Bernal Díaz del Castillo, 1567

True history of the conquest of New Spain
Bernal Díaz del Castillo (1496–1584).
Source: Library of Congress

Author of The True History of the Conquest of New Spain, c. 1567.

Translated by Alfred Percival Maudslay, London, The Hakluyt Society, 1910

Background

Bernal Díaz del Castillo got into the thick of colonisation at an early age after joining a Spanish expedition to Panama in 1514, and then two more expeditions to Mexico before meeting up with the conquistador Cortés in Cuba. In the mid 1550s Díaz began to write down his version of events. He called these accounts The True History of the Conquest of New Spain, to counter what he considered to be ‘false’ histories by people who had not participated in the Spanish Conquest.

Read

Pages 221-223 from Chapter LXXXVIII and pages 226-227 in Chapter XC 

Ask

  • What tone or feeling do you think comes through this account?
  • What is at stake for Díaz? How accurate are his memories thirty years after the event?
  • How does the fact that this is a first person account affect your reading?
  • What effect does the reporting of Moctezuma’s address using direct speech have on you?
  • What questions would you like to ask Díaz?