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Emissaries Project
During this project, we will re-examine the meeting between Cortes and his men and
Moctezuma II and the Aztec of Tenochtitlan. Rather than encountering each other on the
road into the city, though, our humanities classes will attempt to summarize and present
the biases of each group to each other in a creative way.
Examining and Summarizing Bias
Class will be divided into two societies, the “Spanish” society and the “Aztec” society. The
Spanish society will review readings from Columbus’s journals and letters, and the excerpt
from Bernal Diaz’s Conquest of New Spain, p. 68-78. The Aztec group will review the “Native
Views of the Conquest of Mexico,” pages 73-78.
After reading these primary sources, and discussing them and the other secondary sources
we have used, each society will attempt to state the cultural assumptions, prejudices and
biases of its own culture, and think of ways to present these biases creatively. Each society
will be asked to make a short presentation on each of these three facets of their culture’s
perspective on the meeting of Spanish and Aztecs:
1. Goals: Hopes and Fears: What are the goals of Cortes and his men, or of
Moctezuma II and his city? What hopes do the two sides have for this meeting? What
are their fears? What would they like to avoid or prevent from happening?
2. Beliefs and Assumptions: What beliefs does each group have about themselves
and the group they are meeting? What do they assume about themselves and the
people they meet?
3. Strengths & Weaknesses: What advantages and disadvantages do each group
possess as they encounter each other?
Members of the larger “Spanish” and “Aztec” culture will find ways to creatively present
each of these three facets of cultural bias to the other culture (which they are supposedly
meeting for the first time.) There are a number of possible ways to present, for instance,
the goals of Cortes and the conquistadores. The Spaniards, for example, may choose to
write and deliver a speech in which they outline their goals to the Aztecs. The presentation
should be creative, and it should last no longer than 15 minutes for all three cultural facets.
The presentation should be based on information drawn directly from the readings about
the cultural biases, beliefs, and aims of each group. It is important to use SIGNS AND
SIGNIFIERS TO CONVEY YOUR MEANING. (Think of the crown/tiara that Columbus
and Guacanagarix exchange.)
Some other possible ways to present these facets of cultural bias include:
To create and present an infograph that helps explain one of the three facets.
To present and explain artifacts and signifiers, such as ceremonial clothing and
costumes, tools, weapons.
Artistic presentations, featuring music, dance, religious symbols, painting or
The Voyage:
The Spanish emissaries from each section of humanities will then leave their room, journey
to another section of humanities, and will present their cultural biases to the “Aztec
Culture” of another section of humanities. The “Aztec” sections of each class will greet the
incoming “Spanish” emissaries, listen to their presentation, and ask questions of the
visitors. The “native” Aztec sections will each then present their own goals, hopes and fears,
beliefs and assumptions, and strengths and weaknesses, before hearing questions from the
visiting “Spanish.”
A few words of advice:
Review and discuss the first person accounts of this encounter.
Try to come to a consensus about the cultural bias(es) of your group.
Divide each of the three facets among your group members and have each “subgroup” develop its own presentation.
Be prepared for questions.
You will have a total of two periods to develop your presentations, including reading the
first-person accounts, so make decisions quickly and use your time wisely.
Periods 3-4 will present during fourth period on Thursday; periods 7-8 will present during
Eighth period on Thursday.