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Films >> Otra Conquista, La (The Other Conquest) (1998) >>

1) In Mexico we are force-fed many of the mythical episodes from our history. Throughout childhood, we are told certain stories over and over until they lose all meaning. . . . Film gives us a wonderful opportunity to add new dimensions to such stagnant historical models. A good historical film can make people feel as if they're experiencing those events for the first time, perhaps even understanding them in a new way. It was my hope in making The Other Conquest to do just that: To shed new light on old events which may have come to seem so familiar that we are deceived into mistaking familiarity for clarity. (Salvador Carrasco 166)

2) Chiapas raised from the hidden depths of our continental history an issue that our society seeks to forget: The Conquest of the Americas that left millions dead is the foundation on which our civilizations are built. To call the bloody events that began 500 years ago a genocide potentially undermines the legitimacy of all that many Americans, Mexicans, and Westerners hold dear. The integrity of our institutions seems to depend more on denying, rather than candidly confronting our original sins. Instead of calling it genocide, it is renamed a "tragic misunderstanding," a "dark chapter of the past," something regrettable but finished, not the responsibility of the present generation. (Tom Hayden 3)

3) And as with those stagnant myths that we are meant to accept without thinking, the official history of the Conquest was not meant to be questioned because of the embarrassing things that it might say about the situation of Mexican Indians today. The truth is: The Conquest is not over. And it's not perfectly clear who is doing the conquering. (Salvador Carrasco 167)

4) Having bided their time, having awaited the opportune moments, the Spaniards came forth to slay us . . . . They surrounded us dancers and then set upon the drummers. They first struck a drummer; they severed both his hands and cut off his head, which fell to the ground some distance away. Then they charged the crowd with their iron lances and hacked us with their iron swords. They slashed the backs of some, so that their entrails poured out. They cut to pieces the heads of others -- pulverized them. They hacked at the shoulders of others, splitting their bodies open; or at their shanks, or at their thighs, or at their abdomens, breaking out their entrails, which dragged as they tried to run. But if any tried to run, the Spaniards stabbed and struck them down. A few were able to escape over the wall . . . . Some of us, playing dead, crawled in among the bodies of the slain and escaped . . . . The blood of the young warriors ran like water; it gathered in pools. A foul stench arose from and spread about the carnage. Blood and entrails lay everywhere. (Sahagun, Aztec account of the massacre at Templo Major 43-44)

5) As a result of the Conquest, the surviving Aztecs found themselves in a state of cultural orphanage, having lost their families, homes, language, temples, and gods -- a situation that hasn't changed much in the intervening five centuries. (Salvador Carrasco 167)

6) Las Casas, who presented Columbus in the best possible light by continually excusing and justifying his actions and perceptions, adopts a much more critical attitude toward Cortes. . . . Cortes appears in the Historia de las Indias as a complete opportunist who did nothing but use everything and everybody for his own purposes. (Beatriz Pastor Bodmer 80)

7) Topiltzin manages to escape on a personal crusade to conquer Her in whose name inconceivable things have been done. If he absorbs the Virgin's powers, if he fuses with her, redemption will follow. For Topiltzin, to conquer is not to destroy but to appropriate the main symbol of his oppressors in order to regain what he had lost. So who is in fact conquering whom? (Salvador Carrasco 168)

8) By revealing a Christian God with a special predilection for Juan Diego and his people, Guadalupe thus makes possible the evangelization of America. Without Guadalupe, argues Virgilio Elizondo, there would be no Mexico. Without the hope engendered by La Morenita and her message, Mexico would not have emerged, like the phoenix, from the ashes of the conquest. This direct, historical connection between Guadalupe and Mexican identity is an important source of the passion with which her people celebrate and venerate La Morenita. In Guadalupe, the Mexican people have come to know the reality and power of Christ’s resurrection, not as an abstract belief, but as a historical reality. (Roberto Goizueta 145)

9) The Other Conquest attempts to explore the remarkable process of the Spanish Conquest on several levels, along with its relevance to modern Mexico, which seems all the more poignant today, as the Zapatistas have peacefully marched into the capital. . . . It doesn't take much knowledge of Mexican or Latin American history to see the obvious parallels between Topiltzin's story and the contemporary plight of Indians. (Salvador Carrasco 168-69)

10) [I] write the work [the Short Account] you have before you in order to help ensure that the teeming millions in the New World, for whose sins Christ gave His life, do not continue to die in ignorance, but rather are brought to knowledge of God and thereby saved. My deep love of Castile has also been a spur, for I do not wish to see my country destroyed as a divine punishment for sins against the honour of God and the True Faith. . . . for until now there has been an effective conspiracy of silence about what has really been happening. . . . crimes that threaten to bring a collapse of civilization and to presage the end of the world. (Bartolome de las Casas 127)

11) Our main intention was to make a modest contribution by heightening interest in a topic so vast that it deserves to be treated with a multiplicity of voices, stories, and points of view. I simply wanted people to talk about the Conquest. Historically, Mexico has always been a land of repressed voices. (Salvador Carrasco 169)

12) Mary offered not judgment and punishment but sympathy and mercy. In her role as intercessor, she intervened at the moment of death to ensure that the souls of her devotees would be admitted to heaven. She frequently intervened in the affairs of the living as well, saving her devotees from peril. She served the Nahuas as a divine protector and advocate. (Louise Burkhart 211)

13) A movie creates a self-contained world that can bring complex situations to life in a very accessible way; more so than the hollow retelling of them that we get as part of the official discourse. Movies -- and the self-contained realities they create -- imprint themselves indelibly on the mind. And it's not even necessary to understand all the nuances. We are captivated by unforgettable moments -- images and events that won't ever leave us. People sit in the dark and pay unconditional attention for two hours. You can't skim a movie. You have to watch every frame. Not only are people immersed in that world, but they do so collectively, creating a new intimacy, a new community of sharing and belonging -- in effect a new culture unique to that film. Ideally, every filmmaker should feel a tremendous sense of moral responsibility before, during, and after undertaking an effort to, in effect, play God and create a new world. (Salvador Carrasco 176-77)

