The sun on my face brought with it long awaited warmth into my chilled bones. On the Christian calendar it was officially spring with Easter Sunday just two weeks off, but the past winter had been harsh and cold and this was the first warm day of many yet to come. I sat on a low stool, my back against the ancient, dead brick in the afternoon heat, my mind wandering back over the years as I waited for my executioners.
They would come for me soon, the men of New Spain, with great clamor and glory to exorcise me, blindly believing by that act they themselves would be absolved of their unspeakable sins. I had known them all, had marched with them in triumphant and in defeat, but they were friends no longer Ė if ever they were. They were part of the great Spanish conquest of the New World, yet I knew them long ago, at the very beginning. I knew that their faith and their cries for Santiago, our own St. James, were no more than a thin disguise for their unspeakable lust for gold and riches. As now I know my fate and have accepted it as Godís will.
I am 63 years of age and have lived isolated from the realm of the Spanish conquest for the past ten years. This monastery, built in the ancient city of Quivira, has been home and haven to me all these years since I left their service. While time is often kind to many men, it has been a cruel companion to me. Today I am bent and crippled like a man with twice my years and I swear death alone can free me from this misery.
I spoke out against their outrages years ago, so they cut out my tongue. I tried to run from them to spread the word of their atrocities and they crippled me. I had seen too much, knew too much, could identify those so foully guilty, that they blinded me; but fear of their God, of my God and my place with our God, kept them from killing me.
Until today. For now they realized that I still had my hands, and that my fingers could hold a quill, and so I wrote of it all. My writings reached Spain and were read by the church as well as King Charles himself. All was denied by the Conquistadors but they could no longer allow me to speak out with my quill. My hands and mind had been busy. They had destroyed most of my body but my mind had not broken yet, and thank the Lord God, my hand could still write. And so I wrote everything I remembered, everything that I had witnessed. Everything that had made me cry unto my Lord, Why?
My first view of New Spain was over forty years ago as a novice friar in the year of our Lord 1518. Charles 1st had just ascended to the throne, replacing the Holy Catholic duo of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, the woman known to history as the lofty soul who started the deadly Inquisition which sent more innocents to their death than any war on European soil. Accepting the dual papacy, Charles became Charles V in 1517. By then I was in the service of the Friarís Minor, a Franciscan order from Spain and along with the great Father De Olmedo, the good Fray Juan de la Casas and several other priests, was with Don Hernando Cortes when he first sailed from Cuba. He was then viceroy of Cuba, one of the richest men on the island and yet he hungered for more. Stories of the Mexicanas and the Aztecs, of gold, wealth and fabulous cities that streamed into the sky, bedecked with flowers and avenues of water, fired his imagination and drove his very being until he was appointed by Governor Velasquez as Captain-General of the fleet. He thus became the admiral blessed to seek out and conquer this New World.
I can see it now as clearly as that day when we first caught sight of the land of the Mexicas and the mighty Aztecs. It was many lifetimes ago, so it seems to me now, many civilizations, languages, cities and people ago. What was lost here in the Conquest will never be witnessed again in this world.
To set records right, perhaps to atone for my part in this, I have taken quill in hand over the past years in exile to give my account of the conquest of the New World.
Conquistadors they called themselves. Oh yes, they were. Conquerors of many civilizations, civilizations far greater than their own and all for the glory of God. So they say. So they have written it.
But it was not Godís glory they sought, it was gold, riches, land, women, power; all the lusts of man. Their names roll off my pen like a roll call of the damned. Cortes, de Alvarado, Ortiz, Alonso de Avila, Pizarro and his brothers, Coronado and the great Viceroy himself, Mendoza and Zummarraga, the most Holy of Men.
Fools. For I knew them all, I knew what truly drove them.
This is their story.