Primary Source

Dona Marina, Cortes’ Translator: Nonfiction, Florentine Codex (Spanish)


This chapter from the Florentine Codex, a bilingual encyclopedia of central Mexican life and history was created by the Franciscan friar, Bernardino de Sahagún and indigenous advisors, painters and scribes. Nahuatl and Spanish texts appear side by side, and are accompanied by the image of Malintzin translating (described above). The Spanish text represents Sahagún’s translation of the Nahuatl, although the two accounts are not identical. This Spanish account is shorter than the Nahuatl, even though it pauses to describe doña Marina—as a bilingual woman seized in the Yucatan—and clarify that she was Cortés’s interpreter. A sense of her role and its power emerges at the end of the text, when we read that the orders she issues on Cortés’s behalf strike fear in the Aztecs who heard her.

Source: Bernardino de Sahagún. “Of how the Spaniards entered Moteucçoma’s private home, and what happened there.” Book 12, Chap. 18, p.125 in Florentine Codex. ca. 1570-1585. In We People Here. Translated and edited by James Lockhart. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993.

This source is a part of the Doña Marina, Cortés' Translator teaching module.

Bernardino de Sahagún, Of how the Spaniards entered Moteucçoma’s private home, and what happened there.” Book 12, Chap. 18, p.125 in Florentine Codex, ca. 1570-1585, Women in World History


Chapter Eighteen: of how the Spaniards entered Moteucçoma’s private home, and what happened there.
When the above had been done, [the Spaniards] attempted to find out about the special storehouse of Moteucçoma, and he took them to his storehouse, named Totocalco, which means “bird house.” The Spaniards went along very joyfully, thinking that they would find much gold there; on arrival they took everything out of Moteucçoma’s own storehouse, where there were many precious items of gold, silver, and precious stones, and they took it all. They removed all the gold and stones from the rich feather-pieces and put the feathers in the middle of the courtyard for their friends to take.
Then Captain don Hernando Cortés gave orders through Marina, who was his interpreter—she was an Indian woman who knew the languages of Castile and Mexico; they took her in Yucatan. She began to call loudly to the Mexica tecutles [lords] and piles [nobles] to come to give the Spaniards the necessary food.
But no one dared to come into their presence or approach them; they were all terrified and frightened. They sent them the necessary food, but those who carried it went trembling; when they put the food down, they tarried no longer, but immediately left, almost fleeing.


Capitulo 18. de como los Españoles entraron en las proprias casas de Motecuçoma; y de lo que alli paso.
Hecho lo arriba dicho procuraro de saber de la recamara de Motecuçoma y el los lleuo a su recamara que se llamaua totocalco que quiere dezir la casa de las aues: yuan los españoles muy regocijados por pensar que alli hallarian mucho oro: y llegando luego sacaron toda la recamara del mismo Motecuçoma donde auian muchas joyas de oro y de plata y de piedras preciosas y todo lo tomaron, y los plumajes ricos quitaronlos todo el oro y las piedras, y pusieron las plumas en medio del patio pan que las tomassen sus amigos:
y luego mado el capitan Don Hernando Cortés por medio de Marina que era su interprete la qual era vna india q sabia la lengua de castilla y la de mexico que la tomaro en yocatan esta començo a llamar a vozes a los Tecutles, y piles mexicanos pan que viniessen a dar a los españoles lo necesario para comer,
y nadie osaua venir delante dellos ni llegarse a ellos, todos estaua atemorizados y espantados, embiaualos lo necesario para comer, y los que lo lleuaua, yua temblando en poniendo la comida no paraua mss alli luego se yuan casi huyendo.

How to Cite This Source
Dona Marina, Cortes’ Translator: Nonfiction, Florentine Codex (Spanish) in World History Commons,