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The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico
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The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  1,570 Ratings  ·  110 Reviews
Until 1959, when this book was published for the first time, the only organized testimony about the Conquest was the victorious chronicle of the Spaniards themselves. Miguel León-Portilla had the incomparable success of organizing texts translated from Nahuatl by Ángel María Garibay Kintana to give us the The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico: Indigenous people of Te ...more
Paperback, 169 pages
Published June 1st 1971 by Beacon Press (first published 1959)
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May 28, 2015 Barby rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
No siempre hay una sola verdad frente a un hecho. "Visión de los vencidos: crónicas indígenas" es justamente el otro lado de la conquista, contado por los que vivieron, sufrieron y vieron su cultura perderse a causa de la conquista.
Tuve que leerlo a las apuradas para realizar un trabajo sobre las crónicas indígenas, y en verdad es muy completo. Me ha dado mucha información que no estaba al tanto, y lo agradezco.
Siempre es bueno conocer los dos lados de una misma moneda.
Feb 09, 2014 Jessie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had to read this for my intro class to Latin America from prehistory to 1800. I absolutely enjoyed reading it. Getting a peak into what the Mexicas felt, saw, and experienced was priceless for understanding the Conquest of Mexico in full. The language though melancholy was quite beautiful. I highly recommend for all history fans.
Kelly Vidaurri
Nov 30, 2012 Kelly Vidaurri rated it it was amazing
A History by the Defeated, for the Defeated
History has always been written by the winners and for the winners. This has never been truer than the account of the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire. The history that has been taught in schools gives an account of a heroic battle between “good” and “evil”; however the accounts in Miguel Leon-Portilla’s Broken Spears sheds new light on a subject that has been dulled by relentless repetition of a victor’s history.
The importance of a collection of a
Andrew-Mario Hart-Grana
It's as refreshing as it was when it was first published many years ago. Leon-Portillo's constructed account of "the vision of the vanquished" has been somehow rejuvenated with new "Nahua" sources (i.e. Emiliano Zapata's statements), which confirm the continuity, and transformation, of this "vision" throughout time. In recent years, academic studies have been more inclined to also address "cultural adaptations" which certainly allowed these voices to be reproduced and heard for many centuries af ...more
Wilson Warmack
Having read many of the Spanish accounts of the Conquest of Mexico it was extremely interesting to see the same story from the other side. Although this book lacks a strong narrative flow and overall context which would be critical for someone new to the subject area, if you are familiar with the Spanish version of events, then this is a must-read that fills in a lot of gaps in the Spanish account which helps to humanize the Aztec/Mexica and explain how cultural differences have lead to misinter ...more
Sep 17, 2015 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: academic-history
Classic account from Nahuatl texts of the battle between the Spaniards and Aztecs. Just a few perspectives and best read with a textbook or more thorough descriptions of the Encounter era. But so evocative and descriptive. Really easy read that my surrender love--but helps to have a more straightforward narrative to put this in context with. The editor was one of the first to do this back in the 50s when few read indigenous peoples' perspectives anywhere. So a great bit of historiography.
Abdulsalam Alali
It is mainly about telling the story-from different codexes- of the Spaniard conquest to the aztec capital (Tenochtitlan), and the territories around it...
There're a lot of Mexican names which makes reading it a little bit uncomfortable
By the way, it was one of my history class requirement, and that is why I am reading it.. Honestly, I would not be interested reading this kind of books
Rabinovich Ed
Dec 25, 2014 Rabinovich Ed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Si eres mexicano es lectura obligatoria para conocer tu cultura.
Aug 20, 2011 Paulimar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Si se quiere aprender el punto de vista de los indigenas mexicanos un poquito antes de la conquista... éste es el libro para hacerlo!
Feb 16, 2016 Sarah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
An important historical text that gives the largely unheard perspective of the Aztecs when the Spaniards came to their land.
Very dense, repetitive, and overall boring. Not my kind of book.
Oct 21, 2009 Mische is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
i'm like halfway through this book and it's fucking great. why the fuck aren't more history books written like poetry?
Edson Vazquez
Aug 19, 2011 Edson Vazquez rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must read!!!
Feb 12, 2014 Angela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of a kind. This was a great read, even if it was required book for class.
I enjoyed every minute of it. This book will have you questioning everything you previously believed.
Monserrat Maxfield Markov
Reto de Lectura 2015: "Un libro basado en una historia real".
Sep 09, 2015 Beatriz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Had to read this for a class and I really enjoyed it!
Steve Howarth
An easy read given the date of original publishing. While slightly limited in covered content (depth) it is unique in covering accounts from the native perspective, where the greater depth can be found in other works.

