The Spanish, under the leadership of Hernan Cortes, had won their final victory, by cornering the Aztecs in their capital city, Tenochtitlan, for 80 days without food or water. The Aztecs, under the rule of Cuauhtemoc gave into Spanish demands at which time Cuauhtemoc went before Cortes and said,
'~Ah, "Capitan", I have already done everything in my power to defend and free my kingdom from your hands, yet things have not been in my favor. Take my life as would be fair, and in doing so you will do away with the Aztec kingdom. You have already destroyed my city and killed my people."
Cuauhtemoc was a strong leader and even up until his death he never completely gave into the Spanish. On one occasion when he was being asked to tell Cortes where more gold was to be found --the Spanish "conquistadors" were initially driven to the Aztec heartland because of accounts of cities whose roads were paved of gold, Cuauhtemoc said nothing. The Spanish proceeded to put oil on his feet and burned them. Afterwards they put oil on the feet of one of Cuauhtemoc's council of leaders, who looked towards Cuauhtemoc to see if he granted him permission to speak. Cuauhtemoc remained silent and the Spanish went forth with burning the feet of the other.
History already recounts what happened after this event. The remaining Aztec leaders were severely punished by the Spanish after the fall of Tenochtitlan. Many were hung, some were burned to death, and the remaining one were forced to convert to Catholicism and obey the orders of the Spanish.
Stop here and discuss:
1. Today, acting heads of state are granted "immunity" from their actions. Do you think this is fair? (Consider the actions of Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot, and most recently the case of Chilean ex-president, Augusto Pinochet)
2. What are some of the standards that all leaders should live up to? Does one leader have the right to get involved with the business of another leader?
Other study guides:
Second Class Citizens
Destruction of Histories
Death by Diseases
Back to Indigenous Lessons