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Hernan Cortes: From Second Letter to Charles V,

1520 (modified)
Link to the Original Document
IN ORDER, most potent lord, to convey to your Majesty a just appreciation of the
great extent of this noble city of Temixtitlan, and of the many rare and wonderful
objects it contains; of the government and dominions of Moctezuma: here I come to
tell you my lord about the extent of the this great empire. I have seen it, but even
us, who have seen these things with our own eyes, are yet so amazed and unable to
comprehend their reality. Mexico, which is the principal seat of Moctezumas power,
is in the form of circle, surrounded on all sides by water. Surrounded by two lakes
one contains fresh and the other salt water. The city is as large as Seville or
Cordova. Its principal street are very wide and straight. The other smaller streets
are half land and half water, and are navigated by canoes. 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 where more
than sixty thousand souls congregate; engaging in buying and selling. And where in
can be found all kinds of merchandise, embracing the necessaries of life. For
example, articles of food, as well as jewels of gold and silver, lead, brass, copper,
tin, precious stones, bones, shells, snails, and feathers. Wood and coal are seen in
abundance, and braziers of ceramics for burning coals; mats of various kinds for
beds, others of a lighter sort for seats, and for halls and bedrooms. There are all
kinds of green vegetables, especially onions, leeks, garlic, watercresses, and
artichokes; fruits also of numerous descriptions, amongst which are cherries and
plums, similar to those in Spain; honey and wax from bees; 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. This great city contains a large number of
temples, or houses, for their idols, very handsome edifices, which are situated in
the different districts and the suburbs. This noble city contains many fine and
magnificent houses; which may be accounted for from the fact, that all the nobility
of the country, who are the vassals of Moctezuma, have houses in the city, in which
they reside a certain part of the year; and besides, there are numerous wealthy
citizens who also possess fine houses. With respect of Moctezuma, he poses a
wonderful and great state. There is so much to be told, your Highness, that I dont
know where to begin. What else can be said about a barbarous monarch, as he is?
He has every object found in his dominions imitated in gold, silver, precious stones,
and feathers. The silver and gold are created so beautifully that I have never seen
anything like it in the whole world.

Modern History Sourcebook ( Source: From: Oliver J. Thatcher, ed., The Library of
Original Sources (Milwaukee: University Research Extension Co., 1907), Vol. V: 9th to 16th Centuries,
pp. 317-326.

Pedro de Cieza de Leon: Chronicles of the Incas,

1540 (modified)
Link to the Original Document
Another view of the Incas, from a conquistador. It provides quite a lot of information
about the Incan economya redistributive typical of all early civilizations. It is told
for a fact of the rulers of this kingdom that in the days of their rule they had their
representatives in the capitals of all the provinces, for in all these places there were
larger and finer lodgings than in most of the other cities of this great kingdom, and
many storehouses. They served as the head of the provinces or regions, and from
every so many groups around the tributes were brought to one of these capitals,
and from so many others, to another. This was so well-organized that there was not
a village that did not know where it was to send its tribute. In all these capitals the
Incas had temples of the Sun, mints, and many silversmiths who did nothing but
work rich pieces of gold or fair vessels of silver; large garrisons were stationed
there, and a steward who was in command of them all, to whom an accounting of
everything that was brought in was made, and who, in turn, had to give one of all
that was issued. ...The tribute paid by each of these provinces, whether gold, silver,
clothing, arms and all else they gave, was entered in the accounts of those who
kept the quipus and did everything ordered by the governor in the matter of finding
the soldiers or supplying whomever the Inca ordered, or making delivery to Cuzco.
They kept updated records of all the riches that people from many groups brought
to the city. These records were gave by accountants who used the quipus. There
could be no fraud, but everything had to come out right. At the beginning of the
new year the rulers of each village came to Cuzco, bringing their quipus, which told
how many births there had been during the year, and how many deaths. In this way
the Inca and the governors knew which of the Indians were poor, the women who
had been widowed, whether they were able to pay their taxes, and how many men
they could count on in the event of war, and many other things they considered
highly important. The Incas took care to see that justice was meted out, so much so
that nobody ventured to commit a felony or theft. This was to deal with thieves,
rapists, or conspirators against the Inca. As this kingdom was so vast, in each of the
many provinces there were many storehouses filled with supplies and other needful

things; thus, in times of war, wherever the armies went they drew upon the
contents of these storehouses. Then the storehouses were filled up once more with
the tributes paid the Inca. If there came a lean year, the storehouses were opened
and the provinces were lent what they needed in the way of supplies; then, in a
year of abundance, they paid back all they had received. No one who was lazy or
tried to live by the work of others was tolerated; everyone had to work. Thus on
certain days each lord went to his lands and took the plow in hand and cultivated
the earth, and did other things. Even the Incas themselves did this to set an
example. If someone fell ill and was no able to work, then he received what he
needed from the storehouses.

Source: From: Pedro Cieza de Lon, The Second Part of the Chronicle of Peru, Clements R. Markham,
trans. & ed., (London: Hakluyt Society, 1883), pp. 36-50, passim.

