Hernan Cortes was proud of his conquest. His ambition had taken him all the way from his country, Spain, across the rage of the oceans, to the Caribbean islands. Along with his men, Cortes invaded each of the islands and established Spanish rule over them. More significantly, he had exterminated the entire native Caribbean population in just about twenty years. The Spaniards imported African slaves to fill the vacuum left by the extinction of the Caribbean people. Slaves will not rebel, Cortes knew that. Every bit of rebellion is wiped out by the time the slaves reach their destination from their homeland. Long voyage and excruciating torture. Homeland becomes an impossible dream. A dead dream. Dead dreams hang heavily in the memory like taunting disgraces. They emasculate the best of men. Then there is the physical pain. Together they, the disgrace and the pain, kill the soul. Then there’s only the body left. Body without a soul is a slave. Cortes was the master of slaves and slavery.
Hernan Cortes marched proudly along with his men to the palace of the Aztec Emperor. He had convinced the local people that he was an Ambassador of the Great King of Spain. It was a lie, of course. Conquests sail on waves of falsehood. Cortes was leading an independent expedition of greedy adventurers. The King of Spain would have asked “Cortes, who?” if he was told about this new Ambassador of his. But the King would only be happy to know about the new colonies that he could take over. The King’s greed is far more ravenous than the adventurers’. Nothing surpasses the longings of political aspirations.
The natives escorted Cortes to the Palace holding up censers in which burnt fragrant incense. In the vanity that is the essence of every conqueror, Cortes assumed that the incense was a mark of divine honour. Incense was burned in thuribles in the churches of Spain during religious ceremonies.
Little did Cortes know that the natives were warding off the foul smell that emanated from the bodies of their guests.
The Aztecs thought that they were being visited by the demons. Foul-smelling demons which carried fire-spitting weapons.
The demons gained entry into the Aztec Palace by offering friendship. Once inside, the demons killed the Emperor’s bodyguards and took the Emperor hostage.
A country is what its king is. When the Emperor became a captive, the entire people became captive.
Demons flourish when the people are held captive.
Culture, cried the new master. Culture with all its smells marched into the Aztec lands. The Spanish King’s soldiers arrived. Priests arrived. New flags fluttered on posts. A new god stepped out of the ship.
The Aztecs did not know that gods of the demons were more hungry than the demons themselves. The Aztecs did not know that the demons and their gods had exterminated entire races of people in their neighbourhood. Ignorance has to pay heavy prices. The Aztecs paid them.