Prince of Mexico – Chapter Seven
By: Mark Kodama

VII.

When Cortes began his march on the Republic of Tlascala, he sent,
His Indian envoys to ask the Tlascalans for free passage through
Their territory.The Tlascalans and their kinsmen the Aztecs once shared
the Valley of Mexico. But now they were bitter enemies. The Aztecs
Tried for centuries to humble their brethren When Cortes and his army
Reached Tlascala, his envoys had not returned. A giant unmanned
Fortress greeted them at the border, its six–mile–long Cyclopean walls —
Made from giant stones – were nine–feet high and twenty–feet thick.
Cortes and his horsemen rode ahead and met a small party of Tlascalans.
The warriors turned and ran. When they ignored Cortes’s order to stop,
Cortes chased them. The warriors turned and faced him. They killed
Two horses and a cavalier. Cortes’s joined the fight. Several thousand
Tlascalans joined the battle. After arqubusiers and crossbow men
Fired a volley, the Tlascalans retreated in good order.

On the next day, Cortes advanced with his army to a narrow pass at the
Entrance of a valley. They met their Cempoallan envoys who had just
Escaped being sacrificed. Cortes and his men met a small band of Tlascalans.
After Cortes said he wanted their friendship, the Tlascalans shot darts and
Arrows at his men. The Indian decoys retreated drawing Cortes and his Army
Into the valley where tens of thousands of warriors waited for them. The
Warriors – dressed animal skin helmets, feather plumage and thick cotton
Shirts — charged. The Spaniards and their allies waited for them in tight
Formation. The Tlascalans screamed their shrill war cry and attacked
In human waves. The rough terrain prevented Cortes from using his horses
And artillery. Cortes’s best horseman was pulled from his horse and mortally
Wounded. The Spaniards fought to keep him from being captured and
Sacrificed.

"I see nothing but death for us," a Cempaolan cacique told Marina.
"We will never make it through the pass alive."

Marina replied: "The Christian God is with us. He will see us through."

The Cempoallans and the Castilians in hand–to–hand fighting, drove the
Tlascalans back Cortes, on the front line, urged his men on. Cortes and
His horsemen opened a path for his cannons. The thundering blasts and
Mangled bodies of their comrades stopped the Tlalascan assault. Eight
Caciques were killed. Finally, the Tlascalans retreated in good order.

The next day the two bloodied armies recovered. The Spaniards cleaned
Their weapons and replenished their missiles and treated their wounded.
The following day, Cortes sent two captured caciques with a message
That the Spaniards came as friends and desired free passage through their state. Xicotencatl replied that if they continued their journey their flesh would
Be stripped from their bones and sacrificed to their gods.

The following day, the two armies faced each other in battle. The Tlascalans
And their Otomie warriors numbered fifty thousand men. The battle
Began with Cortes’s musketeers and crossbowmen fired volley after volley
Of shot and arrow at close range, killing many men. The Tlascalan and
Otomie warriors rushed Cortes in a massive wave that shook the ground
As they charged. The Spaniards and their allies broke as the Tlascalans
Crashed against them, carrying everything in their path. It seemed all
Was lost and Cortes. The Indians hacked away at them with their obsidian
Clubs and spears. But Cortes and his soldiers rallied, reformed and then
Drove the Tlascalans back. Cortes and his cavaliers cut down the enemy
As his artillery shelled the Tlascalans, decapitating them and tearing limbs
From bodies. The Tlasascans reformed and attacked again and again,
Each assault weaker than the last. Xicotencatl accused one of his caciques
Of cowardice and the two nearly came to blows. The cacique and another
Cacique left the battle with their warriors. Xicotencatl continued to attack
the Spaniards. After four hours of battle, the Tlascalans retreated carrying
Their fallen and wounded comrades with them.

But the proud Tlascalans did not yield. Xicotencatl led ten thousand warriors
In a night attack. Cortes saw the Tlascalan army moving across the corn field
Under the harvest moon. He quietly sounded the alarm. His men – who slept
With their arms – were mustered within five minutes. They charged down
The hill, surprising the Tlalascans, causing them to flee in disarray. Cortes
And his horsemen mercilessly slew the Tlascalan warriors as they fled in
Full flight from the battle.

Cortes invaded the land of the Otomies, burning villages that resisted.
When he returned to camp, a group of his men demanded they return to Cuba.
Their leader said: "Captain general, we speak to you frankly, as a friend and
Comrade who shared all dangers with you. Our sufferings can longer be endured.
We lost fifty of our comrades since leaving Vera Cruz. Everyone is wounded,
Most many times over. We have toiled day and night for many months.
All for nothing. Marching on Mexica is madness. We must return to Vera
Cruz and to Cuba while we can. We have not beaten the Tlascalans. How
Can we beat the Aztecs?"

Cortes thought for a moment and then replied:

"There is much truth to what you say. We have overcome more insurmountable
Odds than anyone else in history. Only Spaniards could have ever endured
Our struggles. But even Spaniards could not have triumphed without
The help of God! It is true we have met danger and hardship. But we
Expected this from the beginning. You must admit that I have personally
Shared these dangers and hardships with you. We have been always victorious.
Besides it is impossible to turn back now. The Tlascalans would attack us and
Our Indian allies will turn on us. Our only way is forward."

The leader of the dissidents said: "We are going to Mexica to our gruesome
Deaths, to be captured, caged and sacrificed alive to the deities of the barbarians."

Cortes then replied:"It is better to die with honor than to live in disgrace."

The next day a group of Tlascalan appeared at camp, and asked for peace.
But Marina warned Cortes that was a ruse —the fifty envoys were really spies.
Under questioning by Cortes the men admitted they were spies. The captain general
Cut off their hands and sent the men back to Tlascala. At this, theTlascalans
Surrendered.

Xicotencatl the Younger came to the Spanish camp. The Indian general, was
Middle height, 35–years of age, with broad shoulders. He came to Cortes, touched
The ground and then lifted his hand to his head. Xicotencatl said: "I assume all
Responsibility for all that has happened without any excuses. We fought
Because we wished to maintain our liberty and independence. We considered
You our enemy because you joined forces with friends of our enemies the Aztecs.
But now we are beaten in a fair fight and are ready to submit to you and
Your emperor King Charles V. Perhaps, you are the men from the East
Who our priests prophesized would return to rule the land. Perhaps you
Are the ancient white–skinned bearded god Quetzalcatl or you were sent
By him. I ask that you treat us with justice and moderation in your
Victory and not trample on our liberties. We now submit our obedience
To you. We will be as faithful in peace to you as we have been in war."

Said Cortes: "My friend Xicotencatl, I bear no grudge against you. Indeed,
I have nothing but admiration for you. Brave men know how to respect
Brave men. I wish you had accepted my friendship sooner to prevent loss
And suffering of your men. We cannot relive the past but we can set it aside.
If you are true to us, we will be true to you. If you are false, we will show no mercy."

Said Xicotencatl: "Here is gold — I know it is modest but we are a simple people
Of a poor country. For the Aztecs have left us nothing but our freedom and
Our arms. The gold – though meager – is all we have."

Replied Cortes: "As such we receive it. We value it more coming from the Tlascalans
Than if we received a house full of gold from any other."

Cortes and his army triumphantly marched to the city of Tlascala,
Crossing a great stone bridge that spanned a deep gorge. Great crowds
Of cheering and singing Indians gathered on both sides of the road
And showered Cortes and his men with flowers. When Cortes came
To the home of Xicotencatl the Elder, one of the four rulers uf the country,
And father of General Xicotencatl, Cortes dismounted and embraced
The aged blind leader. The Tlascalans agreed to an alliance.

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