"The Broken Spears" by Miguel Leon-Portilla.

Essay by ricankid585High School, 10th gradeA, May 2003

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In the book, "The Broken Spears", Miguel Leon-Portilla provides the reader with a chronological account of the events that lead up to the Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire in Mexico. Portilla takes the approach of discussing the entire war, battle by battle. On the contrary, Keen and Haynes, authors of "A History of Latin America", explain the four major aspects of the war that they feel ultimately led to the demise of the great Aztec Empire. They strongly believe that firearms, disease, differing world views, and internal division were the four main reasons that the Aztec empire was not successful in protecting its land and people. Although Keen and Haynes provide a very brief account of the events that took place over 500 years ago in native Mexico, their account is very similar to that of the translation provided by Leon-Portilla. Keen and Haynes draw out very specific and direct causes, while in "The Broken Spears", the entire ordeal is plotted from beginning to end with particular mishaps and miscalculations leading to the eventual downfall.

In this paper, I would like to address the factors leading up to the Aztec empire crumbling. It is my objective to compare the similarities, and contrast the differing view points brought about in these two written accounts of the events. My argument is that the account represented and translated by Leon-Portilla, although much more in-depth and complex, is very similar to the description briefly explained by Keen and Haynes.

I would first like to address the issue of firearms. In "The History of Latin America", Keen and Haynes speak specifically about the Spaniards use of cannons, swords, and metal armor. According to them this "gave the invaders a decided superiority over Indians armed with bows, arrows, wooden lances, and darts."(Keen/Haynes 69) The Aztecs...