La Noche Triste - Conquest of Mexico

Massacre at Cholula
Part 4 of the Spanish Invasion

Twenty miles south of Tlaxcala is the ancient religious center of Cholula. For more than a thousand years pilgrims had been coming here from as far away as Guatemala. Quetzalcatl, the plumed serpent, was the major deity worshipped here, but there were temples for other gods as well. In fact, Cholula was said to have a pyramid for every day of the year.

At the time of the conquest, Cholula was under Aztec dominion. They probably expected and received instructions about how to deal with the intruders. After an exchange of emissaries, the Spaniards marched on Cholula with 1000 of their new Tlaxcalan allies.

The official version, as presented by Cortés and Díaz and accepted by many later commentators, is that the Aztecs ordered the Cholulans to prepare a trap. The conquistadors were housed in a palace in the town. They were fed and treated well on the first day, but after a couple of days the food stopped coming. A Cholulan woman told La Malinche that the Spaniards were to be murdered the next day, and that she should escape and save herself. Instead, she told Cortés. The next day, convinced that they were slated to be the victims of a treacherous (from their point of view) betrayal, the Spaniards turned the tables on the Cholulans and massacred about ten per cent of the city's population.

Tepanapa Pyramid
When I saw the discord and animosity between these two peoples I was not a little pleased, for it seemed to further my purpose considerably; consequently I might have the opportunity of subduing them more quickly, for as the saying goes, “divided they fall”...And I remember that one of the Gospels says, “Omne regnum....” So I maneuvered one against the other and thanked each side for their warnings and told each that I held his friendship to be of more worth than the other’s.

--Bernal Díaz del Castillo