14) The shrine, rebuilt several times in centuries to follow is today a basilica, the third highest kind of church in Western Christendom. Above the central altar hangs Juan Diego’s cloak with the miraculous image. . . . The shrine of Guadalupe was, however, not the first religious structure built on Tepeyac; nor was Guadalupe the first female supernatural associated with the hill. In pre-Hispanic times, Tepeyac had housed a temple to the earth and fertility goddess Tonantzin, Our Lady Mother, who—like the Guadalupe—was associated with the moon. The Temple, like the basilica was the center of large scale pilgrimages. (Eric Wolf 35)

15) So what is the other conquest? In one sense, it is the conquest carried out by the indigenous people, who appropriated European religious forms and made them their own. . . . That reverse conquest is embodied in Topiltzin's melding of the Aztec Mother Goddess with the Catholic Virgin Mary and in his Christlike self-sacrifice, which makes him transcend his enemies and become a symbolic figure. (Salvador Carrasco 176)

16) But if Las Casas's labours had no lasting impact upon colonial legislation, his influence at a less immediate level was immense. He was and remains to this day the moral conscience of the "enterprise of the Indies." Not only did he agitate for the rights and better treatment of the Indians but he also defended their claim . . . to be regarded as human beings. (Anthony Pagden xxvii)

17) It never ceases to surprise me the way many of us refuse to acknowledge events such as these in the Conquest and those of Chiapas. People treat them as if they were taking place in some obscure, remote land. . . . We deny that it happened, but deep inside we know it happened in our own country, in our backyard, in our bedrooms, and inside our heads. And the denial, as much as the events themselves, is tearing us apart as a nation, even as it forces us to confront who we really are. (Salvador Carrasco 177)

18) The second feature that complements Cortes’s self-portrait as a fictional military hero in the Letters is his role as a politician. This role is founded on his ability to use negotiations as a means of making very considerable advances in the conquest, while at the same time strengthening his military position through the establishment of alliances. Violence and aggressiveness are never presented as the best approach to conquest, but only as the last resort after all other possible forms of negotiation and persuasion have failed. Whereas Cortes the warrior had destroyed and killed mercilessly whenever it seemed necessary, Cortes the politician seduces everyone, Mexican or Spaniard. (Beatriz Pastor Bodmer 90)

19) We all have a bit of Topiltzin in us. We look within and around us and cannot figure out what it means to be Mexican. Then we look in the mirror and realize that we're the product of a tragic, bloody birth. If you think the Spanish exterminated the Aztecs, look around you. They're still here. (Salvador Carrasco 177)

20) One facet of our schizophrenic American psyche is the capacity to annihilate people who stand in our way and then deny it. Interlaced with this terrifying frontier mentality is an opposite impulse, the democratic spirit of resistance to the oppression of monarchs and tyrants. Unable to reconcile these impulses, we prefer to forget the destruction from which democracy was built. Or we rationalize that, despite Indian wars and slavery, our "manifest destiny" has been to steadily dispense freedom and democracy to the world instead of expanding an empire. (Tom Hayden 3-4)

21) The events in Chiapas have made the Damians [the actor who plays Topiltzin] of our world come out of the woodwork -- and the woods. We try, consciously or unconsciously, but we can no longer make them disappear, and attempting to do so only makes them that much more visible. Mexico is entering a new political era. One of the main challenges, the true meaning of success, will be whether Indians, who have moved invisibly among us these 500 years, at last become not only a part of our country's renovated psyche and conscience, but also a key force in its everyday decision making process. And then, only then, will there be no need to wear those ski masks whose underlying purpose is to emphasize the eyes we dared not meet, perhaps not because they were invisible after all, but because we were too afraid they'd stare us down. Now we have the unique opportunity to look into those eyes again, regain our sight as a nation, and at long last, restore a fundamental part of our identity. (Salvador Carrasco 177)

22) Can we Mexicans know ourselves without facing the tragic past from which we originate? . . . We are the children of tragedy and denying it only perpetuates it. (Ignacio Solares, qtd, in Chorba 38)

23) [When the Spaniards arrived,] the face of the American continent changed forever. . . . Many of the things that happened back then are still unresolved five centuries later. We are still seeking our identity. (Salvador Carrasco, qtd. in Chorba 59)

24) From whence comes the legitimacy of a country when it denies its father, the Spanish rapist, and condemns its mother the indigenous traitor? (Carlos Fuentes, qtd. in Chorba 38)

25) I think we sometimes fall into the trap of exalting mestizaje and syncretism as if they were themselves values, as if they were more or less peaceful cultural processes, carried out within a framework of symmetrical power -- as if Mexican identity fused two cultures of equal condition. . . . We wish to highlight . . . the violence implicit in such processes. (Salvador Carrasco, qtd. in Chorba 59)

26) Worst of all, the West was oblivious to the oblivion the Zapatistas were fighting. One mindset floated in the bubble of modernity while the other tried to shake off a 500-year nightmare. But then on January 1, 1994 -- on the very first day of the North American Free Trade Agreement -- came an armed uprising by the stones the builders forgot, in a town named for Christopher Columbus himself. Out of oblivion came thousands of masked Mayans, invoking the cultural identity of the indigenous and the land reforms of Zapata. (Tom Hayden 79)

