The Destruction of the Aztecs as a Result of Miscommunication and Lack of Cultural Understanding

Essay by lybravyrgo923University, Bachelor'sA-, March 2004

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The collision of the Spaniards and the Aztecs was a collision of two alien cultures that had evolved over thousands of years, each unknown to the other. Here we have two empires that see the world through two totally different perspectives. Miscommunication and lack of cultural understanding were major factors in the breakdown of diplomatic relations between the Aztecs and Spaniards. The Aztec perspective was based on prophecy and sign but the Spanish were led by tangible real-world concerns such as riches and power. Thus, the Aztec's were defeated prior to the coming of the Conquistador. It was not the Spaniards who killed the Aztec nation, but the Aztec nation itself. Was the conquest an act of genocide? First, let us decide on a definition for genocide. For clarity purposes, this paper will adopt the definition given by the 1994 U.N. Convention on the Punishment and Prevention of the Crime of Genocide describes genocide beyond outright murder of people as: "the destruction and extermination of culture."

Weighed against the above definition, all indications say, "Yes, it was". However, this was an act of genocide perpetrated upon a nation who itself was content to commit the same atrocity upon people of its own nation. For years, the Aztecs conquered and plundered their way across America either assimilating, destroying or enslaving other Indian tribes. Activities such as these enabled the Spaniards to sail into America with nothing and walk away with the whole enchilada.

Through an exploration of the events of the conquest of Mexico, we can get a clear picture of how the Aztec nation, purportedly consisting of millions of Natives, was defeated by 600 marooned conquistadors and a band of disgruntled natives. I will attempt to show how neither the conquistadors nor smallpox were the sole causes of the destruction...