Bernal Diaz might wish to disagree. In his telling the story of the conquest of Mexico, he frequently refers to the widespread practice of human sacrifice and cannibalism among the Indians in all the places they traveled, and makes no apology for taking measures to put a stop to it. Each paragraph below refers to a different place in their travels. And this is just a small sampling of passages that could be cited.
Juan de Grijalva with many of us soldiers landed to inspect this island, for we saw smoke rising from it. We found two stone buildings of good workmanship, each with a flight of steps leading up to a kind of altar, and on those altars were evil-looking idols, which were their gods. Here we found five Indians who had been sacrificed to them on that very night. Their chests had been struck open and their arms and thighs cut off, and the walls of the building were covered with blood. All this amazed us greatly, and we called this island the Isla de Sacrificios.There is no doubt that the Spanish colonization and conquest of the New World was not without problems of its own. But surely even the most devoted secularist has to admit that the triumph of Christian civilization over Aztec paganism was a vast improvement. I think the poor people released from their cages before they could have their still beating heart ripped from their chests would think so.
That day they had sacrificed two boys, cutting open their chests and offering their blood and hearts to that accursed idol.
When Alvarado came to these villages he found that they had been deserted on that very day, and he saw in the cues [temples] the bodies of men and boys who had been sacrificed, the walls and altars all splashed with blood, and the victims’ hearts laid out before the idols. He also found the stones on which the sacrifices had been made, and the flint with which their breasts had been opened to tear out their hearts. Alvarado told us that most of the bodies were without arms and legs, and that some Indians had told him that these had been carried off to be eaten. Our soldiers were greatly shocked at such cruelty.
I remember that in the square where some of their cues [temples] stood were many piles of human skills, so neatly arranged that we could count them, and I reckoned them at more than a hundred thousand. I repeat that there were more than a hundred thousand. And in another part of the square there were more piles made up of innumerable thigh-bones. There was also a large number of skulls and bones strong between wooden posts… We saw more of such things in every town as we penetrated further inland.
I must now tell how in this town of Tlascala we found wooden cages made of lattice-work in which men and women were imprisoned and fed until they were fat enough to be sacrificed and eaten. We broke open and destroyed these prisons, and set free the Indians who were in them. But the poor creatures did not dare to run away. However, they kept close to us and so escaped with their lives. From now on, whenever we entered a town our captain’s [Cortes] first order was to break down the cages and release the prisoners, for these prison cages existed throughout the country.