Revising the Narrative of the Conquest of Mexico: Bernardino de Sahagún’s 1585 Relación de la conquista de esta Nueva España

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Amber Brian


2021 represents the five-hundred-year anniversary of the fall of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire. This essay addresses the rendering of the events that culminated in the Spanish domination of that region in two texts associated with the Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún (1499–1590). The first is Book Twelve of the Florentine Codex, a bilingual manuscript written collaboratively with Indigenous intellectuals in Nahuatl with a Spanish translation and accompanied by nearly two thousand illustrations that represent a third text. Completed in 1579, under increasing scrutiny by religious authorities, the manuscript was confiscated and sent to Europe, eventually coming to reside in the Medici Library in Florence. In 1585, Sahagún, authored Relación de la conquista de esta Nueva España, which sought to revise the narrative of the conquest found in Book Twelve. Sahagún’s revision reveals how the narrative of the conquest changed in the hands of the Franciscan friar as the sixteenth century drew to a close.


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