Prince of Mexico – Chapter One
By: Mark Kodama

Matteo, the History Teacher's Tale

The Prince of Mexico City


I.

Muses:

Sing the song of the conquistador Hernán Cortes
Who with a band of five hundred adventurers
Sailing in eleven Spanish caravels brought down
The great Mexican Empire. No one could deny
It was a bloody affair — bodies piled upon bodies —
Like a stack of faggots — fuel for a great bonfire of
Death and destruction — carrion flesh for dogs and birds.
Let's begin at the beginning with the great conquistador
Landing with his mercenaries on the white sands
Of the island of Cozumel, sacred to the
Mayan Moon Goddess Ixchel.

Said Cortes:

"Father in heaven, let us give thanks on this day
For safe passage from Cuba To Yucatan. We, the soldiers
of the Cross, traversed the wine-dark sea to the turquoise waters
Of Mexico to spread your word among the Heathen
And to covert infidels to believers. We pray in the name
of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen. "

What kind of man was Cortes? What kind of man was he?
Hernán Cortés was the most remarkable of men,
The kind of man who appears once every thousand years:
Shrewd, courageous, and steely in resolve, Cortes was
Aa ruthless man of action, a fox or a lion, as circumstances
Demanded. He was a Machiavellian hero, a man who
Lived by his own rules, a man who knew how to gain
And use power. He was a man you would never want
As an enemy and might not want as a friend.

On the Eighteenth of February, 1519, Cortes and his men
Set sail from Cuba under Cortes's black and gold banner,
With burning red cross, engulfed in white and blue flames.
The banner read: "Friends, follow the cross.
Under this sign, if we have faith, we will conquer."
A series of tempests broke up the fleet
And forced the ships south to Cozumel.
Cortes stayed with a brigantine that lost its rudder.
He dove into the heaving waters, recovered the rudder,
And saved the floundering ship and its crew.

Cortes landed at Cozumel, finding a deserted village,
Its frightened people fleeing into the forest for refuge.
Pedro de Alvarado and his men looted the temple, seized
Food and captured two Indian men. Cortes freed the
Two men and gave them gifts to induce their neighbors
To return home. The natives of Cozumel built a great stone
Pyramid, rising five-stories high. When the villagers returned,
Cortes traded glass beads for gold trinkets, each side thinking
They bettered the other. Cortes proselytized to the Indians
But the Indians said their gods brought the sun and rain.
So the Christian soldiers tumbled the stone idols down
Temple steps, destroying them. The Spaniards replaced
The idols with images of Mary and Jesus.

Indian couriers delivered messages to castaways living on the
Mainland. After receiving no response, Cortes weighed
Anchor, but returned for repairs after one boat leaked water.

Upon his return to Cozumel,Cortes saw a half naked man
Furiously paddling toward him. The man fell at his feet,
Touched the earth with his right hand in the Indian style,
Lifted his hand to his forehead. and introduced himself
In broken Spanish. As he spoke, tears welled and
Rolled down his sun burnt cheeks:

"I am the priest they called Jeronimo de Aguilar,
One of the only two survivors of a ship wreck
That left six years ago from the colony of Darien
In Panama. We were sailing to Hispanola
When our ship hit a sandbar. The sixteen men
And two women aboard were forced to abandon ship
In an open boat. After many days at sea in which
Some died of thirst and exposure - the lucky ones —
We made landfall in Yucatan and were captured
By the local Indians who imprisoned us in wood cages —
Like domesticated animals awaiting slaughter.
The Indians priests, in their white cloaks and
Long hair matted with the dried blood of their victims,
Sacrificed five men alive by holding them down
On their stone altars, ripping their beating hearts out
While they screamed. They were butchered like animals
By the Indians who cooked and ate them.
Miraculously, Gonzolo Guerrero and I broke through
Our wood cages and escaped into the forest and
Made our way to a rival tribe where we were enslaved.
Gonzolo became a warrior and now has a family.
I became an adviser to the cacique."

Cortes told Aguilar to stand, embraced him and threw
His own cloak over his shoulders. Aguilar, who spoke Mayan, —
Became chief translator. Cortes now set sail again. When
Cortes asked the local cacique where he could find more gold,
The chief pointed to the northwest and said "Mexica!"

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