27) I do hope that despite everything, the ending of the film feels uplifting, and obviously not in a naive way but in that there might be the possibility of understanding and peaceful co-existence if we learn to respect our differences. I believe that Topiltzin's death has a mythological dimension. Topiltzin/Tomas, the Aztec scribe, the apostle Christian convert, the rebellious yet conciliatory protagonist, conquers the divine mother, Tonantzin/Virgin Mary. He is sacrificed and becomes one with her. This is the moment of the sacred birth of the hybrid Guadalupe, the other conquest, if you will, of the human spirit. (Salvador Carrasco, DVD commentary)

28) The ancestral battle: The conflict between Cuauhtemoc and Hernan Cortes lives in our blood, where neither is able to defeat the other. (Luis Villoro, qtd. in Chorba 39)

29) Sure, we all know there was a military defeat, it was a genocide, they had better weapons, whatever. But I think, spiritually and psychologically, it was a different story. I think there was another conquest, a conquest that has a lot to do with how the indigenous culture managed to survive and preserve their beliefs and cultural identity. See, when I was told in school that the Aztecs just disappeared, that they were annihilated, I didn’t buy that. I think that they survived. But they had to survive in creative and ingenious ways, because when they take everything away from you, you have to become ingenious, you have to become creative. You have to sometimes worship your own gods even though they have a new face. And that’s exactly what the archaeology proves. For instance, when they were digging the subway in Mexico City, under the Spanish columns they found the faces of Aztec gods. Imagine the power of the belief of these Indians who are building the Christian churches, that they find a way of putting the reliefs of their own gods on the base of the columns. That’s the part that fascinates me. (Salvador Carrasco)

30) The history of Mexico is the history of a man seeking his parentage, his origins. . . . He wants to go back beyond the catastrophe he suffered: he wants to be a sun again, to return to the center of that life from which he was separated one day. (Was that day the Conquest? Independence?) Our solitude has the same roots as religious feelings. it is a form of orphanhood, an obscure awareness that we have been torn from the All, and an ardent search: a flight and a return, an effort to re-establish the bonds that unite us with the universe. (Octavio Paz 20)

31) I think [Octavio] Paz is right in suggesting that la Virgen de Guadalupe is the answer to the orphaned state of the indigenous after the conquest. (Salvador Carrasco, qtd. in Chorba 63)

32) Civilizations are built by those who share cultural beliefs and ideals. To us, human sacrifice may seem insane. But I urge you, observe how content that princess is, how accepting she is of her fate. The amount of faith is enormous. She even gets a mushroom. How awesome is that. And if that helps you explain the universe, fine, whatever works for you. Send your missionaries home, because statues of some dead woman are no better than piles of stones with a face on it. These cultures are doing the same thing separated by thousands of miles of ocean, although observing different dress codes. Cutting out someone's heart in order to keep your tribe safe versus burning at the stake because of your pagan beliefs. Both seem crazy to our 21st century senses, but maybe peace isn't the answer either. Cultures are completely subjective entities, and should never be judged, no matter how absurd. (Adam Kaufman, Lehigh University)

33) We have tried to imagine what this fascinating period of our history could have been like, full of complexities and ambiguities; how an indigenous man, faithful to his beliefs and traditions, would have reacted to the series of losses brought by the conquest, and how his cultural resistance would affect those around him. (Salvador Carrasco, qtd. in Chorba 64)

34) If the Guadalupe and the church provided an opiate for the Indian masses and reduced their will to resist the Spaniards, given the disorganization and psychosocial stress to which they were subject in the limen, it is difficult to see an alternative that offered more hope. It is better perhaps to comprehend the Guadalupe as another adaptive mechanism, much as was compadrazgo (Horstman and Kurtz 1979), by which the Indians were able to cope better with the changed environment of central Mexico. (Donald Kurtz 207)

35) Everything that has happened since the marvellous discoveries of the Americas . . . has been so extraordinary that the whole story remains incredible to anyone who has not experienced it at first hand. It seems, indeed, to overshadow all the deeds of the famous men of the past, no matter how heroic, and to silence all talk of other wonders of the world. Prominent among the aspects of this story which have caught the imagination are the massacres of the innocent peoples, the atrocities committed against them and, among other horrorific excesses, the ways in which towns, provinces, and whole kingdoms have been entirely cleared of their native inhabitants. (Bartolome de las Casas 3)

36) It [making this film] has a lot to do with being Mexican, of course. Since I first had use of both consciousness and conscience, I've been thinking about these things. I was born and raised in Mexico City. You just step out on the street there and you see things around you that make you wonder -- like social injustice and class disparity and the plight of indigenous people and so forth. You hear things in school that you question, such as that the Spaniards arrived and the Indians were happily converted overnight. Really, I think that even as a child you start wondering about this and say, “Wait a second, I’m not buying this. I don’t think it was quite like that.” These were sophisticated civilizations. There must have been resistance to the conquest. I’m sure there were people who struggled to preserve their cultural identity, their beliefs and their ideas. And yet I was being taught the opposite. That was very troubling. (Salvador Carrasco)

37) The Mexican venerates a bleeding and humiliated Christ, a Christ who has been beaten by the soldiers and condemned by the judges, because he sees in him a transfigured image of his own identity. And this brings to mind Cuauhtemoc, the young Aztec emperor who was dethroned, tortured and murdered by Cortes. (Octavio Paz 83)

38) Like all colonial ventures -- past, present, and future -- the Spanish conquest proved devastating in all ways to the indigenous population. Prior to the conquest it is estimated that between 15 and 25 million Indians lived in Mexico. But following the first century after the conquest, only 1.2 million Indians were left alive in Mexico -- a fatality rate of more than 90%. (Salvador Carrasco, DVD commentary)

39) His [Cortes’s] transformation from a rebel into a model is one of the immediate purposes of the Letters, and the pivot of the fictionalization process. Through a gradual process of self-mythification, Cortes is transformed into a model that functions as the central element linking the transformation of his rebellion into service—the first goal of Cortes’s fictional representation of the conquest—with the formulation of his ultimate goal: the creation of the political entity of New Spain under his expert leadership. (Beatriz Pastor Bodmer 81)

