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Viewers Are Calling Out Amazon For Whitewashing History With The New Series ‘Hernán’

This year marks 500 years since Hernan Cortes met Aztec emperor Moctezuma. The meeting marked the beginning of the violent and dark period known as Mexico’s Conquista. In honor of the, not so happy, anniversary Amazon Mexico and Latin America dropped a series based on the historic event. “Hernán,” follows the conquistador’s journey and retells everything that happened after docking his ship off the coast of Mexico, according to him, that is.

Mexico’s conquista was an important and violent chapter in history, one that transformed, not only one country, but the whole continent. The historic event is being revisited by the heavily publicized show “Hernán, La Serie.”

Credit: ishbelbautista / Instagram

For the first time ever, a TV show will be retelling the events that went down between Hernán Cortes and the indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica. Set in 1519, the series starring Óscar Jaenada, turns on the conquest of Mexico by Cortés and his troops and will be narrated by the Spanish conquistador as the protagonist of this momentous time in Mexico and Spain’s history. The sailor and explorer will be meeting important characters like Moctezuma, Alvarado, Olid and the infamous Malintzin or Malinche.

The Spanish actor Oscar Jaenada, stars as Cortes, as part of a mostly Spanish cast and crew.

Credit: ojaenada / Instagram

Jaenada leads a cast from Mexico and Spain including Víctor Clavijo (Captain Cristóbal de Olid), Michel Brown (Captain Alvarado), Dagoberto Gama (Moctezuma), Jorge Guerrero (Xiconténcatl), Almagro San Miguel (Captain Sandoval), Ishbel Bautista (Marina / Malinche) and Aura Garrido (Doña Juana).

Touted as the most expensive Hispanic series in history by Dopamine, “Hernán” was shot on location and on sets built in both Spain and Mexico, with special effects by El Ranchito, whose credits include “Game of Thrones.”

The filming of “Hernán,” in Xochimilco, left the Mexico City canals seriously damaged. 

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Touted as the most expensive Hispanic series in history by Dopamine, “Hernán” was shot on location and on sets built in both Spain and Mexico, with special effects by El Ranchito, whose credits include “Game of Thrones.”

The series’ cast and crew took over an area of the famous canals of Mexico city to film a few key scenes. The environmental damage was so severe that the production was fined over 74 million Mexican pesos by Sedema (Mexico’s Secretariat of Environment).

People are not exactly happy with the representation of the great Aztec and indigenous characters. 

Credit: @eduardofake05 / Twitter

Some have found that the show doesn’t seem to do justice to historic records of what Moctezuma looked like. Chronicles describe the Aztec emperor, Moctezuma, as an opulent and imposing leader who wore rich feathers, gold, and gemstones. The series, however, present the emperor in a much more modest fashion —and the actor even sports a belly. “I’m complaining about how Moctezuma was depicted, a short man with a beer belly. Go to hell,” wrote one unimpressed Twitter user.  

Another thing that left us dumbfounded, was the fact that in 2019, the series is based on the Spanish POV, not the indigenous experience. 

Credit: @feli_chuy01 / Twitter

One viewer tweeted directly at the Mexican network that produced the show “@AztecaSiete Why tell the story of Hernan Cortes and give a Spaniard such an important role instead of making a show around Moctezuma or the Aztec people?” —As we know the colonial takeovers of the Americas, led by Hernan Cortes, ended in the death of millions of indigenous people and the forced assimilation of survivors. And we still need to see his side of the story?

Twitter users were quick to express their opinions. 

Credit: @joshcotera / Twitter

Many viewers were not impressed by the angle. A quick Twitter search will show more hundreds of threads unpacking the series. “Is it just me or is this show based on the Spanish experience. According to everything I’ve read, the series has a huge Spanish influence,” wrote one Twitter user, “I’d like to see a second part titled ‘Moctezuma’, and see the experience of the defeated. But of course, let’s watch ‘Hernán’ first,” he added sarcastically. 

By retelling the Conquistador’s account of history the series supports the whitewashed narrative perpetuated in public discourse and in schools, where children are taught simplistic and incomplete information about the conquest.

Credit: @sincorteza / Twitter

Thinking back to my own childhood, I was taught that Malinalli, or Malinche, fell in love with Cortes, and she betrayed her people by giving him Tenochtitlan. The true story must have been much more complex than that romanticized version and, tbh, the story sounds suspiciously similar to that of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith. The simplistic and incomplete narrative I and many other Mexican children have been taught obscures our understanding of history and demonizes an indigenous character by turning her into the bad guy, the traitor.

“Hernán” tells the story of the infamous man in 8 episodes through the perspective of Malinche, Moctezuma, Pedro Alvarado, Xicotencatl, Cristóbal de Olid, Bernal Díaz del Castillo, and Gonzalo de Sandoval, all important characters who were around him during the conquest of Mexico.

Credit: @sergiosarmiento / Twitter

“Hernán Cortes is a character that no one loves, not even the Spanish,” explained Jaenada in an interview. The Spanish actor who played the infamous Conquistador added that Hernán “was an explosive man, every place he set foot on, he burned to the ground and exploited.” The actor read countless books on the historical period to help build the complex character.

Jaenada first started reading up on Hernán Cortes close to a decade ago, when Javier Bardem first approached him about a series based on the conquistador, produced alongside Steven Spielberg.

Credit: @vibemagazine / Twitter

The story of Cortes and his exploits in Mexico have long fascinated Hollywood.

Last year, Amazon announced that it had greenlit a four-hour miniseries titled “Cortes” from Steven Spielberg and Amblin Television. To be toplined by Oscar-winner Javier Bardem, the series will be created for television and penned by Steven Zaillian (“Schindler’s List”), based on a five-decade-old movie script by screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. The proposed film titled “Montezuma” centered on the thorny relationship between Cortes and Aztec ruler Moctezuma II. HBO had also been developing a series about the conquistador.

As one Twitter user echoed the sentiment eloquently.

Credit: @clm / Twitter

We all know the story, and it’s our job to demand that it’s told with cultural and historical accuracy, not as a one-dimensional, romanticized story that is both harmful and simplistic.

READ: Descendants Of Both Hernán Cortés And Emperor Moctezuma Urge Mexicans To Move On From The Past 500 Years Later

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