That uniqueness can be an issue given the lack of original source material, as on a few occasions the accounts are a bit too similar. While useful for corroboration it does handicap what is contained in the work.

Very handy reference material and perspective.
Feb 21, 2017 Jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Vision of the vanquished" --This book is unique in that it's the voice of those conquered, which is pretty rare for most historical events. It packs different accounts from Nahua peoples who lived during the conquest of their incredible lands. Fascinating to hear the poetic way the Aztec people described seeing horses and Spaniards for the first time. Significant part of history of the Americas; quick read.
Jun 05, 2017 Cesar rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bittersweet. It's a beautiful thing to hear the often forgotten voices of my people, but the subject is a difficult one. The invasion, conquest, and destruction of homes and lives is a sobering thing to read. The cruel atrocities committed for gold make it hard to not be angry. This book took me there.
Jun 01, 2017 Paola rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anahuac
great book about the genocide the indigenous peoples in Mexico endured
Liliana Méndez
Es una perspectiva completamente diferente, sinceramente me dio tristeza y coraje al estarlo leyendo. Es muy interesante y vale la pena leer este librito...
Feb 19, 2014 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A TOP SHELF review, originally published in the February 20, 2014 edition of The Monitor

As late as the 1950s, the world primarily knew the story of Mexico’s conquest by the Spanish through the accounts of the victors, men like Hernán Cortés, Bernal Díaz del Castillo and Francisco López de Gómara. Though glimpses at the true nature of the indigenous people shine through, as does the terrible majesty of the Aztec hegemony, these histories celebrated Christian and Spanish ascendancy. There was no r
LonewolfMX Luna
Jul 29, 2008 LonewolfMX Luna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anybody interested in the History of Mexico
Recommended to LonewolfMX by: Ramon and Professor Rivera
This will be the counterpoint to Bernal Diaz's Conquista de La Nueva Espana.

Finished reading it and I must say that Leon-Portilla did a good job translating the Aztec codices in regard to the Conquest of Mexico.

The first chapter deals with the Aztecs seeing omens foretelling the arrival of the Spaniards in Mexico.

Which really astonished me

The first bad omen of things to come ten years prior to the Spanish arrival in which signs such as bright comet flying over the capital in day time in which th
Dec 05, 2013 Aleluz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Es bien sabido que los mexicanos conocemos sólo una parte de la historia de nuestro país, aquella que es contada por los vencedores, por los que deciden cuál es la historia oficial de México.

Este libro es una crónica del antropólogo mexicano Miguel León Portilla, donde narra a través de la interpretación de diferentes códices escritos en náhuatl, los sucesos que acontecieron en México a la llegada de los españoles.

Una de las maravillas que nos muestra León Portilla, es cómo te hace reflexionar
I’ve had this book for ages, but after reading the Daily Life of the Aztecs I was finally in the mood to read this one. I really enjoyed it, and learned a lot. I wouldn’t recommend it as the first book you read about Aztecs as it doesn’t explain anything just offers a translation of the work. It is also intended for the general reader, rather than the historian/scholar so doesn’t offer all that much in the way of notes or textual critique but nether the less is very interesting. The texts themse ...more
Jan 26, 2015 Juan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

