soportar, su enorme sorpresa al ver por vez primera Tenochtitlan, el increible hecho de que siendo un centenar de hombres con unas decenas de caballos y aún menos armas de fuego hayan logrado derrotar a ejércitos formados por miles de hombres –por supuesto en este aspecto influye la habilidad política de Cortés y las alianzas que logró formar con otras culturas nativas.Un libro difícil pero que vale la pena.

  • Ed
    2019-01-24 11:45

    Wow. This book stands out as one of the most fascinating books that I can think of. The only thing I can fault it for are the doubts about its veracity. It certainly reads like an authentic account, and if it is, what an account. History was never so fascinating. I certainly enjoyed this book far more than A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies and it comes across as far more accurate and nuanced. The characters really come to life in this account. Cortés is captured as a magnificent, though ruthless and duplicitous leader. He was a superb diplomat who fought no more battles than he had to. I was surprised to find myself rooting for the Spanish, despite the many atrocities they committed. They came across as men of their time, certainly guilty of much of what has been accused of them, though they're not the despicable demons that they're often made out to be. Perhaps the best description of their motives is the one Díaz himself uses, "We went there to serve God, and also to get rich" I think my favourite aspect of the book is the insight into how amazing it must have been to enter Mexico at that time, to be confronted with an Empire great enough to match any in history but to have it be completely new and unknown. I can just imagine how exciting it would be to hear the stories told in person had Díaz returned to Spain and tell the Europeans what amazing sights could be found over the horizon. The other great thing are the little details that Díaz includes that make his story so much richer. The graffiti wars between Cortés and his dissatisfied soldiers, the trip up the volcano, and politics between Cortés and his men and his enemies.

  • David
    2019-02-13 09:41

    The feats included in this book are the substance of legend. Apologists in the contemporary era revel in perpetuating the Black Legend with regard to the Spanish conquistadors — which is largely resultant of centuries of British propaganda in an age of competing empires — but little attention is given to heinous accounts of cannibalism and human sacrifice in pre-conquest Mexico. Granted, this was all going on during the height of the Inquisition, and so many of the writings and traditions of pre-Columbian civilization in the western hemisphere have been lost in the fires of Catholic dogmatism. Nevertheless, this particular primary source — indeed, this subject in general — remains an understudied and unbelievably remarkable chapter in colonial history.

  • Michael Gerald
    2019-01-17 15:00

    Got this one from Instituto Cervantes in Manila. A good primary reference for the discovery, exploration, and conquest of the Americas by the Spanish conquistadores, written by one of the members of Hernan Cortes' expedition.A great insight of this book is that while some of the Spanish conquistadores were no saints, the Aztecs were certainly no angels either. They often went to war with the purpose of capturing prisoners to be made into hundreds, even thousands, of human sacrifices for their sun god. If you have seen the movie Apocalypto, then you have an idea how this was done. There goes the myth that the early American civilizations were peace-loving. Not at all.

  • Heather
    2019-01-26 17:05

    Anthony read this book in college and recommended it to me. I read it during our flights to and from Iceland - and loved it! It gives a first hand account of Cortes and his conquest over the Aztec empire and the defeat of Montezuma. Translated from the diary of Bernal Diaz - a solider who accompanied Cortes - it creates vivid pictures and insight of the trials and successes of the Spanish.

  • Michael Swenty
    2019-02-03 13:50

    An early America historical first hand account must-read.

  • Bob Newman
    2019-02-15 13:45

    On the spot reportage from 16th century conquistadorSeveral decades ago, as a college sophomore, I was assigned to read Bernal Díaz' work as part of a Latin American history course. The title did not give me much hope. I imagined having to force myself to sit at a desk night after night in order to finish the book. To my great surprise, once I began to read this incredible eye-witness account, I could not put it down. Still, some 50 odd years later, Bernal Díaz' story, as one of the soldiers who accompanied Cortés, remains forever as one of the best books I have ever read on any subject.Vivid, eye-witness description of the whole story of the Conquest of Mexico in 1519 will rivet you to the pages, if you have even the slightest sense of history or desire to imagine strange events in faroff places. Here is the tale of how the Spanish soldiers, led by Cortés, despite tremendous odds, toppled an ancient civilization, destroying it utterly, and began a new society that would eventually become modern Mexico. Where else are you going to read words like these, describing the Spaniards' first arrival in Tenochtitlan, which would become Mexico City ? "When we saw so many cities and villages built both in the water and on dry land, and this straight, level causeway, we couldn't restrain our admiration. It was like the enchantments told about in the book of Amadis, because of the high towers, temples, and other buildings, all of masonry, which rose from the water. Some of our soldiers asked if what we saw was not a dream." Alliances, intrigues, battles, retributions, strange gods and the clash of utterly different cultures fill this amazing book. If you have any fondness for history, if you have any curiosity about vanished civilizations, if you would like to ponder about Fate with more substance than usual (!), then Bernal Díaz is your man. Do not pass this book by.

