The subject of the conquest of Mexico, due to the antiquity of the event and its effects throughout all the continents, brings about a broad, and sometimes complicated, ethical debate. The possible ethical basis from which the actions from both, the colonizers and the Aztecs, can be judged, need a real and thorough approach to make a “judgment” on whether or not certain actions were ethically and morally correct. Thus, ethical bases, such as traditional ethics, utilitarian ethics, consequentialist or based on personal beliefs ethics, need a more in-depth research on the lives, customs, beliefs, and methods of both the Aztecs and the Spanish Conquistadores. As a result, the myriad of ethical approaches within the research need a base to conclude which of the involved parts behaved correct or incorrectly
Thus, as research on the conquest of Mexico began, it was undisputed that there is an extensive study of it. However, when it comes to the elimination of a large part of the Aztecs there are gaps in why and how it happened at the hands or not of the conquerors. For instance, if for one hand Montezuma, the Aztecs leader, did attempt to bribe Hernán Cortes (Restall 2003), there is a lack of information about the violence used to destroy the Aztec people despite the fact that they were open to agreement to be able to keep their religious customs and their lands (Solski 2013). Although a large part of such losses occurred as a result of smallpox, there is doubt about whether war and the elimination of so many men could have been avoided.
Such a situation can change the ethical judgments (traditional ethics, utilitarian ethics, consequentialist, etc.) due to the ways the colonizers used to achieve their goals. Likewise, studying what has been stated by some authors on the true objectives of the colonizers, there seems to be a gap in what is known about the life of such men. Hence, even though Hernan Cortes was responsible for conquering and converting, albeit forcibly, a new continent where the Catholic religion could lead freely, this was as a result of his disobedience, and even after colonizing the Aztec lands, he continued in a perpetual search for gold and material goods (Schwaller 2011).
Thus, it seems necessary to carry out a more in-depth investigation into the real life of the conquistadors, their purposes and their methods in their conquest, and by doing so understanding to what extent, according to traditional ethics, for example, their behavior was or was not, deeply wrong. On the other hand, the life and customs of the Aztecs are also a fundamental part of any ethical judgment that is going to take place, since it is necessary to analyze how violent, cruel, and inhuman they were for themselves as a people, since, this could mean that the colonization either took them away or brought them closer to their own extinction.
Also, following such considerations, there is a question that came to be regarding the ethics that are based on personal beliefs: if the Mexico Conquest is considered, despite the killings and terrible wars, as a morally “correct” situation due to the forms of Aztec society (Human sacrifices, cannibalism), should not be considered as well the “unethical” forms of which the Catholic Church was undoubtedly responsible (burn at the stake for supposed heresy, crusades, etc.)?
Consequently, within the research on the Conquest of Mexico, there are some gaps on whether or not the elimination of the Aztecs by the Spaniards was intentional. For this reason, a deeper and more accurate investigation of the lives of both Spanish conquistadors and the Aztecs is necessary. Thus, such investigation could also answer to what extent the actions of the conquistadors can be justified by the “incorrect” customs of the Aztecs when, perhaps, the conquistadors themselves were part of a religion that allowed equally “bad” customs to other human beings.
- Restall, M. (2003). Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest. New York : Oxford University Press.
- Schwaller, J. F. (2011). The history of the Catholic Church in Latin America: From Conquest to revolution and beyond. New York : New York University Press.
- Solski, R. (2013). The Amazing Aztecs. Napanee: On the Mark Press.