2.2 Visión de los vencidos: “Los presagios, según los informantes de Sahagún” – Miguel León-Portilla

8 min readjune 9, 2023


Alejandra Ramos

AP Spanish Literature 💃🏽

24 resources
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Vision de los Vencidos is a literary piece that gives a voice to a historically silenced group of people, amplifying their perspectives that have long been omitted from history. More specifically, Vision de los Vencidos give a voice to those conquered by Spain, presenting an alternative viewpoint distinct from that of the Spanish conquistadors.

Context Behind Visión de los Vencidos

Author Background

Vision de los Vencidos was written by Miguel Leon-Portilla in 1959. Although for the AP Spanish Literature exam, we only need to be familiar with certain excerpts and parts of the literature piece as a whole, this literature piece was a multi-genre work. Leon-Portilla combined paintings as well as different texts and passages to convey the ideas and opinions of the people from the native lands which the Spaniards “conquered.”

Time and Place

📜 Historical: Before Visión de los Vencidos, there was not a well-recognized point of view of what the Spaniards had said happened. All stories were also from their point of view and may not have been accurate to make it seem more favorable for the Spaniards. Vision de los Vencidos allowed for people of Tenochtitlan, Chalaco, and other areas that were impacted by the Spaniards, to express their voices and their thoughts on what the Spaniards did and who Cortes was as a person.
🗺️Geographic: Vision de los Vencidos has excerpts and paintings from people all over what is recognized as the land that was impacted. These places include but are not limited to, Chalco, Tlaxcala, Tlatelolco, and Tenochtitlan. Tenochtitlan is very well recognized today and can be learned more in-depth to establish context on AP Exams.

Societal Context

🗳️ Political: The invasion and colonization of America by the Spanish provides a key political framework for "Visión de los Vencidos." This literary work, which was written by the indigenous people who had been colonized and vanquished, offers a perspective from that of the defeated and gives voice to the political and social facets of the indigenous struggle against colonial control. The deep effect and intricacy of the political ties between the conquistadors and the indigenous peoples are exposed via the narratives of the destruction of their world and the loss of their political sovereignty.
🧑🏽‍🤝‍🧑🏻Socio-economic: The deep effect and intricacy of the political ties between the conquistadors and the indigenous peoples are exposed via the narratives of the destruction of their world and the loss of their political sovereignty.

🖼️ Literary Devices in Visión de los Vencidos


Indigenous narratives transmit deeper, more transcendental meanings through metaphors, imagery, and symbols, providing a more thorough knowledge of the struggles and feelings of the defeated. In a time of conquest and colonialism, these symbols stand for resistance, loss, oppression, and the battle to protect cultural identity.


The reader is able to visualize and empathize with the sensations and emotions of the conquered through the rich and emotive descriptions used in indigenous stories. A stunning visual portrayal of the historical and cultural realities inherent in the work is created by these photos, which also show the natural beauty of pre-Columbian America as well as the destruction and misery brought on by the Spanish conquest.


It helps to build similarities between various incidents and encounters represented in indigenous storytelling. This method deepens the awareness of the effects of colonization on various indigenous populations while also enhancing the overall structure and coherence of the work by highlighting repeating themes, patterns, and contrasts.


Metaphors are used in indigenous narratives to convey deeper meanings and feelings. The authors portray the complicated experiences and cultural changes brought forth by the Spanish invasion through symbolic language and parallels.


The story uses ambiguity to convey the effects of the conquest. This literary device stresses the contradictory viewpoints and boundaries between oppressors and the oppressed, as well as the numerous interpretations that can be made of the literature piece by different groups of people.


"Visión de los vencidos" gains a rhetorical and rhythmic effect from polisindeton, or polysyndeton. The repeating of conjunctions in indigenous tales is used to highlight and amplify feelings, experiences, or events. In addition to adding a distinctive pace to the story and enhancing the significance of the situations described, this stylistic element fosters a sense of urgency while conveying the complexity and emotional weight of the indigenous voices.

