November 23, 2019

Re-evaluating Cortez

Timothy Birdnow

Writing in The Federalist a couple of weeks ago John Daniel Davidson  celebrated the five hundredth anniversary of Hernando Cortez and his conquest of Mexico.

As Mr. Davidson points out, Cortez has been largely erased from the history of Mexico, for the same reasons we are now busily erasing the Founding Fathers and the heroes of the Confederacy. Modern Progressivism simply hates white, European historical figures.

But Cortez was, despite all his faults, probably well justified in destroying the Aztecs.

From the article:

Put bluntly, the violence of Aztec civilization was based on a cosmology that demanded ritualized violence on a mass scale. The two shrines atop the main pyramid in Tenochtitlan were dedicated to Tlaloc, the god of water and rain, and Huitzilopochtli, the god of war and the sun. Idols of each deity were housed inside the shrines, shrouded from outside view by curtains. Before sacrifices could be offered to Tlaloc, the ground had to be wetted with human tears, usually the tears of children, whose fingernails would be pulled off by Aztec priests to make them cry before they were slaughtered.

The idol of Huitzilopochtli, the god of both the war and the sun, which the Aztecs considered the source of life and were perpetually afraid would go out, was gruesome. It was made from amaranth seeds and held together with honey and human blood, and inside were bags of jade, human bones, and amulets, which were thought to give life to the god.

The idol was built every year and decorated with rich garments and a golden mask during the festival of Panquetzaliztli, which was held on the winter solstice in honor of the birth of Huitzilopochtli. At the end of the festival, the idol was broken apart and eaten, and sacrificial victims, covered in blue body paint and arrayed in the costume of the god, had their hearts cut out.

Horrifying as all this was, there was a certain macabre logic to it. Not unlike the modern cults of abortion and assisted suicide, Aztecs practiced human sacrifice in the belief it was an absolute necessity that would bring about practical goods. After all, the gods Nanahuatzin and Tecucistecatl set themselves on fire to become the sun and the moon, and the Aztecs, by spilling their own blood and that of their children and enemies, were only repaying the gods what was owed to them, thereby ensuring the continuance and prosperity of their people.

Cortés looked upon all this and concluded, with an iron resolve, that it must be destroyed. After an 80-day siege of Tenochtitlan in the summer of 1521, he ordered the city razed. His men pulled down buildings and walls, and reduced the place to rubble.

There was a reason why this massive empire fell so easily.

As the Spanish pointed out recently when Mexico demanded an apology for conquering their country, there were large numbers of native allies with Cortez, because the Aztecs were vile, evil, oppressors. Mexico fought WITH the Conquistadore's, not against them. In the end they provided the shift in power that made a long-simmering desire for rebellion actually possible. In short, Cortez was a liberator, not a conqueror.

The same often held true in North America. Many of the native tribes were quite nasty, performing human sacrifice, cannibalism, and ritual torture. Take the Comanche, for example; they stole children, raped women, and tortured men to death on a regular basis. They did this well before the coming of the White Man. Despite being excellent guerrilla fighters they had no allies against the Americans. In the end they lost.

This was true of many of the Indians. Custer, for example, had native scouts helping him. Why?  Because they hated the Cheyenne, and Lakota and Arapaho worse than the white settlers. See, these tribes had themselves invaded the Black Hills only about a hundred years prior, and had made endless war against the aboriginal tribes.

This notion of peace prior to the European invasion is bull. That was why the Indians never could mount any credible defense against the encroachment of settlers; they despised each-other and were in a constant state of war. There was little if any trade among the tribes, so little that most tribes didn't even know who lived a couple of hundred miles away. North American Indians did not know of the existence of the Aztec, or Mayans, and especially not of the Incans. They were too likely to be killing each-other or "counting coup" which was a dangerous attempt to position themselves where they COULD kill someone. That someone usually fought back.

It is indeed time to re-re-evaluate the whole Native American issue. Both sides had valid points and grievances. We've got to stop this endless liberal demonization and actually look at the world as it was.

Posted by: Timothy Birdnow at 12:50 PM | Comments (39) | Add Comment
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1 In short, the popular conception of the "noble savage" gives way too much credit to the "noble" part of the equation and way too little to the "savage" part. I guess it figures.

Posted by: Dana Mathewson at November 23, 2019 04:21 PM (05Pmo)

2 The "noble savage" was always nineteenth century romanticism and monumentally stupid. But it appealed to Europe's upper classes because they didn't believe in Christianity anymore and were looking for a Heaven on Earth. It simply HAD to be true, because Nature was perfect, after all; it was human civilization that mucked everything up!  There are plenty of Progressives who still believe that stupidity.

There is a reason why native peoples everywhere in the world were almost universally hostile to strangers.In Polynesia the natives frequently engaged in cannibalism and head shrinking - in a beautiful, bountiful, secure place.  Why is that, geniuses!

Posted by: Timothy Birdnow at November 24, 2019 12:42 PM (ryubH)

3 Native peoples' hostility to new folks moving into the neighborhood was kinda like local, established mafiosi taking unkindly to interlopers. And dealing with them harshly. For the same reasons.

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