  • Barclay
    2019-01-22 11:04

    Barclay W. Conrad Book: "The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico 1517-1521" by Bernal Diaz del Castillo Edited from the only exact copy of the original MS Published by Farrar, Straus and Cudahy 1956 Library of Congress No. 56-5758 This book was acquired from my Mother's estate after her death on August 10, 2008. My interest in it was stimulated by the first-person narration of evidence that supports the origin of the "Book of Mormon", the book which was translated by Joseph Smith and published in 1827, and the basis for the testimony of the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The circumstances of the original Author is that he was a member of the original party of spanish adventurers and explorers led by Hernando Cortes, which had been loosely commissioned by the Governor of Cuba, and established settlements in the name of the King of Spain and of Jesus Christ and his Mother, the Blessed Mother. The original party of spaniards numbered no more than 1000, transported in 18 ships. Due to dissension in the ranks of his leadership for Cortes to lead the troops into Mexico, Cortes had the ships destroyed to avoid mutineers sailing back to Cuba. During the span of four years which are related for the conquest of Mexico's primary and strongest civilization, some facts stand out. 1) The greatest force which enabled this conquest over a people which numbered in the millions was not the superiority of the force of arms of this pitifully small group of spaniards, but the incredible leadership and personal testimony of Cortes to the Caciques (leaders) of the Indian people, of the saviorship of Jesus Christ over them, if they would accept the savior and give up the practice of cannibalism and sacrifice to pagan gods, and accept an alliance with the invading Spanish. 2) The ancestors of the indian people had definitely passed down an oral tradition that their people would be visited by a bearded white people who would come from the East, preach the Gospel to them, and rule over them. Though there is plenty of initial fighting among the people against the invaders, once a verbal translation and communication is established by Cortes, for the most part alliances follow, firmly cemented by ceasing to practice sacrifice and cannibalism of human beings, allowing the cross of the savior to prevail over their pagan gods, and establishing family connections by giving of their daughters, converted to Christianity, to the spanish to bear children (admitedly as concubines), which accounts for the tremendous interbreeding of spanish and indian blood in present-day Mexico. 3) Although the war technology of the spaniards is superior to the indians, (gunpowder for artillary and fusilliers, crossbows, iron swords and armor, horses and cavalry movements) this does not really account for the incredible change of regime over only a very short number of years. One can only admit that the God of Jesus Christ did aid this small group of warlike Christians to bring about a vast change and knowledge of the Savior in a significant step toward preparation for the fullness of the Gospel to come forth in the latter days. 4) The reaction of the Indians to horses brought over by the spaniards gives great credance to the fact that horses were not then known to the Indians on the American continent. This more or less is in conflict with the descriptions of the Book of Mormon, which describe horses as beasts of burden, along with a number of other unknown creatures, described as "curoloms and Cumoms". 5) Descriptions of the destruction of an original Christ-led civilization in America by the descent of the nephite people into wickedness, to be destroyed by their distant relatives, the primitive and savage lamanites in 435 A.D. from the Book of Mormon have many resemblances from descriptions of the construction practices and temples as made by Sr. Diaz in his book. This book is a solid, rough-and-tumble first person narrative, recited when Bernal Diaz was 84 years old in Honduras. At the time he was deaf and blind, but fully sentient to bring forth such vivid memories of the period. The 478 pages include introductions to historical research, maps of the relevant areas of Mexico and Mexico City, and some historical speculations, including some corroboration from Cortes' accounts. I would include a recommendation that it moves along with a quick and lively pace, and includes many accounts of human peccadillios, which do not really detract from the wonders of the actual events. It receives a 3 out of 4 rating, the only real detraction being that it is a long account with distracting interpretations and many footnotes. Bart Conrad

