September 2021 Distinguished Speaker Series [] San Miguel Literary Sala

  • dist-speakers

Event Category: Literary Events

  • San Miguel Literary Sala Presents

    September 2021


    A New History of the Aztecs with Camilla Townsend and Gerry Helferich

    Zoom Event: September 19, 2021 6:00–7:30 PM CDT

    Sliding Scale Pricing

    $5–50 USD

    For tickets go to:

    A Revolutionary History of the Aztecs

    by Joy Sablatura


    History written from the side of the victors never fully depicts the viewpoint of the conquered. It has been 500 years since the fall of Tenochtitlán, the pre-Hispanic city which became Mexico City. The story of this conquest and the collapse of the Aztec Empire has been one-sided and inaccurate.


    Camilla Townsend in her acclaimed book Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs explores a different version. In it you learn the term Aztec was coined by Europeans to describe the Nahuatl-speaking tribes that settled in Central Mexico, and in particular the Mexica. More importantly, it tells the history of the Mexica from their perspective, from their writings in Nahuatl called xiuhpohualli, preserved for centuries, and translated by the author.


    Historians have cast doubt on the veracity of Spanish accounts which form the basis of most popular understandings of the Conquest. Townsend’s book makes significant contributions toward answering many of the questions that linger over the conquest of Tenochtitlán and the birth of Mexico City. Was Moctezuma a coward? Did he think Cortés was a god and surrender to him? Or was it the superior weapons and deadlier diseases the Spaniards brought that assured their conquest? Was Malinche (Cortés’s translator and concubine) a traitor? Who was more driven by bloodlust, the Mexica or the conquistadors?


    Townsend illuminates the lives of the Mexica through stories of individual characters that she has translated from Nahuatl, from the annals of indigenous historians, providing a window into the Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican world as well as during and after the Spanish conquest. These accounts were part of the way the Mexica and others preserved their culture. Today there are over 1.5 million people who speak Nahuatl.


    Townsend is a distinguished Professor of History at Rutgers University. The focus of her work is early Native American and Latin American history. Townsend is the author of numerous books including one about Cortés’s translator, Malintzin’s Choices and The Annals of Native America: How the Nahuas of Colonial Mexico Kept Their History Alive.


    Townsend will discuss her book and the research that went into it in conversation with nonfiction history writer Gerard Helferich, a longtime member of the San Miguel Literary Sala’s faculty. He is the author of five books of history, including his latest book, An Unlikely Trust: Theodore Roosevelt, J.P. Morgan, and the Improbable Partnership That Remade American Business.


    Join us for a myth-busting and enlightening event.  This Distinguished Speaker Zoom presentation is on Sunday, September 19, 6:00–7:30 PM CDT.


    Tickets, which are on a pay-what-you-wish-scale, are $5-50 USD and are available at


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