The Gold of the Indies (1559)

Link to the Original Document
From New Spain are obtained gold and silver, cochineal [little insects like
flies], from which crimson dye is made, leather, cotton, sugar and other
things; but from Peru nothing is obtained except minerals. The fifth part of all
that is produced goes to the king, but since the gold and silver is brought to
Spain and he has a tenth part of that which goes to the mint and is refined
and coined, he eventually gets one-fourth of the whole sum, which fourth
does not exceed in all four or five hundred thousand ducats, although it is
reckoned not alone at millions, but at millions of pounds. Nor is it likely that it
will long remain at this figure, because great quantities of gold and silver are
no longer found upon the surface of the earth, as they have been in past
years; and to penetrate into the bowels of the earth requires greater effort,
skill and outlay, and the Spaniards are not willing to do the work themselves,
and the natives cannot be forced to do so, because the Emperor has freed
them from all obligation of service as soon as they accept the Christian
religion. Wherefore it is necessary to acquire negro slaves, who are brought
from the coasts of Africa, both within and without the Straits, and these are
selling dearer every day, because on account of their natural lack of strength
and the change of climate, added to the lack of discretion upon the part of
their masters in making them work too hard and giving them too little to eat,
they fall sick and the greater part of them die.

From: Translations and Reprints, Vol. 3 No. 3, E. P. Cheyney, ed. Reprinted in Eugen Weber, ed., The
Western Tradition, Vol. II: From the Renaissance to the Present, Fifth Ed., (Lexington, MA and
Toronto; D. C. Heath, 1995) pp. 102-103.
Copyright 2005-2014 by ThenAgain All rights reserved.

Thinking Notes
Instructions: please read the two documents. Take notesanything
that comes to mind while youre readingabout what you think are
the main ideas of the two articles.

Consider main ideas: central to the authors purpose.

o Place one exclamation point (!) next to a sentence that you like.
o Place one question mark (?) next to an idea that raises a
question possible discussion point for class.
o Place two question marks (??) next to something that is unclear
or confusing to you then you can ask about the next day in

class to be discussed and clarified.

And lastly, keep in mind the MAIN IDEA as you read the articles.
o Main idea: the reasons why Spanish conquerors took over Native
American Civilizations.

Note: bolded words are vocabulary words; please see vocabulary list for
definitions. Underlined phrases are important for understanding the main idea.


Convey: to communicate a message

Example: the students created posters to convey their ideas.
Seville: City in southwestern Spain
Cordova: is a city in Andalusia, southern Spain
Salamanca: is a city in northwestern Spain and the capital of the

Castile and Len region

Merchandise: goods to be bought and sold
Maguey: is a species of flowering plant, originally native to Mexico,

and the United States in Arizona and Texas

Idols: any person or thing regarded with blind admiration, adoration,

or devotion
Barbarous: uncivilized; wild; savage; crude
Storehouses: a building in which things are stored
Garrisons: a body of troops stationed in a fortified place, and the

place where such troops are stationed

Steward: a person who manages another's property or financial affairs
Quipus: recording devices historically used in the region of Andean South
America (an image will be shown to the students in an overhead projector).

Cuzco: a city in the Peruvian Andes, was once capital of the Inca

Francisco Pizarro: a Spanish conquistador who conquered the Incan

Treason: the offense of acting to overthrow one's government

Hernan Cortes Document Guiding Questions

Name: _________________________________

Date: _______________________

1- Who wrote the document? ________________________________________

When? ___________________________
2- Who was the recipient of the letter? ___________________________________
How might this influence the content of the letter Cortes wrote?
3 What do you think influenced Cortes to write the letter? With what
4 How can you compare Cortes letter to De Leons chronicle?
5 How does the letter Cortes wrote to Charles V indicate his reason for
writing the letter?
Identify specific language.

6 In what ways could the letter influence others in Spain to come to

the New World?
7 What would you say was the message in the letter? If you were a
Spanish noble in
In Spain at the time, what effect would the message have on you?

Pedro de Cieza de Leon Chronicles Guiding

Name: __________________________________

Date: ________________________

1-Who wrote the document and when?

2-What is his perspective?
3-Why do you think he wrote the document?
4-Do you think the document is reliable? Why or why not?
5-Do you think the author was in Cuzco (modern day Peru) when he
wrote the document? Can the content of the document be different
depending where it was written? Why or why not?

6-How does this document compare to Cortes letter?
7-What similarities and differences do you find in both documents
8-What can these two documents tell us about how narrative influenced
other Spanish conquistadors to come to the New World?
9-How does the documents language indicate authors perspective?
What do you think was his reason for writing it?

The Gold of the Indies (1559) Guiding

Name: ___________________________
Date: _______________________
1- Who wrote this document and when?
2- What is his perspective?
3- Is it reliable? Why or why not?
4- What do you notice was different then than in the other two
documents? ________

5- How do you think the circumstance in which the document was

written affected its content?
6- What do the other two document say? Can you relate this document
to what was described in the other two documents?
7- Does this document convinced you that Conquistadors went to the
New World to get the Natives riches? How? Explain and give
examples? _____________________
8- What claim does the author make?
9- What evidence does the writer use?
10- Did the document helped you corroborate what the previous
documents talked about? How? Explain.
11- What do you know now they did with the riches they took from
the Natives?

Document Analysis

(students will get one copy per document)

Name: _____________________________________

Date and period:

Instructions: after reading and annotating the documents, you are ready to analyze and
evaluate the information. In the box labeled Event summary, write two (2) to three (3)
sentences summarizing what you just read. Next, find a quote from the passage that will

serve as your evidence. And finally, in your own words, write four (4) reasons explaining why
the letter would influence other Europeans to come to the New World.
Note: as demonstrated by your teacher, your reasons have to support your evidence.