  • Chris Fellows
    2019-01-29 14:47

    De l'audace, et encore de l'audace, et toujours de l'audaceFirst, this makes every high fantasy adventure novel out there seem like rather thin gruel. It is easy to imagine it larded with appropriate conversations and lurid description to make it three or four time the size and then selling a gazillion copies as a story of a group of ruthless fantasy adventurers overthrowing an evil empire.Second, it is lucky Osama bin Laden (I assume) never read it, since it is practically a textbook example of how to go about overthrowing a decadent and evil civilisation. Sure, a technological advantage helps; acts of terror; an unshakeable confidence in the rightness of your cause: but above and beyond this Cortes emerges as a master of the technique of 'divide and conquer', skillfully finding and exploiting the fractures in the Mexican Empire to his own advantage. He has absolutely no compunction against lying to the heathens (or his own men); he is always ready to promise anything to anyone. And, then there is the audacity. Cortes realises that the only way to succeed is to keep moving forward; if for once you hesitate, if for once you let the enemy know your weakness, then you are lost. The only way is onward: attack, attack, attack! Burn the boats, and cast the die, and maybe it is still a one-in-a-million chance that you will be master of the greatest city of a continent, its streets and canals choked with unburied dead; but that is the oly way to have any chance at all. And as Terry Pratchett never tires of telling us, a one-in-a-million chance is practically a certainty.

  • Davie Mclean
    2019-01-19 08:43

    this is a history lesson that stays with you long after you read it. bernal diaz's first hand account as a conquistador is intense and dramatic suspence filled epic, that will leave you breathless. his vivid description of his expedition with the spanish captain cortez in the settlement and pacification of what is now Mexico is action filled extravaganza which reads like an adventure novel. ancient civilations,undiscoverd world , secret chambers of treasure, villians , heros, heroines,. conquest is a frank , mud, steel and blood account of this bloody piece of colonial spains heritage. the first hand point of view account of diaz , a soldier in the expidition . experiances, transport the reader back in time.the scenes he describes in the book are both, mystical and haunting, a dreamlike reality of a another time. some of the accounts range between the unbelieveable if it wasnt true and bizzare, the Mayan prophesey , and the ancient bones of a race of evil giants.? evn doyle and burroughs would have been hard pushed to pen a ripping yarn such as this. by far one of the most important books about humanity ever writtin, and well worth a fresh look , in relfection to the foriegn policy of modern superpowers.

  • Διόνυσος Ελευθέριος
    2019-01-23 10:36

    Bernal Díaz del Castillo's Discovery and Conquest of Mexico is the remarkable chronicle of some of the earliest episodes of Europe's domination of the New World, all told by means of the eyewitness account of Castillo himself. It's a vivid portrayal that conveys as much the entirely justified anxieties of the Conquistadors as they enter and begin to gain supremacy over the cities of Mexico, as it conveys the tragedies faced by, and inflicted on, each side. It's an absolutely riveting tale. It's completely breathtaking to learn just how, to speak of but one instance, despite the Conquistadors' superior technology and military training, they were just this close to getting wiped out themselves—and more than once at that. And then there's the introduction of diseases, and the desperation faced by all sides, and the many wiles and sheer feats of courageous manliness and brutality all the way around. What a wondrous event in human history.

  • AskHistorians
    2019-02-11 08:59

    One of the most popular and comprehensive primary sources on the Conquest, the work offers a first hand account of the Conquistador's campaign through Mexico and defeat of the Aztecs. There has been some academic debate as to whether or not Bernal Diaz was actually there - as much of the work has clearly been lifted from Gomara's historia - but that debate is (in my humble opinion) still in its infancy. Diaz's account will probably be the most interesting work to lay people and does offer a vivid and moving description of the pre-Columbian Mexican world. Given it's intrinsic biases though, pairing it with a more critical modern interpretation of the Conquest (such as Restall's Seven Myths...) is strongly recommended.

  • Christina Packard
    2019-01-17 13:43

    This was a slow 32 hour read on my Kindle. It was simply written of the 119 battle plus adventures. I read it because it was on the 1001 book list, but I do not see the ordinary pleasure reader to want to read this long account.

  • Raghavendra Karanth
    2019-01-20 08:41

    Its getting repetitive towards the end.

