Reading Response #3
While reading the first five chapters of Broken Spears I found that I couldn’t help but question and critique almost every event in the book. For example, I do not understand how there was dialogue between the Spanish invaders and the native Mexicans. It was clearly the first time these two civilizations had never come into contact previously, and therefore must have had completely different languages, or ways of communicating. But when the messengers met them at the beach it seemed as though they communicated fairly easily. I understand that the book mentioned that the Spaniards had a translator, a native Mexican that they captured on the beach; but that was also hard to believe. They would have had to capture this woman several months prior to teach her enough Spanish to translate the conversations mentioned in the book. And if they were there for months, surely the people of Mexico would have noticed them sooner.
Some of my questions arose from my distrust in non-written forms of history, along with their translation to writing. There was a clear discrepancy in when the omens started occurring. According to the stories of the Aztecs, the first omen occurred in the year 12-horse, ten years before the Spanish invasion. However the year 12-horse corresponds to the year 1517. And according to Spain’s written history, the conquer of the Aztec Empire began in 1517. The two histories clearly contradict each other, and I immediately thought the Spaniards written history was more accurate. After realizing this was naïve, I put some further thought into it. It seems like the easiest place an error could have been made was translating the Aztec year 12-horse into the Spanish calendar. It could be possible that the year 12-horse was actually 1509, but since the stories are as translated, it would be very difficult to prove that. I kept thinking about how this major discrepancy could still be unresolved.
This led me to further question non-written forms of history. Knowing that stories were passed mainly by word of mouth from generation to generation of Aztecs, I couldn’t help but question how many times this story could have changed after even a few decades. Stories are often exaggerated when grandparents pass them on to their grandchildren, like the cliché, “I walked 10 miles to and from school everyday, uphill both ways,” but obviously to a lesser degree. I still believe that the vast majority of the events described actually occurred, but it is clear that some are embellished. One of the omens I didn’t believe at all was the Eighth Omen, where a two-headed man appeared, and when presented to the King he vanished. Two things bothered me about that: the two headed man, and the fact that he vanished. As far as I know neither are, or have been, humanly possible.
Another thing that struck me was how it was possible for so many people to escape from the King’s prison. All of the magicians a escaped, as well as the macehual who visited the palace. I didn’t even know where to start in trying to reason through this one. If trustworthy guards said they didn’t see anybody leave, the prison would have been inspected for alternate exits after the magicians escaped, and therefore it would have been extremely difficult for the macehual to escape as well. However, nobody seemed to even question the fact of how they escaped; the King just assumed everybody was a magician. With all these clear loose ends, it was hard to concentrate on the actual facts presented by these accounts, but it was still interesting to see the other side of the story.