History for all the discourse and dates and documents is really nothing more than a series of stories. Hence the old adage: “History is told by the victors.” Most of the time it is simply because they are the only ones left standing. And even when they aren’t, the victors are usually the ones that get to control the narrative and information that is told and taught through the ages reinforcing the ideas and stories the self proclaimed champions wish to be known. As it has always been, as it is, as it will always be; or at least that is the seemingly self fulfilling state. Except that isn’t really the truth, nor has it ever been.
While the “victors” have indeed controlled the majority of the narrative, there have always been other voices that spoke against the tall tales told from the “winning” side: allies, dissidents, and even the few survivors of the wars and atrocities that were brought upon their people. Throughout history, these contrasting souls would try and tell their truths through whatever method they could to any audience willing to listen. The Fifth Sun by Camilla Townsend is one such modern attempt.
Within this tome is another view of the history of the Indigenous peoples of Mexico. They are not depicted as saints, but neither are they sinners. They are not solely a great warring empire of conquest, but neither are they simply victims of a greater occupying force. They are not remnants lost to time, but neither are they what they once were. Like all things, the people of Mexico were, and are, complicated and multifaceted. Townsend does not attempt to paint the various, and at times competing, indigenous peoples of Mexico as any one particular thing. Instead, she writes them as very human. Sometimes self serving, sometimes striving for grand purpose, sometimes simply surviving, but always through the lens of understanding and acknowledging the dignity and humanity of the many individuals and peoples she includes in her book.
No amount of revision or acknowledgment will ever erase or make up for the past sins that many have suffered, but perhaps giving them voice and story and significance in their own history will return to them esteem and remind their descendants of the entirety of their value and worth. And that alone would make this book a recommendation and worthwhile read, so the fact that it is also interesting just makes it that much better.
In short, take the time to find this book and read it through. It is worth the investment.