40) Providence, God, fate, historical necessity, or life's mutability -- whatever one calls that mysterious force that holds the strings of existence -- chooses mestizaje, the fusion of indigenous and European bloods. And, thus, from unhealed wounds, a new nation is born, leaving Indians on the fringes, trapped in a state of cultural orphanage. (Salvador Carrasco 168)

41) The reason the Christians have murdered on such a vast scale and killed anyone and everyone in their way is purely and simply greed. They have set out to line their pockets with gold and to amass private fortunes as quickly as possible so that they can then assume a status quite at odds with that into which they were born. Their insatiable greed and overweening ambition know no bounds. (Bartolome de las Casas 13)

42) It never ceases to amaze me the things that we do in the name of religion or of forcing our beliefs on others. In spite of everything The Other Conquest poses the possibility of understanding between different cultures through tolerance, a notion reflected in this quote of Elie Wiesel's: "If I respect the other for whatever the other is, and the other respects me for whatever I am, then there can be understanding between people." After all I believe Friar Diego understands what was going on with Topiltzin. Aren't the Virgin Mary and the Mother Goddess in essence one and the same? Maybe he and Topiltzin were indeed talking about the same thing all along, just calling it by different names. That is the tragedy of one culture trying to impose its beliefs on another one, that in doing so we pass value judgment on otherness rather than respect and learn from it and often miss that it's more what unites us then what separates us. All human beings no matter our race and origin share 99.9% of our DNA. (Salvador Carrasco, DVD commentary)

43) [I] observed that not a few of the people involved in this story had become so anesthetized to human suffering by their own greed and ambition that they had ceased to be men in any meaningful sense of the term and had become, by dint of their own wicked deeds, so totally degenerate and given over to a reprobate mind that they could not rest content with their past achievements in the realm of treachery and wickedness. (Bartolome de las Casas 3-4)

44) People always ask these questions: Was [Topiltzin] really converted or was he just pretending? Did he embrace the Virgin as the Virgin or did he just recover his own Aztec mother goddess? Well, exactly. These are the questions that I ask myself, not just about this character in the movie, I ask those questions about my country and my heritage. (Salvador Carrasco)

45) Then, in January 1994, came another opportunity to confront the meaning of the Conquest and prove that the West had learned that crushing native peoples was wrong. Here was the chance for reparation, for healing, for a new beginning. Here were thousands of Mayans in rebellion against what they called "oblivion". . . . [But] few wanted to question the Conquest itself, the nightmare of the American soul. (Tom Hayden 4)

46) We look at ourselves in the mirror and it’s like, “Who am I? Where do I come from? How come on the one hand we have dark skin and on the other we speak Spanish?” Sometimes we feel indigenous, sometimes we deny our indigenous roots. It’s very, very complex. And I think it’s very, very much a story about today. I think that’s the whole point of making a period film, by the way. If you’re going to make a period film, it had better speak about relevant contemporary issues. (Salvador Carrasco)

47) If the Chingada is a representation of the violated Mother, it is appropriate to associate her with the Conquest, which was also a violation, not only in the historical sense but also in the very flesh of Indian women. The symbol of this violation is Dona Malinche, the mistress of Cortes. It is true that she gave herself voluntarily to the conquistador, but he forgot her as soon as her usefulness was over. Dona Marina becomes a figure representing the Indian women who were fascinated, violated or seduced by the Spaniards. And as a small boy will not forgive his mother if she abandons him to search for his father, the Mexican people have not forgiven La Malinche for her betrayal. (Octavio Paz 86)

48) You cannot truly be considered a Mexican unless you believe in the Virgin of Guadalupe. (Carlos Fuentes, qtd in LaFaye)

49) The Spanish construed indigenous religion as “idolatry” and indigenous gods as “demons,” expressions of the devil. They set themselves the task of wiping out all traces of native religion and replacing it with Spanish Catholicism. To this end, they demolished all the temples they found, destroyed images, and burned the codices that enshrined local wisdom. They also effected a near-genocide of the indigenous people, reducing the population of Mesoamerica from an estimated twenty-five million in 1519 to one million by 1592, partly through warfare and exploitation of labor and partly through the inadvertent transmission of diseases from Europe to which indigenous peoples lacked immunity. (Rosemary Ruether 190)

50) I like the title, because it has that sort of multiplicity of connotations. My favorite one is that it’s the other conquest which has to do with cultural resistance. Because in the end, Topiltzin the protagonist, he recovers his mother goddess. Except now she has a new face. For me, that’s very important, that Topiltzin and Friar Diego were really talking about the same thing. But unfortunately, we kill one another because we call our beliefs by different names. Is there really a great difference between the mother goddess and the Virgin Mary? Those are the questions I would like people to ask. (Salvador Carrasco)

51) One may no longer consider himself a Christian, but you cannot truly be considered a Mexican unless you believe in the Virgin of Guadalupe. (Carlos Fuentes)

52) In all my research I found quite a bit of literature until August 13th 1521, when Cuahutemoc surrendered. Then [suddenly] there's a black hole of ten years. There's very little written on what happened in the following ten years. . . . I thought . . . what happened the morning after? We all know how it ended when Cuahutemoc surrendered, but imagine the psychological and emotional scars. (Salvador Carrasco, qtd in Haddu 164)

53) And when we saw all those cities and villages built in the water, and other great towns on dry land, and that straight and level causeway leading to Mexico, we were astounded. These great towns and cues and buildings rising from the water, all made of stone, seemed like an enchanted vision from the tale of Amadis. Indeed, some of our soldiers asked whether it was not all a dream. It is not surprising therefore that I should write in this vein. It was all so wonderful that I do not know how to describe this first glimpse of things never heard of, seen, or dreamed of before. (Bernal Diaz 214)

