The Spanish Conquistadors were known to keep their shoes on for several days, and rarely bathed. So they must have presented as rancid smelling people, compared to the natives they encountered in America.
The Aztec, the Inca and the Maya were known to bathe daily in the lakes and streams, and wash their faces and hands after meals. They even took steam bath as part of their healing and religious ceremonies. (Hakim) All of this must have really impressed upon the rancid smelling Spaniards. (Foster)
Given this picture, it's hard to picture in my mind how Montezuma, the king of the Aztec, could have possibly believed that Cortes was the god sent from the Heavens to save the Aztecs. You would think that if Cortes was an Aztec god, when he took off his shoes you would have found gold and silver, as opposed to maggots. Unfortunately Montezuma, in his utter surprise, was caught off guard. Instead of responding as the vigilance of the Alexander-the-Great-type warrior he was, he hesitated. And it was perhaps this brief hesitation that allowed Cortes the opportunity to destroy all that was left of the mighty Aztec civilization.
Since the materia medica contained religious content, even they were destroyed. This made it so historians had a tough time recreating the history of these great people. The Spaniards did such a good job of burning the contents of Mayan structures, that even to this day historians have trouble understanding their civilization, and why their great cities were abandoned in 1200 A.D. Lacking a Mayan Rosetta Stone, linguists still struggle to understand the Mayan language.
Surely the history of mankind is a history of wars, but the way the various civilizations of MesoAmerica met their demise is especially troubling, and sad. Yet that's the way it is (was).
The Spanish went through all the Aztec, Inca and Mayan structures and burned all that would burn, with the intent of replacing native American culture with their own. They went through all temples and burned the contents, including the medical documents. Where Aztec temples to the gods once stood, Catholic Churches were created. In the process, the Spaniards destroyed nearly all knowledge of the once mighty and proud native American civilizations.
Yet thankfully not even the Spaniards could destroy everything. Some documents did survive, including one book that has helped historians understand the health and healing process among the Maya. This book is called the "Ritual of the Bacads."
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