The Conquest of America by Tzvetan Todorov Essay

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The Conquest of America
In the book The Conquest of America by Tzvetan Todorov, Todorov brings about an interesting look into the expeditions of Columbus, based on Columbus’ own writings. Initially, one can see Columbus nearly overwhelmed by the beauty of these lands that he has encountered. He creates vivid pictures that stand out in the imagination, colored by a "marvelous" descriptive style. Todorov gives us an interpretation of Columbus’ discovery of America, and the Spaniards’ subsequent conquest, colonization, and destruction of pre-Columbian cultures in Mexico and the Caribbean. Tzvetan Todorov examines the beliefs and behavior of the Spanish conquistadors and of the Aztecs. Initially, I thought of Columbus as
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What Cortes discovered was that the Tlaxcalans, a tribe which had been subsumed under the Aztec Empire, were still hostile enemies of the Aztecs. As a result, Cortes was able to convince them to wage war against the Aztecs as the allies of the Spanish. Controlling information about the enemy was crucial as evidenced in both examples. Generally, it was only the Spanish who had the interpreters and therefore an understanding of their opponent, which gave them a distinct military advantage. Therefore, translators played an important role in the conquest; one which some scholars argue was the key factor in the Spanish victory. Todorov claims that "the effective conquest of information leads to the ultimate collapse of the Aztec empire."(Todorov 103). In the middle section of the book Todorov gives a detailed analysis of this stunning historic event and shows that Cortes' victory was not necessarily due to any great military achievement, instead it was mostly the result of the Aztec's refusal to mount any kind of an effective defense until it was too late. Therefore, it was Montezuma's uncertainty, born of his own religious belief that led to the sudden collapse of the Aztec empire. The problem of translation was another which caused much dispute as to whether indoctrination should be done in Indian languages. Many words, especially in the religious vocabulary,