54) When we shout "Viva Mexico, hilos de la chingada" [son of a raped woman] we express our desire to live closed off from the outside world and, above all, from the past. In this shout we condemn our origins and deny our hybridism. The strange permanence of Cortes and La Malinche in the Mexican's imagination and sensibilities reveals that they are something more than historical figures: they are symbols of a secret conflict that we have still not resolved. (Octavio Paz 86-87)

55) The Indians [in Las Casas's Short Account] are characterized in images which suggest both Apostolic purity and natural innocence, just as the land they inhabit is always rich in natural wealth, "innocent" of human interference. . . . The Spaniards, by contrast, are described in the language used by the medieval chroniclers of the Arab conquerors of Christian Visigothic Spain. . . . This is at least one reason why Las Casas so rarely gives names to any of the "butchers" whose actions he chronicles with such care, for they are not men so much as attributes of savagery, their behavior having rendered what were once humans, like "us," into something wholly other. As Las Casas's own conversion had revealed to him, no man could participate in the carnage which was the conquest of America and still retain his innocence or, in the end, his humanity. (Anthony Pagden xl)

56) Something that I began to notice as the film progressed were its subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) similarities to the conquest of the Taino Indians in the film 1492. Besides the obvious mistreatment of the native population, I also found it interesting that both directors sacrificed an insensitive white population so that the one white "hero" could further stand out. Whether it was Columbus among a harsh Spanish regime or, in this case, the Friar among a harsh white population, I find it somewhat curious that, despite the obvious and blatant mistreatment of the native population, the directors still find it necessary to cast the light of heroism on a white person, as opposed to an underdog native. Is there a reason for this, perhaps a hidden motivation? Or is this simply indicative of our self-serving culture, where even today in 2010 we still do not feel as if we were at fault . . . (Brian Cohen, Lehigh University)

57) The Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies was the first and most bitter protest against the excesses of European colonization of the Americas, and its author, Bartolome de Las Casas, "Defender and Apostle to the Indians," the most controversial figure in the long and troubled history of Spain's American empire. In the four hundred years since his death he has been given many roles to play: the voice of a European Christian conscience raised against the casual slaughter of thousands of "barbarians" in a remote, barely imaginable quarter of the globe. . . . In Latin America he is still ubiquitous. Even in Spain, despite murmurings of protest from the Catholic reactionaries of the late nineteenth century, he has been hailed as the "authentic expression of the true Spanish conscience," in an attempt to explain away the destruction of the "Indian" peoples as a passing aberration in the nation's history. (Anthony Pagden xiii)

58) The question of origins, then, is the central secret of our anxiety and anguish. . . . We are alone. . . . We have fallen, and this fall -- this knowledge that we have fallen -- makes us guilty. Of what? Of a nameless wrong: that of having been born. (Octavio Paz 80)

59) God made all the peoples of this area, many and varied as they are, as open and as innocent as can be imagined. The simplest people in the world -- unassuming, long-suffering, unassertive, and submissive -- they are without malice or guile, and are utterly faithful and obedient both to their own native lords and to the Spaniards in whose service they now find themselves. Never quarrelsome or belligerent or boisterous, they harbour no grudges and do not seek to settle old scores; indeed, the notions of revenge, rancour, and hatred are quite foreign to them. At the same time, they are among the least robust of human beings. . . . It was upon these gentle lambs, imbued by the Creator with all the qualities we have mentioned, that from the very first day they clapped their eyes on them the Spanish fell like ravening wolves upon the fold, or like tigers and savage lions who have not eaten meat for days. (Bartolome de las Casas 9-11)

60) A Short Account was written in protest at a moment when it still seemed possible to reverse the damage Spanish colonization had done, when it still, to Las Casas at least, seemed possible that his "earthly paradise" might be transformed into the image of the primitive Apostolic Church. But he was already too late. By the time this book was published the destruction of the Indies was virtually complete. The Indians, their culture all but eradicated or forgotten, were already faced with the need either to become a lowly, marginalized part of the European colonial system or, as they continue to do in increasing numbers, to perish altogether. (Anthony Pagden xli)

61) The first seed for this film came to life on August 13, 1991. I remember the date so distinctly because it was the 470th anniversary of the fall of Mexico. I was living in New York, and I started writing a treatment about a young Aztec scribe who resists the Spanish conquest by appropriating a statue of the Virgin Mary. (Salvador Carrasco, DVD commentary)

62) Before this venture is concluded, gentleman, we will taste the joys of victory or the bitterness of defeat. Many will die in the days that lie ahead, but those who survive will one day return to their homeland rich in wisdom and gold, exonerated by his majesty, and forever secure in the knowledge that they have participated in the opening of a new world.

63) Topiltzin survives the massacre of the Great Temple by hiding under a corpse and awakening to a new world where he finds himself an orphan both literally and figuratively. What do you do when you are deprived of everything? Either you give up and lose your identity, or you do something to preserve who you are and what you believe in, no matter the cost. I was interested in telling a story of resistance, of counter-conquest, of the ingenious ways the human spirit can prevail against all odds. (Salvador Carrasco, DVD commentary)

64) I therefore concluded that it would constitute a criminal neglect of my duty to remain silent about the enormous loss of life as well as the infinite number of souls dispatched to Hell in the course of such "conquests" and so resolved to publish an account of a few such outrages [his Short Account] (and they can only be a few out of the countless number of such incidents that I could relate). (Bartolome de las Casas 6)

65) [A Short Account] was in the most immediate, most transparent sense of the word, an exercise in propaganda. Many of the stories which Las Casas told may, indeed, have literally been true. Some of them, the numbing round of killings, beatings, rapes and enslavements, certainly were. But others, such as the story of the Spaniard who stopped the mouths of the prisoners he was torturing with wooden bungs so as not to disturb his commander's siesta, have classical antecedents and constitute part of a recognizable strategy for arousing wonder in the reader. (Anthony Pagden xxxi)