The stories read like a retelling of the conquest, not how it was actively happening, as if an Aztec elder or priest recollected their thoughts and tried their best to explain their downfall. The omens are heavy foreshadowing/foretelling of the conquest. But the omens only serve as an explanation of a terrible tragedy, as if trying to put the events in perspective in their respective universe. Yet, the stories told by the Tlaxcaltecas describe the Spanish as liberators of the Aztec regime which
Jun 20, 2007 Justino marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
exceedingly sweet action!!!: i got this book because i find pre-columbian mesoamerica fascinating, and i also enjoy the vivid clash of cultures which occured when the spaniards arrived there. this book describes the conflict between the aztecs and spaniards superbly! this book is somewhat unique among histories because it takes the point of view of the vanquished rather than the victors. it starts from before the spaniards arrive with eerie premonitions of eminent doom to the fall of tenochtitla ...more
Pacheco decía de la Visión de los vencidos que es un libro "indispensable para todos los mexicanos". Viéndolo de una forma más objetiva, sin patrioterismos, yo diría que es un libro muy parcial. Siento que Portilla da su opinión y su interpretación de los textos en demasiadas ocasiones, y no sé qué tanto creerle a veces. Eso sí, el libro es precioso, las traducciones (muchas de ellas hechas por el maestro A. M. Garibay) son excelentes y los textos son muy bellos por sí mismos. Pero de vez en cua ...more
Mike Ceballos
Aug 05, 2010 Mike Ceballos rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Básicamente: la otra cara de la moneda. Es cierto que la historia la escriben los vencedores, pero aún así, este trabajo de Miguel León Portilla nos ayuda a vislumbrar las vicisitudes de nuestros antepasados durante al conquista española. La falsa idea del retorno del gran Dios Quetzalcoatl, le abrió las puertas a Hernán Cortés y a sus huestes hambrientas de riquezas y muerte. Claro que no todo fue culpa de los mexicas, sino también de las envidias políticas existentes de la época, como el caso ...more
Jan 22, 2015 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-owned
This was interesting to read along with Diaz' Conquest of New Spain. The two narratives (or perhaps I should say "multiple narratives," since this Aztec chronicles come from several different sources) were surprisingly in sync. Many of the questions I had from reading Diaz' account were answered in Broken Spears: what was going through the minds of the Mexica as the Spanish began their push inland? What happened to all the dead from the battles? Were the accounts of human sacrifice exaggerated? ...more
Sep 25, 2012 Briana rated it really liked it
"The Broken Spears" is a classic "must-read" for anybody interested in the conquest of Mexico. The book was slim and easy to read, but it vividly depicts the humanity of a culture so ancient and so foreign. We know that the native populations of the New World suffered terribly when European colonialists arrived, from disease, warfare, slavery and the ensuing destruction of their known world. But what an impact to read of such destruction in the first person. My heart broke to read how they were ...more
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Ha sido profesor en la Facultad de Filosofía y Letras de la UNAM desde 1957, director del Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas, miembro de la Junta de Gobierno de la UNAM, y actualmente es Investigador Emérito del Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas, con antigüedad desde 1957. Ha impartido numerosas conferencias y pertenece, como consejero, al Instituto de Civilizaciones Diferentes, de Brus ...more
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“In Tenochtitlan, Tezcoco and other cities there were groups of wise men known as tlamatinime. These scholars carried on the study of the ancient religious thinking of the Toltecs, which Tlacaelel had transformed into a mystical exaltation of war. Despite the popularity of the cult of the war-god, Huitzilopochtli, the tlamatinime preserved the old belief in a single supreme god, who was known under a variety of names. Sometimes he was called Tloque-Nahuaque, “Lord of the Close Vicinity,” sometimes Ipalnemohuani, “Giver of Life,” sometimes Moyocoyatzin, “He who Creates Himself.” He also had two aspects, one masculine and one feminine. Thus he was also invoked as Ometeotl, “God of Duality,” or given the double names Ometecuhtli and Omecihuatl, “Lord and Lady of Duality,” Mictlantecuhtli and Mictecacihuatl, “Lord and Lady of the Region of Death,” and others.” 0 likes
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