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Prompt: How did Cortes describe the Mexica’s religion, economy, and capitol (Tenochtitlan)? Directions: • The primary sources MUST be cited in your paper so I know where the information that you are discussing came from. This is true for all papers; you must explain where you are getting your information from. Use in-text MLA-style citations (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. (author’s last name page number) at the end of the sentence it relates to. • Consider the following questions when you are writing your essay. Who wrote the primary source and how did their social location (race, class, gender, sexuality, etc.) influence their writing and the argument they made in the primary source. There is always an argument of some kind in primary sources; some are more obvious than others. • Papers must be 2 pages in length and should follow standard formatting (typed, double-spaced, 12 pt. Times New Roman font, 1 inch margins). • Your paper must have: • An argument (prompt answer), which you underline and state at the beginning of your paper. • At least 3 cited examples from the primary sources to support or prove your argument. • An introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. • DO NOT use outside research and do not plagiarize. Plagiarism will be reported to Student Affairs as per the syllabus.• Use the checklist to verify that you completed all aspects of the assignment.Checklist: □ 2 pages in length, used standard formatting □ Essay format: introduction, body paragraphs, conclusion□ Clearly written, proofread, and spell-checked□ Specifically answered all parts of the prompt□ Underlined argument and supported it well with at least 3 pieces of evidence□ Used all required sources and cited them correctly□ Did not use outside research and did not plagiarizeTHE TWO SOURCES ARE ATTACHED BELOW


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Hernan Cortes, “Cortes Describes Tenochtitlan” from the ​Second Letter to King Charles V of
Spain​ (1520)
In order, most potent Sire, to convey to your Majesty a just conception of the great extent of this
noble city of Tenochtitlan, and of the many rare and wonderful objects it contains, of the
government and dominions of Moctezuma, the sovereign; of the religious rites and customs that
prevail, and the order that exists in this as well as other cities appertaining to his realm: it would
require the labor of many accomplished writers, and much time for the completion of the task. I
shall not be able to relate an hundredth part of what could be told respecting these matters but I will
endeavor to describe, in the best manner in my power, what I have myself seen; and imperfectly as I
may succeed in the attempt, I am fully aware that the account will appear so wonderful as to be
deemed scarcely worthy of credit; since even when we who have seen these things with our own
eyes, are yet so amazed as to be unable to comprehend their reality. But your Majesty may be assured
that if there is any fault in my relation, either in regard to the present subject, or to any other matters
of which I shall give your Majesty an account, it will arise from too great brevity rather than
extravagance or prolixity in the details; and it seems to me but just to my Prince and Sovereign to
declare the truth in the clearest manner, without saying anything that would detract from it, or add
to it.
Before I beam to describe this great city and the others already mentioned, it may be well for the
better understanding of the subject to say something of the configuration of Mexico, in which they
are situated, it being the principal seat of Moctezuma’s power. This Province is in the form of a
circle, surrounded on all sides by lofty and rugged mountains’; its level surface comprises an area of
about seventy leagues in circumference, including two lakes, that overspread nearly the whole valley,
being navigated by boats more than fifty leagues round. One of these lakes contains fresh, and the
other, which is the larger of the two, salt water. On one side of the lakes, in the middle of the valley,
a range of highlands divides them from one another, with the exception of a narrow strait which lies
between the highlands and the lofty sierras. This strait is a bow-shot wide, and connects the two
lakes; and by this means a trade is carried on between the cities and other settlements on the lakes in
canoes without the necessity of traveling by land. As the salt lake rises and falls with its tides like the
sea, during the time of high water it pours into the other lake with the rapidity of a powerful stream;
and on the other hand, when the tide has ebbed, the water runs from the fresh into the salt lake.
This great city of Tenochtitlan [Mexico] is situated in this salt lake, and from the main land to the
denser parts of it, by whichever route one chooses to enter, the distance is two leagues. There are
four avenues or entrances to the city, all of which are formed by artificial causeways, two spears’
length in width. The city is as large as Seville or Cordoba; its streets, I speak of the principal ones,
are very wide and straight; some of these, and all the inferior ones, are half land and half water, and
are navigated by canoes. All the streets at intervals have openings, through which the water flows,
crossing from one street to another; and at these openings, some of which are very wide, there are
also very wide bridges, composed of large pieces of timber, of great strength and well put together;
on many of these bridges ten horses can go abreast. Foreseeing that if the inhabitants of this city
should prove treacherous, they would possess great advantages from the manner in which the city is
constructed, since by removing the bridges at the entrances, and abandoning the place, they could
leave us to perish by famine without our being able to reach the mainland–as soon as I had entered
it, I made great haste to build four brigantines, which were soon finished, and were large enough to
take ashore three hundred men and the horses, whenever it should become necessary.