66) I charge you, put this greed for gold out of your hearts. Open your eyes to what lies before you. Go forward not as conquerors but as men of God. The sun shines here as fair as in Spain. Let it shine on all men alike. Here there shall be neither master nor slave, no looking up nor looking down. But here all men shall be equal according to God's plan. The Lord has indeed blest this land. In its richness it may yet outvalue all the gold of Moctezuma. And in God's own time it will blossom forth under the course of Christianity, a haven for the weak, a refuge for the strong, with all the good of the old world and none of its ills. (Father Bartolome Romero in Captain from Castile)

67) Hernan Cortes is the man who conquered Mexico and, whether we like it or not, the founder of the Mexican mestiza nation. Mexico has always had a very complex relationship with Cortes. In many ways he is the unmentionable one. There's hardly an image or statue to be found of Cortes, and everything about him is a matter of controversy, including the fate of his bones. (Salvador Carrasco, DVD commentary)

68) It is time we stopped to reflect on the other costs: the blasphemous and dishonourable outrages committed against God and against divine law, and the countless souls, now beyond redemption, who burn in everlasting Hell as a direct result of the greed and the inhumanity of these Swabian -- or more properly -- swinnish -- butchers. (Bartolome de Las Casas 101)

69) The abbot of the Basilica, Reverend Guillermo Schulemburg, was quoted as suggesting that Juan Diego was “a symbol, not a reality.” This statement was enough to send shock waves throughout Mexico and the Mexican American community in the United States, eventually forcing Schulemburg’s resignation. (Roberto Goizueta 140)

70) As a result of the conquest, the surviving Aztecs found themselves in a state of cultural orphanage, a situation that hasn't changed much in the intervening five centuries. (Salvador Carrasco, DVD commentary)

71) The point of departure of Cortes’s fictionalized self-representation is the figure of a rebel who has taken defensive action to protect himself against legal punishment. But starting with the brief description of the destruction of the ships (at the beginning of the second letter), he gradually becomes a hero. For the narrative presents this rebel, acting out of a need to protect himself, as a prudent leader who knows what must be done to ensure the success of an enterprise construed as a “great service” to the king. This is the first stage in a metamorphosis that continues throughout the succeeding four letters as Cortes selects and refashions his material, adjusting it to present himself as the sum of thee virtues required for the successful realization of his plan and eliminating anything not functionally suited to his purpose. (Beatriz Pastor Bodmer 82)

72) Far from passing value judgments and showing the goodies and the badies, what we're trying to do here is portray complex characters, ones who are taking an active role in shaping their own destiny in the context of their culture, whether it be Aztec or Spanish. (Salvador Carrasco, DVD commentary)

73) To the extent that symbols articulate social relations, the miracle of Guadalupe may be understood as an attempt to resolve fundamental contradictions in the changing society of central Mexico, contradictions between Indian society and culture and Spanish society and culture, ecclesiastic authority and civil authority, Erasmian humanism and Aristotelian teleology, paganism and Christianity, justice and injustice. (Donald Kurtz 195)

74) The theme of sacrifice is prevalent in this film because it's fundamental to both Mexican and Spanish cultures. In fact, I believe that it's part of the common ground that allowed for mestazaje, the mixing of races, to happen. Some people like to point fingers at the practice of human sacrifice in Mesoamerican cultures as incontrovertible proof of Indians being bloodthirsty savages and forget that one of Christianity's main tenets is the act of self-sacrifice for the redemption of mankind. (Salvador Carrasco, DVD commentary)

75) The Guadalupe is important to Mexicans not only because she is a supernatural mother, but also because she embodies their major political and religious aspirations. To the Indian groups, the symbol is more than an embodiment of life and hope; it restores to them the hopes of salvation. We must not forget that the Spanish Conquest signified not only military defeat, but the defeat also of the old gods and the decline of the old ritual. The apparition of The Guadalupe to an Indian commoner thus represents on one level the return of Tonantzin. . . . On another level, the myth of the apparition served as a symbolic testimony that the Indian, as much as the Spaniard, was capable of being save, capable of receiving Christianity. (Eric Wolf 37)

76) I wanted to humanize Cortes rather than present a stereotypical villain. To look into Cortes's soul is to confront an inescapable part of our identity as a nation. The nature of the conquest of Mexico differs from other conquests in that the Indian population that survived the genocide was integrated to the new culture and religion. (Salvador Carrasco, DVD commentary)

77) The reinterpretation of the Virgin of Guadalupe as supporting the struggles for justice of the poor mestizos, the Indians, and women took on new creativity in the United States, where Chicanos as a whole see themselves as oppressed by the dominant Anglos. In the farmworkers’ strikes, led by Cesar Chavez, banners imprinted with the picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe led the movement of insurgent Mexican agricultural laborers. (Rosemary Ruether 218)

78) With other conquerors like Pizarro and Aguirre in South America, the worthwhile Indian was the dead Indian. But Cortes wanted them around, mind you, converted to Catholicism and at the base of the social pyramid, but this insured that the indigenous population survived. This doesn't make him a humanitarian or philanthropist but a shrewd politician who understood the advantage of being at the head of a new hybrid empire. (Salvador Carrasco, DVD commentary)

79) Everyone, young and old alike, who journeys to the New World is either openly or in secret a fortune-hunter. . . . That they serve their own ends while pretending to serve those of the Crown is something that not only damages the Spanish interest but also brings dishonour on the name of God and on that of the King. (Bartolome de las Casas 130)

