b. 1485 Madellin, Spain
d. 1547 Near Seville
1511, Cortes sailed to
who became governor of the island.
chose him to start new a colony in
but then canceled the expedition, having grown suspicious that the young
adventurer Cortes had his own grandiose (big) plans.
set out for
on February 10, 1519, with 11 ships, 500 men, 16 horses and 10 bronze cannons.
He landed on the
and made contact with the Maya
(one of the native tribes), then
pushed on toward
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
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,
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.
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
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
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
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
out of destruction. He established hospitals and churches, developed mines and
farmland, and effectively extended Spanish authority in the New World.
Below are sites and links for more information about Hernan
This site was last updated
08/04/2004 08:08 PM -0400