Cortes and Moctezuma Clash Over Religion and Other Values
From Díaz del Castillo, Vol. 2, Chapter 107
I have many times said that Cortés and all of us always endeavored to please and serve Moctezuma and to pay him court. One day Moctezuma said, "Look here Malinche. I love you so much that I want to give you one of my daughters, who is very beautiful, so that you can marry her and treat her as your legitimate wife"; Cortés tipped his cap in thanks, and said that it was a great favor that Moctezuma was conferring on him, but that he was already married and had a wife, and that among us we were not permitted to have more than one wife, he would however keep her in the rank to which the daughter of so great a prince was entitled, but that first of all he desired her to become a Christian, as other ladies, the daughters of Chieftains, already were; and to this Moctezuma consented.
The Great Moctezuma always showed his accustomed good will to us, but not a day went by without a sacrifices at which human beings were killed, and Cortés tried to criticize him for this; but this did no good. Finally, he sought counsel with his captains as to what should be done in the matter, for he did not dare to put an end to it for fear of an uprising in the city of by the priests in charge of Huitzilopochtli.
The advice that the captains and soldiers gave about this was, that he should pretend that he wished to go to and throw down the Idols from the Great Temple of Huitzilopochtli, and that seeing if they were preparing to defend them, and were going to rise in revolt, that we should then demand permission to set up an altar inside the Great Temple, and place a Crucifix and an image of Our Lady there.
When this was settled Cortés sent a messenger to the Palace where Moctezuma was imprisoned and took seven captains and soldiers with him, and said to Moctezuma: "Señor, I have often asked you not to sacrifice any more human beings to your gods who are deceiving you, and you will not cease doing it, I wish you to know that all my companions and these Captains who are with me have come to beg you to give them leave to remove the Idols from your temple and put our Lady Santa Maria and a cross in their place, and, if you will not give them permission, they will go and remove them, and I would not like them to kill any priests."
When Moctezuma heard those words and saw that the Captains were rather angry, he said, " Oh! Malinche, now you wish to destroy the city entirely? Our gods are very angry with us, and I do not know that they will stop even in taking your lives, what I pray you to do for the present is to be patient, and I will send a messenger to summon all the priests and I will see their reply." At these words, Cortés made a gesture that he wished to speak privately to Moctezuma without the presence of the Captains whom he had brought in his company, so he ordered them to go out and leave him alone. When they had left the hall, he said to Moctezuma, that in order to avoid a disorder and rioting and to prevent offending the priests, who would be upset if their Idols were thrown over, he would arrange to dissuade these Captains of their plans with the condition that they be allowed to put an image of Our Lady of the Cross and a cross in a spot at the top of the Great Temple; that they will see with time about how beneficial these will be for the wealth and prosperity of their souls, their health, and their harvests.
And Moctezuma, very sad and with a sad look on his face, promised to negotiate this with the priests.
[Díaz del Castillo concludes this chapter by saying they were successful in putting the image and the cross in the Great Temple.]