This city has many public squares, in which are situated the markets and other places for buying and
selling. There is one square twice as large as that of the city of Salamanca, surrounded by porticoes,
where are daily assembled more than sixty thousand souls, engaged in buying, and selling; and where
are found all kinds of merchandise that the world affords, embracing the necessaries of life, as for
instance articles of food, as well as jewels of gold and silver, lead, brass, copper, tin, precious stones,
bones, shells, snails, and feathers. There are also exposed for sale wrought and unwrought stone,
bricks burnt and unburnt, timber hewn and unhewn, of different sorts. There is a street for game,
where every variety of’ birds found in the country are sold, as fowls, partridges, quails, wild ducks,
fly-catchers, widgeons, turtle-doves, pigeons, reed birds, parrots, sparrows, eagles, hawks, owls, and
kestrels they sell likewise the skins of some birds of prey, with their feathers, head, beak, and claws.
There are also sold rabbits, hares, deer, and little dogs, which are raised for eating and castrated.
There is also an herb street, where may be obtained all sorts of roots and medicinal herbs that the
country affords. There are apothecaries’ shops, where prepared medicines, liquids, ointments, and
plasters are sold; barbers’ shops, where they wash and shave the head; and restaurateurs, that furnish
food and drink at a certain price. There is also a class of men like those called in Castile porters, for
carrying burdens. Wood and coals are seen in abundance, and braziers of earthenware for burning
coals; mats of various kinds for beds, others of a lighter sort for seats, and for balls and bedrooms.
There are all kinds of green vegetables, especially onions, leeks, garlic, watercresses, nasturtium,
borage, sorrel, artichokes, and golden thistle; fruits also of numerous descriptions, amongst which
are cherries and plums, similar to those in Spain; honey and wax from bees, and from the stalks of
maize, which are as sweet as the sugar-cane; honey is also extracted from the plant called maguey,
which is superior to sweet or new wine; from the same plant they extract sugar and wine, which they
also sell. Different kinds of cotton thread of all colors in skeins are exposed for sale in one quarter
of the market, which has the appearance of the silk-market at Granada, although the former is
supplied more abundantly. Painters’ colors, as numerous as can be found in Spain, and as fine
shades; deerskins dressed and undressed, dyed different colors; earthenware of a large size and
excellent quality; large and small jars, jugs, pots, bricks, and an endless variety of vessels, all made of
fine clay, and all or most of them glazed and painted; maize, or Indian corn, in the grain and in the
form of bread, preferred in the grain for its flavor to that of the other islands and terra-firma; pâtés
of birds and fish; great quantities of fish, fresh, salt, cooked and uncooked ; the eggs of hens, geese,
and of all the other birds I have mentioned, in great abundance, and cakes made of eggs; finally,
everything that can be found throughout the whole country is sold in the markets, comprising
articles so numerous that to avoid prolixity and because their names are not retained in my memory,
or are unknown to me, I shall not attempt to enumerate them. Every kind of merchandise is sold in
a particular street or quarter assigned to it exclusively, and this is the best order is preserved. They
sell everything by number or measure; at least so far we have not observed them to sell anything by
weight. There is a building in the great square that is used as an audience house, where ten or twelve
persons, who are magistrates, sit and decide all controversies that arise in the market, and order
delinquents to be punished. In the same square there are other persons who go constantly about
among the people observing what is sold, and the measures used in selling; and they have been seen
to break measures that were not true.
Cortés, Hernán. ​Cartas y relaciones de Hernan Cortés al emperador Carlos V​. Edited by
Pascual de Gayangos. Paris: A. Chaix, 1866. Microfilm. ​Second Letter, 110–14
Hernan Cortes, “The Spaniards Describe Indigenous Religion” from the ​First Letter to King
Charles V of Spain​ (1519)
Everyday, before they undertake any work, they burn incense in the said mosques [temples] and
sometimes they sacrifice their own persons, some hacking the body with knives; and they offer up to
their idols all the blood which flows, sprinkling it on all sides of those mosques, at other times
throwing it up towards the heavens, and practicing many other kinds of ceremonies, so that they
undertake nothing without first offering sacrifice there.
They have another custom, horrible, and abominable, and deserving punishment, and which we
have never before seen in any other place, and it is this, that, as often as they have anything to ask of
their idols, in order that their petition may be more acceptable, they take many boys or girls, and
even grown men and women, and in the presence of those idols they open their breasts, while they
are alive, and take out the hearts and entrails, and burn the said entrails and hearts before the idols,
offering that smoke in sacrifice to them. Some of us who have seen this say that it is the most
terrible and frightful thing to behold that has ever been seen. So frequently, and so often do these
Indians do this, according to our information, and partly by what we have seen in the short time we
are in this country, that no year passes in which they do not kill and sacrifice fifty souls in each
mosque; and this is practiced, and held as customary, from the Isle of Cozumel to the country in
which we are now settled. Your Majesties may rest assured that, according to the size of the land,
which to us seems very considerable, and the many mosques which they have, there is no year, as far
as we have until now discovered and seen, when they do not kill and sacrifice in this manner some
three or four thousand souls. Now let Your Royal Highnesses consider if they ought not to prevent
so great an evil and crime, and certainly God, Our Lord, will be well pleased, if, through the
command of Your Royal Highnesses, these peoples should be initiated and instructed in our Very
Holy Catholic Faith . . .
Cortés, Hernán. ​Cartas y relaciones de Hernan Cortés al emperador Carlos V​. Edited by
Pascual de Gayangos. Paris: A. Chaix, 1866. Microfilm. ​First Letter​, Part 2.

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