«The king establishes the land by justice, but he who receives bribes overthrows it» (Proverbs 29:4).
Hernán Cortés was a Spanish soldier assigned to Cuba, Spain’s recent possession in the New World. When he learned that there was great wealth in the land that was located to the west, he decided to insubordinate Diego de Velázquez and in 1519 organized an expedition to what is now Mexico. Then, with only three hundred men, he set out to carefully observe the land until he reached great Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire that astonished the Europeans. Cortés saw his opportunity within the different tribes that lived under the hegemony of the Mexica. In a short time, he managed to unite them against his oppressors. The conquest of Mexico was only a matter of time.
In January 1521, in the midst of an Aztec empire that crumbled miserably, Cuauhtémoc ascended to power. The Spaniards were about to take Tenochtitlan, after a siege of almost four months. Finally, on August 13 of that year the resistance became impossible and Cuauhtémoc tried to flee in a canoe but was captured. When Hernán Cortés learned that the last Aztec emperor knew where Moctezuma’s treasure was, he tried to convince him to reveal the secret and seize the loot. However, the young monarch decided to hide the site from the ambitious conqueror, so he was subjected to the most brutal methods of torture to get the truth out of him. One of them consisted of burning his feet. Next to him was the sovereign of Tlacopan, who looked anxiously at his own feet as the fire drew near. The torture was dramatic, and the men couldn’t bear the pain anymore. Then, in the midst of the cries of his torture partner, Cuauhtémoc replied, «Am I in a bed of roses?» Then, with his feet burnt, they made him walk as his skin slowly fell off, but he never revealed his secret.
Despite torturing a good number of indigenous people, Cortés never found Moctezuma’s treasure. The stories of his cruelty came to the old continent causing indignation in Charles V, who withdrew his support. To this day, the figure of Hernán Cortés remains immersed in the controversy as to whether he was a hero or a villain.
Ambition, greed, and thirst for power can ruin the brightest career. Obtaining triumph at the expense of others’ suffering is not an honorable thing.
Ask the Lord today to help you to work with justice and to wisely use authority when the time comes.