HERNANDO CORTES by William Jay Jacobs


Email this review


Cortes was by any standard a bold and ingenious military leader, and Jacobs has adapted contemporary accounts into a suspenseful and exciting history of his many close calls and victories against seemingly impossible odds -- from the defeat of the Tabascans and Tlascalans and the taking of Montezuma as a hostage to near extermination on la noche triste and resurgence at Otumba and the final subjugation of Tenochtitlan. Whether one also regards Cortes as a hero and sees his conquest, which killed thousands and brought centuries of widespread slavery and economic exploitation by Spain, as probably (in Jacobs' carefully hedged terms), the substitution of ""a higher form of civilization for a lower one"" is something else again. The saga is compelling and the old prints and maps reproduced in brown and white lend a mood of dignified authenticity, but Jacobs' slight sympathy for Aztec or Indian civilization in general (he lists accomplishments, but stresses its ""frighteningly barbaric"" aspects) leads him to a puzzled acknowledgement that post-revolutionary Mexicans haven't shared his admiration for Cortes -- ""history shows that people do not always welcome change, even a change for the better."" Especially some kinds of change.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1974
Publisher: Franklin Watts