The composition depicts the encounter between the Aztec King Montezuma and the Spanish Conquistador Hernan Cortes in a scene with two major sections separated at the top center by a V-shaped open space containing fallen figures of a warrior and an eagle.
The right section is dominated by a figure representing Cortés reaching for his long sword drawn over two subdued figures. He is leaning backward upon a female figure representing his interpreter and mistress known as la Malinche. The upper area shows a figure with wide-flung arms arching a horse above the figures of a priest and a soldier.
The left section shows Montezuma holding a flower necklace. His posture is reinforced by a triangular plane containing figures and symbols referring to Aztec mythical gods and warriors.