With altruistic intentions, the Spanish Conquistadors and Franciscan friars were committed to protecting the indios. Their initial goal was to Europeanizes the Mexica; integrating them into Christianity and the Spanish culture. The friars were especially dedicated to the task. Padre Pedro de Gante (1480-1572) is known as “the first of the great educators of the Americas,” He was an outstanding writer and translator of the Nahuatl language. He created the School of San Jose de los Naturales for the Aztecs and other indigenous people in Tenochtitlan, modern day Mexico City. There were two other collages located in Tlatelolco and Michoacan. The indios excelled in the entire curriculum. Besides religion and culture they were taught European philosophy, reading and writing, art and language, including Latin. It was said that the indios spoke better Latin than the Spaniards. They were largely responsible for writing the translations of history and religious doctrines.
With these skills the Aztec were instrumental in the first book published in New Spain, 1546 CE, the Breve y mas compendiosa doctrina Christiana en lengua Mexicano y Castellana. The Doctrina Christiana was a translation of the book that was written in Latin by St. Augustine of Hippo in 397 CE. The book instructs the clergy on how to interpret and teach the Scriptures. It was translated into Nahuatl, the language of the Aztec, and Spanish; transcribed in Latin letters also known as the Roman alphabet. The Aztec also wrote, in Spanish, some 500 Codices. A Codex is a painted pectoral and written history of the Aztec, both from the pre-Columbian and colonial eras. They documented the lineage of Aztec royalty, agrarian cycles, religious ceremonies and the Aztec gods, among other topics.
At first, after the conquest, interracial marriages between the soldiers and indio women was sanctioned. Eventually things changed. Spanish women were beginning to come to New Spain and did not approve of these marriages; they were strongly discouraged. The Spanish Officials positioned in New Spain began feeling threatened by the education given to the Amerindian aristocracy; who would be in direct competition to maintaining Spanish dominance over the Mexica. Slowly but surely the collages were closed. Besides losing a way to become educated, the Spanish guilds were successful in barring the indios from all professions and skilled trades; such as doctors, shopkeepers, smiths and artisans. The Spanish King forbade them from taking Holy Orders and joining the priesthood. Laws were created under their logic of “protecting the indios” from being corrupted. The laws also prohibited the indios from living in close proximity to the Spanish; they were not allowed to wear European dress, own horses or firearms and were not allowed to have debt of more than five pesos; effectively, giving them no way to better themselves. The indios were usually not punished by the death sentence, but it was not uncommon for them to be brutally beaten to death for infractions.
A dichotomy was created as the indios were scorned for not being European and prevented from trying to become Europeanized. There was not much to strive for, no way to better themselves, basically they became slaves; many became drunks and sometimes their frustration turned into violence. The Spaniards effectively created a culture of apathetical, irresponsible and uneducated peasants.
Before the invasion of the Aztec world by the Conquistadors the Aztec had developed a highly organized society. Their architecture had built the most beautiful cities in the world, far beyond any that existed in all of Europe. The Aztec possessed the most comprehensive accurate calendar, a healthy diet, a sophisticated writing method, an organized war machine and strict moral behavioral codes. If it were not for the human sacrificial rituals, they had an idyllic society. What a shame that such a highly evolved culture was conquered, destroyed and has faded into the history books.