80) Tecuichpo is a historical character about whom little is known and about whom I believe there is a certain shame in Mexico because Cortes abducted her and had her as a mistress in his palace. However, one thing I wanted to do in this film was reassess Tecuichpo, give her at least the benefit of the doubt and speculate on what she may have done from that unique position of power. After all, she is the only one with direct access to the man responsible for the demise of her people. . . . I wanted Tecuichpo to be strong, independent and have a definite sense of purpose, even in the most adverse circumstances. In my view this is the woman the conqueror of Mexico could never dominate. (Salvador Carrasco, DVD commentary)

81) I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness. In order to make your sins known to you I have mounted this pulpit. . . . This voice declares that you are in mortal sin, and live and die therein by reason of the cruelty and tyranny that you practice on these innocent people. Tell me, by what right or justice do you hold these Indians in such cruel and horrible slavery? By what right do you wage such detestable wars on these people who lived mildly and peacefully in their own lands, where you have consumed infinite numbers of them with unheard of murders and desolations? Why do you so greatly oppress and fatigue them, not giving them enough to eat or caring for them when they fall ill from excessive labors, so that they die or rather are slain by you, so that you may extract and acquire gold every day? And what care do you take that they receive religious instruction and come to know their God and creator, or that they be baptized, hear mass, or observe holidays and Sundays? Are they not men? Do they not have rational souls? Are you not bound to love them as you love yourselves? How can you lie in such profound and lethargic slumber? Be sure that in your present state you can no more be saved than the Moors or Turks who do not have and do not want the faith of Jesus Christ. (Antonio de Montesinos)

82) This scene entails the very first image that came to mind in the making of this film -- the idea of an Indian being flogged in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary. How could he possibly have anything but negative feelings toward that in whose name he was being hurt, and yet Mexico is a profoundly Catholic country, and millions of Indians, though not all, wholeheartedly embrace the new religion. What really happened? Could it be that the Indians found a way of appropriating the symbols and beliefs of the conquerors and turned them into their own? In which case who really conquered whom? (Salvador Carrasco, DVD commentary)

83) The portrayal of Cortes as a model governor [in his own report] focuses on two aspects. First, he is a compendium, in the style of Machiavelli’s prince, of all the ideal attributes of the governor of a newly founded state. Second, this new state, shaped entirely by the measures the ideal governor chooses, is a thoroughly unproblematical model of order, justice, and peace. (Beatriz Pastor Bodmer 93)

84) The idea of forced conversion, whether it be religion or political, is a contradiction of terms. The moment a people's sovereignty, free will, or human dignity is compromised our inherent equality as human beings is broken and resistance is not only natural but necessary. (Salvador Carrasco, DVD commentary)

85) To question the reality of Juan Diego is to question the reality of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and to question the reality of Guadalupe is, in turn, to deny the inherent dignity of the Mexican people; the two are inseparable symbols of God’s intimate, preferential love for the poor and marginalized peoples of our world. (Roberto Goizueta 149)

86) Part two of The Other Conquest takes place in 1531 and ends before what is known as the apparitions of the Virgin of Guadalupe. It's by no means essential that you know what the apparitions are in order to follow or understand this film, but it might actually add to your experience of it since there are many subtextual references to it. . . . I take this and respect it as what it is, an issue of faith, so rather than question its veracity what I have always been intrigued by is the profound spiritual and psychological effect that the Virgin of Guadalupe has had on Mexicans throughout our history. There must have been uncannily fertile ground so that whatever it is that happened in December of 1531 would have the effect it has had on the Mexican psyche. One of our foremost intellectuals, Octavio Paz, wrote that the Virgin of Guadalupe was a response of the imagination to the situation of orphanage in which the Indians found themselves after the conquest. (Salvador Carrasco, DVD commentary)

87) The Mexican cult of the Virgin of Guadalupe is often cited as a prototypical example of religious syncretism, the merging of Nahua (Aztec) and Spanish Catholic religious traditions, of Aztec mother goddess and Spanish Virgin. From these dual roots was formed a new cult figure , whose existence both validated and personified the mixture of peoples and cultures that gave rise to the Mexican nation. (Louise Burkhart 198)

88) Many people told me I was insane in casting a first-time non-actor in the lead role of the film, and others were frankly racist about it, including one of the three or four directors of the Mexican Institute of Cinema who turned down our film over the years, a record, I guess. The man in question warned me against casting Damian because he was, and I quote, too ugly and no one would ever go see a movie with an Indian protagonist. Why don't you use ______, he said, and then we'll be able to help you. Because he's white, blonde, green-eyed, and looks European, I replied, and this is the role of an Aztec scribe. Haven't you heard of make-up, he told me. That's the level we were dealing with. (Salvador Carrasco, DVD commentary)

89) As an indigenous man, Juan Diego internalized the belittling, dehumanizing image of the Amerindians promulgated by the Spaniards; like so many oppressed persons, he had learned self-hatred. He saw himself as, literally, a nobody who, therefore, could never truly “act” but could only be acted upon by others: he refers to himself as “a rope” and “a little ladder,” two tools that are used by other persons and whose sole value comes from their usefulness. Juan Diego had come to see himself as merely the object or instrument of someone else’s actions. (Roberto Goizueta 146)

90) In other parts of the world, the encounter between European and native peoples was resolved by the outright annihilation of the indigenous groups. The social consequences of the conquest of Mexico are especially profound in that in Mexico the indigenous peoples, through their violent and partial incorporation into the official and religious life of Spain managed to survive. The new hybrid mestizo race which is Mexico today was certainly not the result of a tidy and idyllic process of harmonious interaction. Still, I don't think that it's a good idea to adopt a facile Manichean point of view that sees our history as a black and white story with good guys and bad guys. The Other Conquest tries to explore different levels of the Spanish conquest of Mexico, a remarkable historical process whose relevance has in no way diminished by the passing of five centuries. (Salvador Carrasco, DVD commentary)

