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.
NOTE: Quotes from Díaz and Cortés are from the following sources:
The Conquest of New Spain, Bernal Díaz del Castillo. Translated by J. M. Cohen. Penguin Books, 1963.
Letters from Mexico, Hernán Cortés. Translated by Anthony Pagden. Yale University Press, 1986.