Author photo. Bust of Bernal Diaz, Medina del Campo, Spain.  Photo by José-Manuel Benito / Wikimedia Commons.

Bust of Bernal Diaz, Medina del Campo, Spain. Photo by José-Manuel Benito / Wikimedia Commons.

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Bernal Díaz del Castillo (1495–1584) served under Cortés through the entire Mexican campaign, and his narrative, one of only four extant firsthand accounts, is both an invaluable hirstorical document and a spectacular epic. He was with Cortés when the latter sank the ships, thus committing the small band of conquistadors irrevocably to the Conquest; he was privy to the counsels of the leaders and was at hand when Montezuma was made a prisoner in his own palace. Bernal Díaz fought in over a hundred battles and skirmishes against an enemy who made living sacrifices of their prisoners. These things he saw and recorded in a bold blunt voice whose immediacy, in Maudslay’s classic translation, reaches across the centuries to invite readers to witness for themselves the horrors and wonders of the initial, apocalyptic clash between two great civilizations. Edited from the only exact copy of the original manuscript (and published in Mexico) by Genaro Garcia. (L)
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