Image Courtesy of La Pena

Summary of Visión de los Vencidos

This summary is done by sections and groups with the line numbers referenced being from the book Azulejo.
This story is a MUST to read. It is hard to understand unless you go through it on your own and read carefully to understand it as there is a lot of folklore and a lot of symbolism.
Lines #1-60
Miguel Leon Portilla offers us the point of view of the Aztecs, the defeated in the Spanish conquest of what is today Mexico. The importance of this work lies in the fact that traditionally only the version of the winners was known in any conflict and those documents offered us the "vision of the defeated." The omens are eight signs that signaled the arrival of the Spaniards.
Lines #63-80
Munoz's testimony: 10 years before the Spanish conquistadors, Tlaxcla suffered from an "aguero" sign. This means that they had a strange signal from heaven, which was a flash of electric lightning between the clouds in the sky and had the shape of a pyramid. For a full year, that year the town of Tlaxcala had many human sacrifices and many deaths, and the population suffered pain among other things.
Lines #81-96
In these lines, he is describing how everything burned; the houses of the indigenous people burned and the temple was burned down due to lightning. As everything was burning, Mullisma fell from the sky without lightning or thunder and just rained down on the temple.
Lines #97-109
Third Prodigal: We are told of a lightning strike in which lightning fell on top of a monument highly idolized by them, The Temple, Tzonmolco. They saw it as a bad omen because it fell without prior warning from a sky in which it was not raining or thunder falling. This was a bad omen sign for them that something bad was coming.
Lines 110-117
The fifth prodigy lets us know that the people were very upset because the Mexican lagoon was without any wind, which boiled and boiled because things from the sky were falling. As these people did not know what was happening, the water reached to cover/flood too many houses and there were houses that had been demolished.
The prodigy sect tells us about a woman who cried non-stop at night looking for solutions to take the children to hide.
Lines #118-126
The seventh prodigy explains that the lagoons hunted a standing bird and took it to Motecuhzoma to see it. This bird was strange and stood with great admiration. They could not imagine the strangeness. He was round like the shape of a mirror and very clear and transparent. I see the sky and the stars that astrologers call the sign of Gemini. When he saw Motecuhzoma, he was surprised and amazed.
Lines 127-141
These lines are describing how people came in order and in formal groups. The author is admiring this because they came in war style and you can see there were animal figures and how everything was distorted at the same time. The narrator also explains how he saw new and strange things cast by the bird's diadem and that, through this same diadem, he has also seen people who go in order.
Lines 142-152
The eighth prodigy and sign of Mexico, was that they saw two men united in a body called "Tlacantzolli" by the indigenous people. All of these were taken to the black room of the great Motecuhzoma and there they became invisible, which caused the natives to think that the end had come. And so they walk so sad and terrified that they did not know that they were judged to give up so much of such a strange thing.
Lines 153-167
Along these lines, it deals with the signs that were seen, one of the first was that each morning they saw a light that came out of the eastern parts. They also saw another marvelous sign and it was over which a whirlpool of dust rose in the form of a Matlacuere mango that they call agora, these signs were seen many different times for more than a continuous year, they thought that the gods had come down from heaven.
Lines 168-182 (Structure and purpose of Poem “se ha perdido el pueblo mexicatl”)
The internal structure of this poem is based on a sad tone and despair since the Mexicatl people have been lost (The Mexicatl people were conquered by the Spanish). The Eztecs flee from the Spanish invasion and leave Tenochtitlan.
The external structure includes free verse with irregular metrics and no rhyme due to the translation from Nahuatl to Spanish. The rhythm is slow to show the sadness of the loss.
The purpose of this poem is to show the pain of the Mexicans when they are displaced and tortured by the conquered.
Lines 168-182 (Literary Devices of Poem “se ha perdido el pueblo mexicatl”)
The poem "the Mexicatl people have been lost" upon the arrival of the Spanish. The poem has a sad tone; the people have lost their culture, the god has left them, they have no physical or spiritual strength to continue fighting, and they have to give up with pain and sorrow. The literary devices that the author uses to clearly convey his message include similes, apostrophes, and asyndetons. An asyndeton is used to speed up the action in the poem, similes are used to compare various things, and an apostrophe is used to empathize and draw attention to the poetic voice.
Lines 168-182 (Summary of Poem “se ha perdido el pueblo mexicatl”)
In this poem, the points of view of the inhabitants of the towns of Mexico are seen, and how they lament the loss of their towns upon the arrival of the Spanish. However, the natives do not realize that they are conquered, but they confuse them with gods, called "Life Givers" according to them. It is explained in detail how the fire destroys the towns, how the food becomes sour, and how they run to safe places far from the Spaniards.

Themes in Visión de los Vencidos

Las Sociedades en Contacto

In "Visión de Los Vencidos," the societies that interacted with one another during the conquest and colonization of America are shown. The interactions and confrontations between the indigenous civilizations and the advancing Spanish culture are depicted in the tales of the indigenous people who were subjected to subjugation. It is clear that there exist conflicts, cultural disparities, and effects of these connections on exchange, assimilation, resistance, and transformation of indigenous societies.

La Espiritualidad y la Religion

“Visión de los Vencidos” has a strong spiritual and religious undercurrent. Indigenous folklore reveals the deep spiritual ties that native tribes have to the natural world and the gods of ancestry. Additionally, the interactions and disputes between indigenous religious traditions and Spanish attempts to impose Catholicism are examined, which leads to tensions and resistance within the context of religion.

La construcción de la realidad

A key theme in "Visión de los Vencidos" is the construcción de la realidad. The indigenous folklore and legends reflect how the early peoples saw and experienced the world. The imposition of Spanish culture caused a breach in the reality that was created, leading to a collision of paradigms and the loss of cultural identity for the defeated. The piece illustrates how, in the context of colonialism, the dominant power shapes and alters how reality is constructed.

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