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Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España

The True History of the Conquest of Mexico
Author Captain Bernal Diaz del Castillo
Original title Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España
Translator Maurice Keatinge
Country England
Language English
Subject Cortés, Hernán, -- 1485-1547.
Mexico -- History -- Conquest, 1519-1540.
Genre Non-fiction
Published 1800 (Printed for J. Wright, Piccadilly, by John Dean, High Street, Congleton)
1963 (Penguin Books)
Media type Print
Pages 514
ISBN (1963)
OCLC 723180350

Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España (English: The True History of the Conquest of New Spain) is the first-person narrative of Bernal Díaz del Castillo (1492–1581), the 16th-century military adventurer, conquistador, and colonist settler, who served in three Mexican expeditions; those of Francisco Hernández de Córdoba (1517) to the Yucatán peninsula; the expedition of Juan de Grijalva (1518), and the expedition of Hernán Cortés (1517) in the Valley of Mexico; the history relates his participation in the fall of Emperor Moctezuma II, and the subsequent defeat of the Aztec empire.

In the colonial history of Latin America, The Conquest of New Spain is a vivid, military account that establishes Bernal Díaz del Castillo “among chroniclers what Daniel Defoe is among novelists”.[1] Late in life, when Díaz del Castillo was eighty-four years old, and residing in his encomienda estates in Guatemala, he wrote The True History of the Conquest of New Spain to defend the story of the common-soldier conquistador within the histories about the Spanish conquest of Mexico. He presents his narrative as an alternative to the critical writings of Fr. Bartolomé de Las Casas, whose Indian-native histories emphasized the cruelty of the conquest; and the histories of the hagiographic biographers of Hernán Cortés — specifically that of Francisco López de Gómara, whom he believed minimized the role of the 700 enlisted soldiers who were instrumental to conquering the Aztec empire. That said historians and hagiographers speak the truth “neither in the beginning, nor the middle, nor the end”, is why Díaz del Castillo strongly defended the actions of the conquistadors, whilst emphasising their humanity and honesty in his eyewitness narrative, which he summarised as: “We went there to serve God, and also to get rich”.

The history is occasionally uncharitable about Captain Cortés, because, like other professional soldiers who participated in the Conquest of New Spain, Díaz del Castillo found himself among the ruins of Tenochtitlán only slightly wealthier than when he arrived to Mexico; a financial state common to many soldiers, who accused Cortés of taking more loot than his agreed fifth of the Aztec treasury. Certainly, the land and gold compensation paid to many of the conquistadores proved a poor return for their investment of months of soldiering and fighting across Mexico and the Anahuac Valley. Another interpretation of The True History of the Conquest of New Spain proposes that the author was one of several family relatives of Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, the governor of Cuba, and mortal enemy of Cortés; many of whom later plotted against the conquistador Captain. Although the narrative thrust diminishes the Cortés–Díaz del Castillo relationship, contrary to the factual record, his complex relationship with Cortés, and the sub-ordinate captains, suggests that, although he represented the faction of Governor Velázquez de Cuéllar in the expedition, Bernal Díaz del Castillo fully honoured his personal and military loyalty to Hernán Cortés.


  • Controversy 1
  • Publication 2
  • Notes 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


Some historians have criticized the use of The True History of the Conquest of New Spain as a primary source due to Díaz del Castillo’s conflicts of interest,[2] and multiple inaccuracies,[3] including allegedly exaggerated accounts of human sacrifice by the Aztecs,[4] misunderstandings of their political organization and leadership models, and misinterpretations of the roles of women in Aztec societies.[5]


  • The True History of the Conquest of Mexico by Captain Bernal Diaz del Castillo, translated by Maurice Keatinge, London, 1800
  • Penguin Books edition, 1963, ISBN 0-14-044123-9


  1. ^ J.M. Cohen citing The Conquest of Mexico, by W.H. Prescott in The Conquest of New Spain J.M. Cohen, editor. London: Penguin Books, 1963. p. 9.
  2. ^ Adorno, Rolena (2007). The Polemics of Possession in Spanish American Narrative. New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 155. 
  3. ^ Restall, Matthew (2003). Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 
  4. ^ Hassler, Peter (December 1992). "Cutting Through the Myth of Human Sacrifice: The Lies of the Conquistadors". World Press Review 39 (12). 
  5. ^ Kellogg, Susan (2005). Weaving the Past: A History of Latin America's Indigenous Women from the Prehispanic Period to the Present. New York: Oxford University Press. 



External links

  • Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España. Tomo I, facsimile of 1939 edition, with introduction and notes by Joaquín Ramírez Cabañas, published Mexico City by Pedro Robredo; reproduced online at the Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes (Alicante, Spain, 2005) (Spanish)
  • Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España, online reproduction by Biblioteca Virtual Antorcha, based on the 1961 Fernández Editores edition, published Mexico City (Spanish)
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