Sunday, 19 June 2016


Though it might be safe to assume that the Aztec Empire of Mesoamerica was already doomed by the arrival of Europeans bringing Old World diseases with them without the ambitions of Conquistador Hernándo Cortés, it is hard to say what fortunes hinged on the ingenuity of one of expedition’s (entrada) artillery units, named Francisco Montoya.
While most of the slaughter and abject destruction was perpetrated by the Spanish with what would have been traditional weapons at the time (swords and arrows and missionaries that the natives knew and could repulse) and was indeed somewhat facilitated by client states of the Aztecs (a modern fiction to simplify a rather politically complex and strained alliance that referred to a mythological region called Aztlan somewhere in the north where the people had migrated from—sort of like metaphorically calling England Avalon), willing to throw off the yoke of Tenochtitlan, who’d just consolidated power only six decades before the arrival of Columbus, and sided with the Spanish.

Possibly too was an unfortunate series of coincidences and the way their calendar was constructed to stir superstition and resignation, which certainly could not compete with Spanish manifest destiny and prospecting for treasure. Although equipped with plenty of munitions, canons and muskets, the primitive gunpowder that had recently been communicated to western Europe from the Chinese was in short supply. The prepared mixture was unstable and unsuitable for sea-voyages, and though most of the constituent ingredients were available in situ, sulfur was a rare commodity. Our clever Francisco Montoya (prepare to die), determined not to have brought all these weapons for nothing, led a daring mission into the caldera of an active volcano, Popocatepeti (probably sacred to the Aztecs and a place of worship and sacrifice), to collect sulfur and produce enough gunpowder to compel the Aztecs with shock and awe to capitulate in less than two years (heady with the recent and parallel achievement of the Spanish crown called the Reconquista, recapturing lands on the Iberian peninsula that had been under Muslim control for seven centuries) after the expedition arrived in 1519.