  • Ian
    2019-01-25 15:54

    An absolutely astonishing first-hand account of the conquest of Mexico, written some decades after the conquest took place. It’s fair to say that Díaz del Castillo portrays the conquistadores in a more favourable light than they generally receive. Some of the worst excesses during the conquest are either played down or not mentioned at all. He clearly resents some of the criticisms levelled by Bartolomé de las Casas. Díaz does though portray the conquistadores' unbridled greed, often in strongly critical terms, and several times describes how local caciques were variously bullied, tortured and even hanged by conquistadores seeking to extort gold. Elsewhere, he describes how people who rebelled against Spanish rule were enslaved, and were branded on the face to show their status to all.Not that pre-Columbian Mexico was exactly Utopia, and through Díaz’s eyes we can catch a few glimpses of this unique culture. He describes his shock and revulsion at the heaps of skulls collected from human sacrifices, and of how, as is well-documented, the various city-states of Mesoamerica were probably the only highly organised societies ever to have institutionalised cannibalism. “The Indians ate human flesh in the same way as we do that of oxen, and there were large wooden cages in every town in which men, women and children were fattened for their sacrifices and feasts.”Both the Spanish invaders, and the native rulers, seem to have regarded women as little more than a form of livestock, and caciques who wanted to curry favour with the Spaniards frequently gave them women as presents. Interestingly, homosexuality and transgenderism seem to have been accepted. Díaz was outraged:“Most of the Indians…were given to unnatural lusts. To such a dreadful degree was this practised, that men went about in female garments, and made a livelihood by their diabolical and cursed lewdness”. Clearly, in this aspect of Mesoamerican society, most modern readers would be less judgemental than Díaz!The most dramatic sections of the book are those which feature the conquistadores’ arrival in Mexico, and after their initial expulsion, the titanic 93-day battle for the city. Díaz memorably describes his astonishment at his first sight of the great city of Mexico, “…it is impossible to speak coolly of things which we had never seen nor heard of, nor even could have dreamt of…”, “…everything was so charming and beautiful that we could find no words to express our astonishment.”, but he continues, “…there is not a vestige of this remaining, and not a stone of this beautiful city is now standing.” A hint of regret perhaps, from Díaz, for the destruction he helped bring about?The 93-day siege of the city, and its grim outcome, is told in compelling form. No-one knows how many Mexicans perished during their ferocious resistance, despite their having weapons of only very limited effectiveness. Some historians estimate the number in six figures. Díaz describes the aftermath in sobering terms. Not that the Spaniards always had things their own way, and one incident, in which 62 captured Spaniards were sacrificed at the top of the Mexicans’ main temple - a sight clearly visible to their comrades - seems to have left Díaz with what we would now recognise as a form of PTSD. Cortés comes over as a truly remarkable figure; repulsively greedy and cruel, utterly ruthless, determined and single minded; a risk taker to the point of recklessness; and a skilled dissembler who cleverly exploited rivalries between the Mesoamericans to add native allies to his army.Really there is so much I could quote from this account, but my review would go on for ever. The book has its weaknesses. It is at times repetitive, and the last quarter meanders into political machinations at the Spanish court, but the conquest itself was one of the most amazing, and momentous, events in history. Reading this you get the impression that, looking back, Díaz himself could scarcely believe that they pulled it off.

  • Markus
    2019-02-01 12:42

    The Conquest of New Spain, Mexico.By Bernal Diaz del Castillo (1495 – 1584)“The true story”, told by the eye witness, as being History as he has seen it and witnessed it.Hernando Cortez is the name of the leader of the expedition, commonly associated with New Spain, and Mexico, the ancient capital of the Aztec Empire.Cortez and his six hundred soldiers, sixteen horses and some light artillery, set out from Cuba in 1519, with orders to explore the continent and to bring back gold and riches.However, Cortez decided to change the orders and make his own fortune by colonising whatever city and country he could conquer. To prevent some of his soldiers to return back to Cuba, he had his three ships destroyed after landing.From 1519 to 1521 the author, a simple soldier under Cortez, counts 119 terrible battles in which he himself was engaged, and was wounded a countless number of times. The Indians, while largely outnumbering the invaders, opposed fierce defences and fought extremely bravely but the Spaniard had Armor protections, gunpowder and horses, unknown and frightening to the Indians.A great clash of civilisations. The greed for gold and the fanatic willpower to impose the Christian Faith upon the Indians, while destroying their ancient Idols and prevent the human sacrifices to them, made up a cruel context that we can hardly imagine today.Bernal Diaz was over eighty years old when he composed this memoir, not from a diary, but from an exceptional memory, only five of his companions are still alive.His style is narrative and simple, but overwhelming in details of action and names, not only of his Spanish friends and soldiers but also from countless Indian chiefs and villages.His tale has rightly been compared with the “Anabase” by Xenophon, which he surpasses in volume.

