Tuesday, November 16, 2010

CORTEZ, the Interpreter and Manipulator of Maladies

Todrov in part 2 of THE CONQUEST OF AMERICA makes the argument that the Spaniards were able to conquer the Aztecs successively because they were able to communicate in the forums of interhuman communications. In fact, Todrov said on page 104, that "Communication among the Aztecs is above all a communication with the world". It was too holistic and left room for Spanaird manipulation.

I agree with him from a cultural anthropoligal persepective but what needs to be added is the fact that the Spaniards were able to manipulate the fact that Aztecs did not hold so much of an importance on interhuman communication as the Spanairds did in retrospect to other forms of communication such as communication with the Glods. The identities ascribed in Aztec societies were beyond the human domain. Gods could walk and Earth and were political actors in Aztec society. Everything was read into. Todrov describes the Aztec documentation of the sizes of fish or the swallowing of a fisherman by an aligator (p. 94). Omens were everywhere to the Aztecs. In fact, there were men who were trained to read these omens and decipher what it meant (p. 79). There was a cultural hierarchy with several systems. The Aztecs looked at history cyclically. So when Cortez came, Moctezuma was terrified that Cortez was a god who was once a Toltec, the civilization the Aztecs conquered. Moctezuma was not confident because he was afraid of exogenous attacks because it
was mentioned in history and in legends that the Gods would take action.

Now the Spaniards on the other hand had a great resource. La Malinche. A woman who will be forever be revered and hated in Mexican history. She was the intelligent interpreter who was the lover of Cortez who was able to narrate to Cortez the stories and attitudes of the Aztec people. So not much was a priori to the Spanairds. They were able to focus on interhuman connections with Malinche and other Indians who were on the fringes of Aztec society. They were the minorities that were marginalized by the powerful state of the Aztecs. The Spanairds were able to decifer signs that the Aztecs decifered thanks to internal connections to the Aztecs. But since they had that knowledge they were able to manipulate it. The best example is when Moctezuma and Cortez are climbing the stares of the palace and Moctezuma is tired. Cortez knows that the Gods never feel pain in the Aztec religion so he says that he is not tired. He is ascribing the identity of GOD with his action. He is duping Moctezuma because he is making himself look like the divine (114).

Of course Cortez had guns, germs, and steel on his side to conquest the Aztecs. But the manipulation of the knowledge of signs led them to the position to assert the 3(GGS) in the first place.

PAINTING ABOVE BY José Clemente Orozco, Cortés and Malinche, 1926.

1 comment:

  1. I just noticed the title of this post. It's a great book you're referencing, I'm just curious if you find any similarities or connections between the two?