91) The syncretization of the Virgin Mother and Tonantzin in Our Lady of Guadalupe enlisted the Virgin Mary in a form at least potentially acceptable to both Indian and Spaniard in the fight on behalf of Indian humanness. (Donald Kurtz 205)

92) Of course, the more I researched, the more I read about it, the more questions would arise. That’s some of what I’m trying to do with the film. It’s a film that’s meant to be thought-provoking. It’s meant to pose questions. I don’t think with this kind of film you can give the answers. What I would like is to engage the audience in a dialogue. I think it’s very important for us as Latinos to look at ourselves in the mirror and see where we come from, so we start understanding where we’re heading. (Salvador Carrasco, qtd. in O'Leary)

93) The remarkable ideological amplitude of the figure of the Virgin of Guadalupe . . . can be adapted to Creole, mestizo, or Indian celebration of identity as well as the merger of these identities in “la Raza” (the new race). She can be used by the left and the right, revolutionaries and reactionaries, feminists and defenders of traditional femininity. In all this diversity, she is always a way of claiming “Mexicanidad” (Mexicanness), a Mexicanness that remains convinced, in the midst of victories and defeats, that, if all else fails, there is a divine mother who loves us. (Rosemary Ruether 219)

94) It is my fervent hope that, once Your Highness perceives the extent of the injustices suffered by these innocent peoples and the way in which they are being destroyed and crushed underfoot, unjustly and for no other reason that be satisfy the greed and ambition of those whose purpose it is to commit such wicked atrocities, Your Highness will see fit to beg and entreat His Majesty to refuse all those who seek royal license for such evil and detestable ventures, and to put a stop once and for all to their infernal clamor in such a way that nobody will henceforth dare to make such a request nor even to mention venture of this kind. (Bartolome de Las Casas 7)

95) Las Casas's task, as he saw it, was to bear witness. He was, he asserted again and again, a recorder, an historian in the proper, ancient sense of that term. . . . In part this was, as we have seen, a claim to be the only one willing to speak out about matters others would prefer to leave hidden. (Anthony Pagden xxxiii)

96) Occasionally, we encounter a symbol which seems to enshrine the major hopes and aspirations of an entire society. Such a master symbol is represented by the Virgin of Guadualupe Mexico’s patron saint. (Eric Wolf 34)

97) Now, mind you, yes, there is a human sacrifice in the movie; but really I want people to see it and understand it for what it is. It is part of a religious ritual. You saw the movie. You remember the [sacrificial] princess. It’s something she wills. She wants to join the mother goddess. It’s a kind of self-sacrifice to redeem the community, and we show it with that human dimension. (Salvador Carrasco, qtd. in O'Leary)

98) The Aztecs . . . had an elaborate, coherent symbolic system for making sense of their lives. When this was destroyed by the Spaniards, something new was needed to fill the void and make sense of New Spain . . . the image of Guadalupe served that purpose. (Patricia Harrington)

99) To this day, Guadalupe continues to empower her “Juan Dieguitos” in the Mexican and Mexican American communities. Her ubiquitous image, whether on banners carried by striking migrant workers or on the stuccoed walls of a barrio luncheonette, has for centuries been the rallying point of the communities’ social and political struggles. (Roberto Goizueta 149)

100) The Spaniards have shown not the slightest consideration for these people, treating them . . . not as brute animals -- indeed, I would to God they had done and had shown them the consideration they afford their animals -- so much as piles of dung in the middle of the road. They have had as little concern for their souls as for their bodies, all the millions that have perished having gone to their deaths with no knowledge of God and without the benefit of the Sacraments. (Bartolome de las Casas 13)

101) All I can say is that I know it to be an incontrovertible fact and do here so swear before Almighty God, that the local people never gave the Spanish any cause whatever for the injury and injustice that was done to them in these campaigns. On the contrary, they behaved as honourably as might the inmates of a well-run monastery, and for this they were robbed and massacred, and even those who escaped death on this occasion found themselves condemned to a lifetime of captivity and slavery. (Bartolome de Las Casas 23)

102) Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19)

103) I really took it seriously in terms of the research. For instance, everything Cortés says in the movie, every line, comes from one of his letters to Charles V. I don’t make up things for these characters. I really wanted the film to be authentic, to be believable and to be respectful of my culture. (Salvador Carrasco, qtd. in O'Leary)

104) The Short Account [by Las Casas] was intended to alert the King's moral imagination in the hope that the Crown might act to save the Americas before it was too late. But it had another overt purpose. . . . Las Casas remained certain until his death that God had more terrible punishments [than sinking treasure ships] in store for Spain, if the Spaniards continued with the wanton destruction of His people. (Anthony Pagden xxxvii)

105) They have annihilated entire nations, and with these people have disappeared a multitude of languages that are no longer spoken save perhaps by a few individuals living in remote caves in the bowels of the earth whither they have fled to escape the pestilential sword hanging over them. (Bartolome de Las Casas 97)

106) In helping to establish viable social relations between Indians and Spaniards, perhaps the most important function the Virgin of Guadalupe performed was to render the Indians human. (Donald Kurtz 204)

107) What my students often fail to recognize is that objectivity like Las Casas's can shore up violence despite its good intentions. Taken in by his narrative, they are blinded by what it reveals. He assures the king that the natives are harmless, docile creatures only wanting to serve Spain (5). Contrary to the popular opinions of the Spanish colonialists, men of this mettle could never be the bloodthirsty savages they are taken to be. The Indians are innocents. In Las Casas's words, the Indians are "innocently simple," "obedient and loyal subjects," "children" and "effeminate people" (5). These troubling views are hard to digest given Las Casas's clear commitment to ending violence in the Caribbean. After all, his text is a treatise against the brutality of the Spanish. But it also annuls the avowed humanism it promulgates by painting the Indians as simple beings. Las Casas may want to save the Indians from the Spanish "devils" (77), but to do so he must dehumanize them. (Travis Tanner)