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 the image of Malintzin translating (described above). The Spanish text represents Sahagún’s translation of the Nahuatl, although the two accounts are not identical. This Spanish account is shorter than the Nahuatl, even though it pauses to describe doña Marina—as a bilingual woman seized in the Yucatan—and clarify that she was Cortés’s interpreter. A sense of her role and its power emerges at the end of the text, when we read that the orders she issues on Cortés’s behalf strike fear in the Aztecs who heard her.

Source: Bernardino de Sahagún. “Of how the Spaniards entered Moteucçoma’s private home, and what happened there.” Book 12, Chap. 18, p.125 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.

Chapter Eighteen: of how the Spaniards entered Moteucçoma’s private home, and what happened there.

When the above had been done, [the Spaniards] attempted to find out about the special storehouse of Moteucçoma, and he took them to his storehouse, named Totocalco, which means “bird house.” The Spaniards went along very joyfully, thinking that they would find much gold there; on arrival they took everything out of Moteucçoma’s own storehouse, where there were many precious items of gold, silver, and precious stones, and they took it all. They removed all the gold and stones from the rich feather-pieces and put the feathers in the middle of the courtyard for their friends to take.

Then Captain don Hernando Cortés gave orders through Marina, who was his interpreter—she was an Indian woman who knew the languages of Castile and Mexico; they took her in Yucatan. She began to call loudly to the Mexica tecutles [lords] and piles [nobles] to come to give the Spaniards the necessary food.

But no one dared to come into their presence or approach them; they were all terrified and frightened. They sent them the necessary food, but those who carried it went trembling; when they put the food down, they tarried no longer, but immediately left, almost fleeing.

[Click for Spanish Text]