The Wonders of Tenochtitlan: City of the Aztecs From Hernan Cortes: From Second Letter to Charles V

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Cortex letter is a primary source because it gives a firsthand account of the wonders of Tenochtitlan. The primary reason for this is the use of the first person pronoun I. For instance, he says; I precipitated I put images I answered I said I could among many other instances where he uses the pronoun (Internet History Sourcebooks, 1998). The pronoun is widely used throughout the text, and it shows a first-hand experience and witnessing of the wonders within the great city of Aztecs.

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The writer mentions that there are many articles sold within the markets that are unknown to him and thus avoids prolixity of mentioning (Internet History Sourcebooks, 1998). This shows that the letter can be categorized as a secondary source too. However, the fact that a good percentage of the paper is primary, then one can conclude that it is a primary source.

Cortex had a motive of impressing Charles V, his Majesty, who was the intended audience of the letter. The topics he chose to address were or are the major aspects that define the success of a kingdom. Therefore, by depicting the extent in which the city had developed those characters, he would be able to pass a congratulation note to his Majesty and at the same time pass his (Cortex) concerns such as the practice of idolatry within the city. The fact that he was addressing his Majesty called for the use of pure facts and hyperbolical symbolisms within the letter.

From the first two paragraphs, I could conclude that the wealth in Aztecs city is enormous based on the vastness of the place as described by Cortex. Especially based on the hyperbolical descriptions of how the inhabitants and everyone who sees the city is unable to fathom the reality of the wonders of the city.

Three key features of their religion are idolatry, priesthood, and restriction of women from entering the religious houses. Cortex does not agree with the religious notion and belief in idols that the people of the city have. He does not buy the idea that if the idols are ill-treated, they would deprive the fruit of the earth and let the people perish with famine. The major reason behind this non-belief is that the human hands so make the idols; the same human who now worship them (idols). He only believes in a sole supreme being, the one who created the world and people; the universal Lord of all. However, based on the extent to which the religion had been accepted and practiced within the city, Cortex would not have been able to undo idolatry.

Cortex does not show prejudice to the people he encountered within his letter. However, he was impressed yet critical of the way they carried themselves. He related their behaviors with either religion or their residences but never looked down on any of them.


Internet History Sourcebooks. (1998). Retrieved 8 March 2017, from

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