Electronic Theses and Dissertations


Open Access Thesis


Mexico--History--Conquest, 1519-1540; Aztecs--History--16th century; Mexico--Civilization--16th century; Mexico--Civilization--Foreign influences; Spain--Civilization--16th century; Mexico--Kings and rulers; Aztecs--Kings and rulers;


The Spanish Conquest has been historically marked by the year 1521 and is popularly thought of as an absolute and complete process of indigenous subjugation in the New World. Alongside this idea comes the widespread narrative that describes a barbaric, uncivilized group of indigenous people being conquered and subjugated by a more sophisticated and superior group of Europeans. There is also a common misconception that the Conquest resulted in a dominance of European culture and a loss of the indigenous heritage that had prevailed in the New World up until that point.

This manuscript explores the period known as the Conquest in a new way. I argue that by limiting the scope of the Spanish‐indigenous interaction in the sixteenth‐century to a single event, the actual historical narrative of this period is lost. The Spaniards did indeed win a war in 1521, but this event did not signify a conquest or an extinction of indigenous culture. Instead, this date marks the end of a two‐year war between the Spaniards and the people commonly known as the Aztecs. This group of indigenous people, the Mexica of central Mexico, had dominated the central valley of Mesoamerica for only a few centuries, but had built up an imposing empire centered around the capital city of Tenochtitlan. Their culture was not only impressive by New World standards, but it was remarkably similar to the society and culture found in Early Modern Spain.

The focus of this manuscript is the concept of royal culture, but I also explore broader topics of society such as religion, warrior ethos, and imperial control. By looking at similarities between these two cultures, it is easy to see why they were able to come together in such a unique way during the Colonial Period. The society that emerged in New Spain after 1521 was not wholly European, nor was it wholly indigenous; it was a conglomeration of indigenous and Spanish elements that took the best concepts from both societies and combined them into an entirely novel culture, which can still be seen in Mexico today.

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Department of History

First Advisor

Fernando Calderón, Chair

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (iii, 174 pages)