An Unfortunate Encounter with Fate

In my reading of Bernal Díaz del Castillo’s rather exhilarating Conquest of New Spain, I discovered that today, at least according to his account, the Spaniards first entered what is now Mexico City.

According to his blustery account:

“So, with luck on our side, we boldly entered the city of Tenochtitlan or Mexico on 8 November in the year of our Lord 1519.”

My love affair with Mesoamerican art and culture is in its infancy, I am not at all equipped to pontificate; but what I am capable of is sharing the numerous images, Spanish and native that are proving to be visually irresistible. The following is a small sampling to commemorate this fateful day 492 years ago.

Juan Ortega

Emperor Montezuma II

Museo Nacional del Arte, Mexico


Juan Ortego

Hernan Cortes, la Malinche and Bartolome de Las Casas

Museo Nacional del Arte, Mexico


Malinche, her true name being Doña Marina,was according to historian Mary Ellen Miller (author of The Art of Mesoamerica: from Olmec to Aztec) translator to Cortés, being fluent in the Maya tongue and Nahuatl, the Aztec language. It is interesting to note that Malinche, according to Miller was the mistress of Cortés and acted in sync with him. The Aztecs upon seeing this powerful woman believed her to be a wrathful goddess (214) .

Tenochtitlan, Entrance of Hernan Cortés.

Hernan Cortés and La Malinche meet Moctezuma II,

November 8 1519

1500-1600 AD

 University of California, Berkely

Our own capital is decorated with this encounter, apparently Contantino Brumidi, chief decorative artist, went to Mexico to study artifacts. The great Calendar Stone being very visible. I love the westernized idols.

Cortéz and Montezuma at the  Mexican Temple 

United States Capital, source  

The Meeting of Cortés and Montezuma

second half of 17th century

Jose Maria Obregon

Discovery of Pulche

detail of Montezuma II


 Museo Nacional del Arte, Mexico


What I find so thrilling about all of this is the contrasts, the lavish greens of quetzal feathers and jade, the dazzling turquoise which stands in sharp contrast to the red of spilt blood. Fascinating and appalling.

Feathered Headdress

Museum für Völkerkunde, Vienna 


Believed to be Montezuma’s headdress sent as a souvenir to Charles V.

Turquoise Serpent 

British Museum, London 

I am eager to revisit LACMA, an new exhibition Contested Visions in the Spanish Colonial World opened on the 6th and will close January 29th 2012. 

Whatever your opinion may be concerning the Conquest of New Spain , we as Westerners were certainly enriched by this fresh and perplexing new source of inspiration.

With that I close.

Take care,

Babylon Baroque

4 Responses to “An Unfortunate Encounter with Fate”

  1. You are so fab. I can’t stand it.

  2. babylonbaroque Says:

    Thank you my friend, have a joyous Thanksgiving!

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