  • Derekh Froude
    2019-01-17 13:39

    A confession: I didn't read the whole thing.Not to be that contemporary reader, but there is so much "we marched here and it was tough, and then we marched here and met these people, and they said this and we said that, and we slept, and woke up, and then marched here" that I couldn't get through it all.That being said, the book is amazing in that it is Bernal's real memoir of accompanying Cortez on the first European march into Mexico, and Mexico City. I'm not taking the account as gospel (because I'm sure there's a lot of narrator bias), but that doesn't discount that it's still a 500-year old account of one of the most significant events in human history.Some of the things I loved:- the character of Montezuma, the leader of the Mexican people who—no doubt—knew that his people's way of life was about to be gone forever when the Spanish arrived, but tried to be as compassionate and strong a leader as he could be. - the descriptions of Mexico City itself. The huge markets, lakes filled with canoes filled with goods (including human feces, which they would collect and use as fertilizer and, because of its ammonia-rich constitution, tannery solution).- the description of Montezuma's predatory animal menagerie, which they would toss the torsos of sacrificial men into, the resulting sound of which Bernal describes as "hellish"Next up I'll read "Broken Spears", an account of the "conquest" from the Mexican point of view.

  • William Bell
    2019-01-17 11:44

    del Castillo was one of the Spanish fortune-seekers who landed in Mexico with Cortez. This book is a detailed chronological eye-witness account of the ensuing encounters with indigenous peoples, culminating in the conquest of the Aztecs. Contrary to what you may have told by social-studies teachers, Cortez's military success was not significantly aided by superstitious belief that the Spaniards were gods (the natives learned early on that they were mere mortals), fear of horses or men mounted on horses (the Spaniards had only 16 horses, and the natives soon learned that they were vulnerable to attack and were not ferocious by nature). Spanish canon and arquebuses proved useful in early encounters but were of little use in close combat, and the initial supply of gunpowder was soon exhausted. The most important factors were Spanish steel armor and edged weapons, resentment of the Aztec's dominance by long-suffering tributary tribes, and Cortez's diplomatic acumen and skill in appreciating and exploiting that resentment (with the help of his native mistress and mouthpiece/translator, he negotiated crucial military alliances with coastal tribes who provided the great majority of the forces he arrayed against the Aztecs.)

  • Brianna Silvia
    2019-02-11 10:36

    Sometimes extraordinary events are fortuitously recorded by a well placed participant. In this case, Bernal Diaz del Castillo, describes the 16th century Spanish discovery and defeat of the Mexican empire in an account that is so compelling that it is difficult to put down.The basic facts are not disputed, and reveal the extraordinary military valour of Cortez and most of his men. He gives weight to existing tribal conflicts, the role of religious beliefs and also illustrates Cortez's manipulative cunning and great love of love of gold, even going as far as cheating his own men.

  • Wes
    2019-01-30 14:47

    DAMN THIS BOOK!!!!!!!!! Not because it isn't any good. It is flat out fantastic (to be fair, I am a little obsessed with the exploits of Cortes) the problem is that it stops right before Cortes march back to Mexico. Not because Castillo didn't get around to writing it. He did. It just so happens that some A**hole decided to split the work and put the remainder in another book.SIGH. Now to finish this off.

  • Dan Allen
    2019-02-04 10:00

    Interesting but dry history, this book should be rated R for ghastly violence. Too many details of the brutality of the Mexican natives make it a quite depressing read. It is amazing that Mexico was conquered by so few Spanish, but it was due to their horses and guns being novel.

  • Jozerep
    2019-02-11 08:57

    La historia que en este libro se cuenta puede no ser del todo verdadera, pero es un muy detallado relato de una fuente primaria y por ende un documento de gran valía.No me fue fácil agarrar el ritmo de la narración, fue un gran reto terminarlo, pero me place enormemente haber hecho la lectura.

  • Justin Massmann
    2019-01-16 15:42

    Extremely interesting to see the social, cultural, and religious dynamics play out between these vastly different peoples as they discover each other. The game play of Cortez and Montezuma are also extraordinary.

  • Zachary Rudolph
    2019-01-29 14:37

    “Cortes answered with a cheerful smile that neither the Mexicans nor any other nation had the power to kill us, only God in whom we believed, and that we were going to explain to Montezuma himself and all his Caciques and papas what God had commanded.”

  • Shea
    2019-01-21 14:47

    Historical record of conquestInteresting reading, if a bit dry considering the subject matter.The best record available on the subject of the conquest of Mexico.

  • Francisco Avila JR
    2019-02-07 10:47

    intresting but hard read