Reconsidering the Conquistador An analysis of the negative portrayal of Hernan Cortés It is easy to mistakenly interpret the fall of Tenochtitlan as a one-sided ravaging, a destruction handed down from the higher power that was the Spanish. The label “conquistador”, or conqueror, given to the Cortés’ forces, reflects such a belief. However, the interactions between the Aztecs and Conquistadors and between Cortés and other natives as depicted in Cortés’ Second Letter and the compilatory Florentine Codex reveal that the exchange that transpired in Tenochtitlan was more complicated than an unprovoked vanquishing on the part of the Spanish. Further analysis of these two texts reveals that Cortés is not the destructive conqueror one would assume him to be, and that the Aztecs may be partially responsible for their own demise.
Rather than the total disregard for a culture that would be expected from a “conqueror”, Cortés shows an appreciation for the sophistication of Aztec life, as evidenced by the accounts of Tenochtitlan recorded in his letter to Charles V. Cortés displays his appreciation for the vastness of the city by attaching a title to it; anytime he uses the city’s name, he calls it “the great city of Tenochtitlan” (549, 552, 553). And, before noting the way of life of the Aztec people, he notes (comparatively) how impressive Tenochtitlan is in size alone, saying it is as large as Seville or Cordova, two major Spanish cities (553). Cortés also has a keen interest