Nonfiction, Florentine Codex (Nahuatl)

This chapter from the Florentine Codex, a bilingual encyclopedia of central Mexican life and history, was created by the Franciscan friar, Bernardino de Sahagún and indigenous advisors, painters and scribes. Nahuatl and Spanish texts appear side by side, and are accompanied by an image of Malintzin translating. The Nahuatl version of this text describes indigenous objects, words, and emotions in more detail than its Spanish counterpart, from the treasured items seized by conquistadors to the palace roof where Malintzin uttered her commands. In this text, she emerges as the crucial figure—the name of Cortés is never mentioned, and the orders she gives seem to be hers alone, not a translation of his demands. So, too, is the fear she induces more palpable and poignant.

Source: Bernardino de Sahagún. “Of how the Spaniards entered Moteucçoma’s private home, and what happened there.” Book 12, Chap. 18, p.124, 126 in Florentine Codex. ca. 1570-1585. In We People Here. Translated and edited by James Lockhart. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993.

Eighteenth chapter, where it is said how the Spaniards went into Moteucçoma’s personal home, and what happened there.

And when the collection of all the gold was completed, thereupon Marina summoned to her, had summoned, all the noblemen. She stood on a flat roof, on a roof parapet, and said, “Mexica, come here, for the Spaniards are suffering greatly. Bring food, fresh water, and all that is needed, for they are suffering travail, are tired, fatigued, weary, and exhausted. Why is it you do not want to come? It is a sign that you are angry.”

But the Mexica no longer at all dared to go there. They were greatly afraid; they were limp with fear; they were taken aback. Fear greatly prevailed; it spread about. No one dared come out. It was as though a wild beast were loose, as though it were the deep of night. Yet there was not for that reason a halt or hesitation in delivering everything [the Spaniards] needed, but they delivered it fearfully, they went in fear, they ran in fear as they went to deliver it. And when they had spilled it on the ground, everyone came running back in a flash, panting and trembling.

[Click for Nahuatl Text]