[Cram contest] Using evidence: Bernal Diaz

Practice analyzing sourcing and using a document as evidence. Use the passage below as evidence to support an evaluation state development in Mesoamerica before the Spanish Conquest, include sourcing analysis. Best answer(s) will feature in an AP World Cram stream

Spanish soldier Bernal Díaz del Castillo recalled approaching the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan in a book published forty-seven years after his travel there with Hernan Cortes in 1519.

And when we saw so many cities and villages built in the water and other great towns on dry land and that straight and level causeway going to-wards Mexico [Tenochtitlan], we were amazed … on account of the great towers and [temples] and buildings rising from the water, and all built of masonry. And some of our soldiers even asked whether the things that we saw were not a dream? It is not to be wondered at that I here write it down in this manner, for there is so much to think over that I do not know how to describe it, seeing things as we did that had never been heard of or seen before, not even dreamed about.

How to Submit
Reply to this thread with your three-sentence (or so) answer. Explain how Diaz’s account supports an evaluation of state development and analyze how an element (HIPP) of the sourcing influences the content of the document.

Deadline for submission:
April 12, 2020 → April 14, 2020

I will not necessarily provide feedback, but I will pick one or more responses to feature on AP World Cram stream #3: States and Empires, 7pm ET on April 14th.

Get your Cram Pass now!

Feel free to give other students feedback, too!

Diaz’s account supports an evaluation of state development because he talks about great towers and building rising from the water. His analysis shows how civilized cities like the Aztec city of Tenochtitlán was before the Spanish conquest. A limitation of this document would be that it is published 47 years after he sprocket the Aztec capital. He recalled the information 47 years later which means that some of his information could false and some parts of the information may be missing.

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Thanks for posting first, Raunak! I’ll reveal the winner on Tuesday, during the Cram stream on states and empires.

State-building in Mesoamerica before Spanish colonialism was accomplished through the construction of advanced architectural marvels. This can be seen in Castillo’s account, as he recounts his memory of the large temples and towers that were likely used as religious and military structures by the Aztecs. These temples would have been used by the Aztec emperor to legitimize and consolidate power because of the Aztec’s theocratic style of government. As a Spanish soldier, Castillo would have had no political or religious obligations to glorify Aztec architecture, therefore indicating that his account is truly an accurate depiction of the granduer of the Aztec’s temples.

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Mesoamerica state development before the spanish conquest was filled with native cultural entities that allowed it to grow into a magnificent location for imperial governance. Castillo explains the states beauty through his book written 47 years after his visit which although means that the sights he saw Could have been different than his description because of memory loss, it also shows the massive impact on the Aztec empire that cause it to change because of the spanish conquest that had eventually effected its beauty and native culture that it had already developed on its own proving that the capital, Tenochtitlán had grown into a nation-state prior to imperialism by the Spanish conquerors and had the ability to rule on their own if their technology was further modernized.

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According to the first person account of Bernal Diaz del Castillo as he approached Tenochtitlan, the Aztec Empire was successful in creating a sustainable and productive state without outside aid from Europe. His point of view reveals that certain aspects of the Aztec Empire were unheard of to the Spaniards. Brilliant architecture, secular and sacred, filled the city; this shows that the Mexica people had the skills and resources. His point of view allows for error due to the fact that the writing occurs 47 years after the experience.

Thanks for posting, Julianna! Nice to “see” you here. I’ll take a look at this later this afternoon.

Thanks for posting, Olivia! I’ll select a winner later this afternoon. Keep up the good work!

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Diaz’s account supports an evaluation for state development. This Doc shows an article from a book describing the beautiful architecture the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan and that the city looked too good to be true. Therefore, while it is describing reactions of the soldiers seeing the great city, since Castillo is mainly talking about the temples and buildings being beautiful, it shows an evaluation of state development. Castillo was a Spanish conquistador and would have no reason to lie about his praising for the Aztec architecture since the conquistador did not live there which means that the emperor had no control of him and what he could say which makes his description and praising the architecture more believable and accurate

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Castillo supports a great evaluation of state development. In this excerpt he describes the beauty and awe of seeing how it seemed that the temples and towers were built out of the water of Tenochtitlan, which was something he never saw before, all of which are part of the state development of the Aztecs, because they were examples of how the Aztec government legitimized their power. Furthermore, it is a very useful for evaluating state development, because Castillo was an outsider, who had never seen the city before, therefore he did not think of the Aztec king as his leader, so there was nothing to legitimize so he was not influenced by the Aztec king, in the same way if someone from the city would if they wrote it.

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Diaz’s account supports an evaluation of state development through his evaluation of the mesoamerican architecture, he shows that he is talking about how the mesoamerican states planned and built all these buildings. therefore Diaz’s account supported an evaluation of the state development in mesoamerica. there might be some bias however due to the fact that he is a spanish soldier and spain did conquer these mesoamerican states.

There was significant development in America before the Spanish Conquest especially as shown by the Castillo source. In the document, it says in this region different cities and villages on the way to Tenochtitlan had monumental architecture built on platforms floating on water and this amazes the Spanish soldiers. Building monumental architecture on top of platforms that float on water requires a significant amount of technological prowess and they needed to know about concepts like buoyancy. This was a significant technological feat for this reason and it shows that their civilization was technologically advanced and this is a development for a civilization. In this time period, the Aztecs had managed to master the art of making chinampas, floating agricultural platforms, and this would have given them the skill to make the cities and villages built on water as the author describes it. The Aztecs also made this architecture with the people and resources it collected as tribute from the neighboring regions. This context indeed shows how the Aztecs did have the technological prowess and wealth to build things as the author says and this gives the document some credibility. This proves that the Aztecs did indeed succeed in making significant advances in architecture which shows that their state was significantly developed.

Note: Can you use sourcing to give the document further credibility and use the credibility of the document to help your argument?

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The answer to your note: absolutely!!!

That is one of the ways that sourcing analysis can work, if it fits for the document as it does in this case.

Castillo passionately encourages his point of view as he mentions that the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan was well-built with cities, villages, towers, and buildings when he and Hernan Cortez arrived there. However, Castillo could be over exaggerating how Tenochtitlan was well-built to emphasize his power, authority, and superiority as we know that he and Cortez took down such a magnificent empire. Castillo could be writing this to prove his authority as he writes how the empire was so well-built, but as we know, him and Cortez destroyed it.

In Mesoamerica, states developed to a great extent by developing incredible architecture and infrastucture. In the Document, Bernal Díaz recounts a vivid explanation of what Aztec Empire looked like, describing the incredible buildings and temples intertwined with water ways as being easily mistaken for “a dream”, or something too incredible to be seen in real life. Given that he is a Spanish soldier from Spain in 1519, it makes sense that he was so amazed by the sight since Columbus had just recently connected the worlds in 1492, and the conquest of the Aztecs beginning in 1519 was the first time that the Spaniards had conquered a major American state. He would therefore not have been used to these amazing sights found in Mesoamerica, so it would have all seemed new and exciting to him. Due to this being a book which would have been directed towards Europeans, he may have painted the city so beautifully to make the later conquest of the empire seem more incredible, making Spain seem more amazing. Nonetheless, he depicts an incredible sight with a sound infrastructure and beautiful architecture, so states developed in Mesoamerica to a large extent by building incredible architecture and infrastructure.

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