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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

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3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  550 ratings  ·  40 reviews
For hundreds of years, the history of the conquest of Mexico and the defeat of the Aztecs has been told through the words of Spanish victors.
Paperback, 196 pages
Published July 20th 1997 by Beacon Press (first published May 4th 1992)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,048)
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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
David
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...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
Mische
Oct 21, 2009 Mische is currently reading it
i'm like halfway through this book and it's fucking great. why the fuck aren't more history books written like poetry?
Sheila
Leon-Portilla’s writes about the conquering of the Aztecs by Cortez using the translated Aztec codices to include the voices of the indigenous people. It also gives several different retellings of invasion and destruction of their land as found in the different codices by Indians conquered and controlled by the Aztecs. I had just finished Buddy Levy’s book, "Conquistador: Hernán Cortés, King Montezuma, and the Last Stand of the Aztecs" and would recommend reading this book first because this Leo...more
Mel
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
LonewolfMX Luna
Oct 19, 2008 LonewolfMX Luna rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
Justino
Jun 20, 2007 Justino marked it as to-read
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
Milton Marshall
This is very good book and should be read along with Cortes' five letters, and the account of Bernal Diaz, by anyone trying to gain a better knowledge of the actual events that took place during the conquest of the Aztecs. I have read many of the reviews, and most of them fail to notice that the majority of the accounts come from Aztec nobles who are writing to the King of Spain years after the events seeking reparations for their lost property. Their account is thus influenced by their personal...more
Devin
The Spanish destroyed as many Aztec texts as they could along with the rest of their civilization. I was therefore suprised and delighted to find that enough Aztec texts have survived for the Author to create a complete account of the Conquest of Mexico from the Aztec point of view. Sheads new light on one of the most facinating stories in history.

It is as if a small group of beings from a more technologically advanced planet were to suddenly invade us, armed with weapons we could not even under...more
Nick
Sep 07, 2014 Nick rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: historians?
I was required to read this for a history course. It was alright.
Loretta
This book is the Mexica account of what really happened during the conquest, gathered from documents and codices written in both Spanish and Nahuatl. Early in the days of the conquest, Spanish missionaries taught native scholars Spanish and these folks wrote books about what had happened to their culture. This is very interesting to read, especially in comparison with Prescott's History of Mexico, which glosses over a lot of the violence perpetrated by the conquistadores.
Megan
I realize that exclaiming, "THIS IS SO GOOD!" is hardly scholarly or timid for that matter. This book, in my opinion, is extremely important for those who study pre-columbian/conquest history as it offers a particularly special point of view. It is a quick read for those who spend most of their time pouring over thick history books and if you are like me, a person who has trouble marking up her books, you'll still underline and reference this one.
Allison
Read this for a class. An accessible account of the the Spanish invasion of the Aztecs from the Aztec point of view. Interesting in that the story is told not from the side of the victors/aggressors but the victims (the Aztecs). I felt like the book was pretty repetitive though, because it provided several different accounts of the same events.

Not something that I would have read on my own, but it was not hard to get through it for class.
Josh Walker
This book paints an unseen portrait of the Spanish Conquest of Mexico through the Aztecs' eyes, literally. It is interesting to say the least. You find so many eye-opening historical information that you can certainly say that you did not waste your time. If you are interested in history, then you will probably enjoy this book, even though it can be a somewhat tedious and repetitive read.
Abe
Jan 25, 2009 Abe added it
The Mexica account of the Spanish conquest. This is a good book for colonialist in the sense that it offers an indigenous perspective to the Spanish conquest of the Mexica. It should be noted that these accounts were written after the fall of Tenochtitlán and that it highlights the different perspectives between the city-states of the Mexica Empire.
Jorge
A counterbalance to Castillo's Conquest of New Spain offering greater insight than could ever be gained from reading just the prior. The latter allows for the vanquished to tell the story in their own words for the first time in centuries. Not as detailed as it really could have been but still a great intro to the basics of the Nahua people.
David
A great history book, especially if you are as ignorant as I was about the time and place of Mexico before Spanish conquest. This is told from the Native perspective of Cortez’s assault on Mexico and the different tribes involved aiding the Spanish, or against them. A great look at a civilization we still don’t know too much about.
Elizabeth
For hundreds of years, the history of the conquest of Mexico and the defeat of the Aztecs has been told through the words of Spanish victors. This is an account by the Aztecs, many of which are copied down by the religious clerics who arrive on the scene.
Britt_lewis
I just read this book for my Latin American Civilization class, and it was super interesting. I couldn't believe the things that are revealed in the Aztec account of the Conquest in Mexico. This book really made me sympathize for what the Aztecs suffered.
Caren
I went to school in Spain, so I am pro Spain. This is my first readings from the people that were attacked by Cortes. Not a good thing either way, but I enjoyed the direct accounts by those Aztec people who were there.
Grabs you into their world.
Jaime Contreras
I have read this thrice and still believe that there is great value in this personal accountof the Fall of the Aztecs. Fr. Leon-Portillo chronicled the trial and fall of the mighty Aztecs. This is one of the few chronicles that survived.
April
I just didn't enjoy this read that much. I would recommend it to people who are interested in the Spanish Conquest of Latin America from the Aztec's perspective, but it's not a very interesting casual read.
Rally Soong


A good counter part of Cortes's account of the conquest of Mexico from the Aztec oral tradition within living history of the events. A must read for those interested in Mexican history.
DoctorM
I read this a long, long time ago--- from the little library at my high school. Very much an unexpected find, and one that told a story I hadn't thought about. Sad and powerful and well-written.
Angela
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.
Donna
Dec 05, 2009 Donna rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Latin American Historians
Recommended to Donna by: Professor Murillo
Shelves: school-related
A very easy read, this is a translation of accounts from survivors or their decendents regarding the incidents of the conquest and how the Aztec were conquered.
Tito Garcia
Aug 28, 2007 Tito Garcia rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: POC Nationalists
I loved this one. It translated the Mexica's struggle against the spañiard devil perfectly. It is very basic Mexica history and info for anyone looking for some history.
Adam
This is a good book if you're interested in looking at the Spanish Conquest from the perspective of the Aztecs themselves...
Jeremy
Aug 05, 2007 Jeremy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: most
Shelves: history
A pieced together account of the conquest of the Aztecs this book makes into narrative what is usually a dry list of facts.
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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
More about Miguel León-Portilla...
Visión de los vencidos: Relaciones indígenas de la Conquista Aztec Thought and Culture: A Study of the Ancient Nahuatl Mind The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico Los antiguos mexicanos a través de sus crónicas y cantares In the Language of Kings: An Anthology of Mesoamerican Literature, Pre-Columbian to the Present

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