La culpa es de los Tlaxcaltecas (The Tlaxcaltecas are to blame)

Title taken from a short story by Elena Garro, published in 1964 as part of the collection La Semana de Colores (The Week of Colours)

This map demonstrates the area of influence of the Triple Alliance at the peak of its power just prior to its subjugation by the Spanish. Note the area close to the centre of the map showing the area controlled by the Tlaxcalans. The area controlled by the fiercely independent Tlaxcallans comprised some 200 semi-autonomous villages united by their hatred of the Mexica. The Aztecs tried repeatedly to conquer and subjugate them but always failed. They were however able to cause much grief to the people of Tlaxcala through trade blockages. The successes of Hernán Cortés in defeating the Aztecs was greatly boosted by his alliance with two great lords of Tlaxcala, Xicotencatl the Elder and Maxixcatzin.

The Tlaxcalans fought alongside the Spanish for two years because Cortés had promised to help rid them of their mortal enemies the Aztecs. It is estimated that at least 250,000 Tlaxcalans were present at the siege of Tenochtitlan.  

This meme kind of says it all

Eventually, the Tlaxcalans saw that the Spanish were a greater threat than the Mexica. Xicohténcatl Axayacatzin (Xicotencatl the Younger) had been wary of the Spanish from the beginning. He did not believe that the Spanish were gods but merely greedy mortals and led several unsuccessful ambush attempts on them before he was reined in by the ruling council. After it became apparent to all the threat the Spanish truly represented he tried to openly break with them in 1521 and was ordered publicly hanged by Cortés. Today Xicohténcatl Axayacatzin is considered a symbol of resistance against Spanish colonization.

The death of Xicotencatl the Younger

It was also at this time that La Malinche (1) entered the mythology of Mexico. Malinalli was the noble born daughter of an Aztec lord but fell upon hard times when her father died and she was sold into slavery. Through a series trades she ended up in the possession of a Mayan lord. Malinalli was an intelligent woman and polyglot. She spoke Nahuatl and several Mayan dialects. Malinalli was given to Cortés as a gift and soon became a valuable asset when her knowledge of languages was discovered by her captors. She, along with Jerónimo de Aguilar (2) was able to translate from Nahautl into Mayan (and then into Spanish, courtesy of de Aguilar) which provided Cortés a tactical advantage he would not have had otherwise. (See Post on Malinche)

  1. Malintzin, Malinalli, Manilal, Malinulli. Different sources list different spellings. She was also known as Doña Marina.
  2. De Aguilar was a Spanish priest that had been shipwrecked on the coast of Cozumel eight years before Cortés arrived. He spent some time as slave of the Yucatan Mayans before escaping and living with another, friendlier, group. He was, by this time, equipped to speak Mayan along with his native Spanish.

I however am not speaking of the story “La culpa es de los Tlaxcaltecas” which is the story of a woman who time travels between the time of the Spanish conquest and the 1960’s. The story examines woman’s role in society and the burden of blame through a re-examination of the myth of La Malinche. Malinche was said to have been instrumental both in the downfall of México and the creation of the mixed blood mestizo peoples through her betrayal of indigenous Mexican people to the Spanish. I speak more of the tongue in cheek joke (1) that nudges at the responsibility of the Tlaxcallan warriors and ruling class that sided with the Spanish to defeat the Mexica and bring an end to the Aztec empire.

  1. in a fatalistic, self deprecating sense of humour

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