Discovery and Conquest of Mexico and New Spain. Vol 1
Bernal Díaz del Castillo (1492 – ca. 1580) was a conquistador, who wrote an eyewitness account of the conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards under Hernán Cortés, himself serving as a rodelero under Cortés. Born in Medina del Campo (Spain), he came from a family of little wealth and he himself had received only a minimal education. He sailed to Tierra Firme in 1514 to make his fortune, but after two years found few opportunities there. Much of the native population had already been killed by epidemics and there was political unrest. So he sailed to Cuba, where he was promised a grant of Indian slaves. But that promise was never fulfilled, leading Díaz, in 1517, to join an expedition being organized by a group of about 110 fellow settlers from Tierra Firme and similarly disaffected Spaniards. They chose Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, a wealthy Cuban landowner, to lead the expedition. It was a difficult venture, and although they discovered the Yucatán coast, by the time the expedition returned to Cuba they were in disastrous shape.<br> <br> Nevertheless, Díaz returned to the coast of Yucatán the following year, on an expedition led by Juan de Grijalva, with the intent of exploring the newly discovered lands. Upon returning to Cuba, he enlisted in a new expedition, this one led by Hernán Cortés. In this third effort, Díaz took part in one of the legendary military campaigns of history, bringing an end to the Aztec empire in Mesoamerica. During this campaign, Díaz spoke frequently with his companions in arms about their experiences, collecting them into a coherent narration. The book that resulted from this was Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España (English: The True History of the Conquest of New Spain). In it he describes many of the 119 battles in which he claims to have participated, culminating in the fall of the Aztec Empire in 1521.