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Hernan Cortes

Hernan Cortes

b. 1485 Madellin, Spain d. 1547 Near Seville

In 1511, Cortes sailed to Cuba with Diego Velazquez, who became governor of the island. Velazquez chose him to start new a colony in Mexico but then canceled the expedition, having grown suspicious that the young adventurer Cortes had his own grandiose (big) plans. Completely ignoring Velazquez' orders, Cortes set out for Mexico on February 10, 1519, with 11 ships, 500 men, 16 horses and 10 bronze cannons. He landed on the Yucatan peninsula and made contact with the Maya (one of the native tribes), then pushed on toward Tenochtitlan, tricking and cheating tribe after tribe as he approached the Aztec capital. All the while, he exchanged such unimportant objects like glass beads and big-brimmed hats for baskets filled with objects of solid gold. In a plan to lay hands on even more of the precious metal, he tricked the natives into believing that the Spaniards suffered from a form of heart disease for which the only cure was gold.

Cortes' military instinct told him that there was resentment or hard feelings brewing among the tribes people. And indeed, though the nobles and officials supported the emperor, Montezuma II. the rank - and - file (common people) were disgusted by high taxes and forced labor, not to mention the continuous human sacrifices to the sun god, Huitzilpochtli, who it was believed died each night and needed fresh blood to be brought back to life by sunup. Montezuma, taking Cortes to be brought down from the long-absent White God of the Aztecs, emerged to greet him on November 8, 1519, and escort him to Tenochtitlan.
Cortes had only 500 men to pit against the forces of an entire empire, but cannily, almost without any notice, he took advantage of the internal problems and hard feelings to help conquer Mexico. At the end of a 75 day siege that left the region in ruins and the emperor stoned to death by his own people, Cortes' conquest was accomplished.
The cruelty of the conquistadores is legendary; bodies nailed to the trunks of trees, molten gold poured into pried-open mouths - and what weapons did not accomplish, smallpox introduced by the Europeans did. The dazzling Aztec empire had come to grief.
Cortes went about rebuilding Mexico out of destruction. He established hospitals and churches, developed mines and farmland, and effectively extended Spanish authority in the New World.

 click to enlarge map

Below are sites and links for more information about Hernan Cortes.


Cortes: The Conquest of the Aztecs

Cortes Links


Cortes: His Story

The Story of Cortes




This site was last updated 08/04/2004 08:08 PM -0400