On the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the conquest of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan, a mini-series was filmed in a Mexican-Spanish co-production, focusing on the man who led to the downfall of the civilization of the Indians who inhabited the area of today’s Central America. Of course, we are talking about the famous conquistador Hernan Cortes, a lower Spanish nobleman and adventurer who, as a young man, set out for the new world, and in 1519 he was chosen as the leader of an expedition that set out from today’s Cuba to explore the area that was later determined to be American continent.
The focus of this eight-part series is Cortes’ conquest of Tenochtitlan, a magnificent city on whose ruins the present-day Mexican capital will later grow, but the authors of this historical series decided to play with the narrative so that we constantly move from one period to another. Each episode bears the name of an individual character, so we follow all these events in the first years of the 16th century from the perspectives of several characters. Some of them are Indians like Moctezuma, the ruler of the then strongest tribe, the Aztecs, that is, the Mexica, after whom the largest Central American country was named il Marina, a young Indian woman from the Nahua tribe whom history remembers as La Malinche, that is, as Cortes’ translator and later his lover.
The strongest assets of “Hernana” are the truly exceptional production conditions and the first-class depiction of the time and space in which the action takes place. The time of the conquistador conquests of Latin America is shown in a surprisingly good way, there are no white people painted with shoe cream playing Indians and talking in some pidgeon Spanish, but they speak either Mayan or Aztec language. This series also offers a pretty good insight into how the Aztec empire functioned and how it was even possible for a few hundred newcomers to practically destroy the entire civilization in a relatively short period of time. Of course, this is a feature series, so there is certainly a lot of dramatization, but in the production segment, there is absolutely nothing to complain about this series. One of the pluses is that the authors tried to create complex characters and that nothing is shown in black and white, and we see that these Indian tribes were not unique.
They were actually alliances that were constantly at war with each other and fought for supremacy, so when the Europeans arrived, it was not so difficult for them to manipulate them against each other. The biggest problem with “Hernano” and the reason why it did not deserve a slightly higher rating is hidden in two reasons. The first is that the constant jumps in time, parallel actions and flashbacks seem at times confusing, even a bit chaotic. The second is that after a while it becomes clear that the story is unnecessarily stretched to eight episodes, although it might have worked much better in four, maximum six more condensed episodes. At times, this began to be diluted, turned almost into the most famous Mexican product – a telenovela, a soap opera.