LIENZO DE TLAXCALA, Facsimile, n.p., ca. 1890
This portfolio contains a series of forty-two colorplates with approximately eighty images. These two sheets of illustrations reproduce portions of a mural cycle detailing the conquest of Mexico and post-conquest explorations of it. The originals in the royal houses of the Tlaxcalans were completed by 1560. They were painted by Tlaxcalan artists and represent an Indian sensibility, integrating the Indian and Spanish components of Cortés' forces.
Image 5 (top): The entrance to Chalco, on the way to the Aztec capital. The single Spaniard is accompanied by three Tlaxcalan soldiers, plus an Indian carrier. With few exceptions the murals depict the Spanish on horseback armed with lances, as in this scene. The Spanish use of guns or cannons was rarely illustrated. The dog is one of the oversized mastiffs accompanying the Spaniards.
Image 6 (bottom): The meeting of Cortés and Moctesuma. Doña Marina (Malinche), the translator, is a prominent figure in this and other portions of the murals. Moctesuma's attendants suggest the numerical difference in forces.
This image is from the "Lienzo de Tlaxcala", created by the Tlaxcalans to remind the Spanish of their loyalty to Castile and the importance of Tlaxcala during the Conquest. The text mixes European and native styles and includes anachronisms, such as the European-style chairs included in this image.
Tlaxcalan forces accompanied the Spaniards on post-conquest explorations of northern Mexico. Shown here are two scenes from the 1522 exploration led by Cristóbal de Olid, one of Cortés' most trusted lieutenants.
Image Forty-eight (top): Entrance into Guadalajara. The Indians are carrying their traditional obsidian-tipped war clubs.
Image Forty-nine (bottom): Entrance into Tototlán, in modern Colima. The Tlaxcalans have adopted Spanish swords, while maintaining their traditional battle headdresses.
The conquest of the Aztec empire is portrayed in legend as the victory of a few hundred valiant Spaniards, equipped with several dozen horses and an equally small number of guns and cannons, over thousands of hostile Indians. Writing in 1791 the Mexican scientist and journalist, Joseph Antonio Alzate y Ramirez, urged his readers, "Let us not say that a few hundred Spaniards conquered New Spain. Let us say, rather, that powerful armies united and inspired by the gallant and enterprising Spanish battled against the Aztecs, and then we will not be untrue to history." The Tlaxcalans were the main Indian allies of the Spanish. Without their extensive support the conquest would not have been possible.