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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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2. Exploring Borders   

2. Exploring

•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
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•  Activities
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Activities: Author Activities

Bernal Díaz del Castillo - Author Questions

Back Back to Bernal Díaz del Castillo Activities
  1. Comprehension: What kinds of tensions and conflicts divide the Spanish camp? What distinctions does Díaz's narrative draw between different members of Cortés's army? How do class and rank affect individual Spaniards' feelings about the Conquest?

  2. Comprehension: How does Díaz describe the city of Tenochtitlán? Compare his description to the map of Tenochtitlán featured in the archive. What aspects of the map match up with Díaz's description? How is the map different from Díaz's account? How does the bird's-eye perspective of the map compare to Díaz's narrative historia?

  3. Context: The Florentine Codex (parts of which are featured in the archive) is a manuscript containing a hand-written version of the encyclopedic account of Aztec society assembled by Fray Bernardino de Sahagún. Beginning in the 1540s, Sahagún asked questions of groups of Nahuatl-speaking elders (presumably all male) from the heart of the former Aztec empire and had them record their responses. The book was illustrated by Aztec scribes in a style that reflected a mixture of pre-Conquest manuscript traditions and European illustration conventions. Compare the pictographic representations of the Conquest from Book 12 of the Florentine Codex to Díaz's account in the True History. In what points do these two histories agree? How do their different genres and styles (pictorial representations, narrative description) affect their perspective and representation of events?

  4. Context: In their narratives, both Bartolomé de las Casas and Bernal Díaz describe the destruction and violence the Spanish visited on native cultures in the Americas, but their attitudes toward that violence seem quite different. How does Díaz's account compare to Casas's?

  5. Exploration: Is it possible for a person claiming to be an eyewitness to write a "true history" of an event? What would constitute a "true history"?

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