Bernardino de Sahagún
The document included here contains descriptions of the monumental and agonizing events of the Spanish conquest of Mexico from the Aztec perspective. It was compiled at the behest and under the supervision of a Franciscan friar, Bernardino de Sahagún (149—1590). Sahagún had arrived in New Spain, as the territory had been designated by Cortés, in 1529 at the age of thirty. He soon acquired a sophisticated mastery of Nahuatl, the Aztec language, and over the years he collected an invaluable mass of material relating to preconquest life of the native peoples. Beginning in 1547, the material was acquired by native Americans who were taught to write and who recorded the memories of elderly nobles who had witnessed the events. Later, Sahagún put the material together and edited it, finishing his General History of New Spain in 1577. Although the text was compiled under Spanish auspices and given final form by a Spanish Franciscan priest, it nonetheless imparts a sense of how the events of the conquest were perceived by the Aztecs themselves.
Excerpted from The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico, edited and with an introduction by Miguel Leon-Portilla (Boston: Beacon Press, 1962), 22–31, 33–35, 40–41, 51–52, 63–68.
Simón Bolívar (1783–1830), the eventual liberator of northern South America from Spanish control, was born in Venezuela but profoundly influenced by the culture of peninsular Spain and the European Enlightenment. He visited Spain in 1799, and traveled to Paris to witness Napoleon’s coronation as emperor in 1804. Bolívar aspired to bring the values of the Enlightenment, and particularly the notions of liberty and popular sovereignty, to his homeland. Having declared an independent Venezuela in 1812, he was driven into exile in British Jamaica after with the landing of a Spanish expeditionary force in 1815. In 1816, he returned with a military force and assumed the presidency of “Gran Colombia” in 1822. The following letter is renowned for its expression of Bolívar’s ambitions, at a time when the outcome of “liberation” from Spain seemed uncertain.
Selected Writings of Bolivar, trans. Lewis Bertrand (New York: Colonial, 1951), as edited in: http://faculty.smu.edu/bakewell/BAKEWELL/texts/jamaica-letter.html.