Hernando Cortéz Essay

1247 words - 5 pages

Cortés, Hernán or Cortez, Hernando (1485-1547), Spanish explorer and conqueror of the Aztec Empire of Mexico. Cortés was born in Medellín, Extremadura. He studied law at the University of Salamanca, but cut short his university career in 1501 and decided to try his fortune in the New World. He sailed for Santo Domingo in the spring of 1504. In 1511 he joined the Spanish soldier and administrator Diego Velázquez in the conquest of Cuba, and subsequently became alcalde (mayor) of Santiago de Cuba. In 1518 he persuaded Velázquez, who had beco1me governor of Cuba, to give him the command of an expedition to Mexico. The mainland had been discovered the year before by the Spanish soldier and explorer Francisco Fernández de Córdoba and subsequently by Juan de Grijalva, nephew of Velázquez.On February 19, 1519, Cortés, with a force of some 600 men, fewer than 20 horses, and 10 field pieces, set sail from Cuba, despite the cancellation of his commission by Velázquez, who had become suspicious that Cortés, once in a position to establish himself independently, would refuse to recognize his authority. Cortés sailed along the coast of Yucatán and in March 1519 landed in Mexico, subjugating the town of Tabasco; the artillery of the Spaniards, the ships, and particularly the horses filled the natives with awe. From the natives of Tabasco Cortés learned of the Aztec Empire and its ruler, Montezuma II. Cortés took numerous captives, one of whom, Malinche (baptized Marina), became his mistress; out of loyalty to him she acted as the interpreter, guide, and counselor for the Spaniards. Finding a better harbor a little north of San Juan, the Spaniards moved there and established a town, La Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz (now Veracruz). Cortés organized an independent government, and renouncing the authority of Velázquez, acknowledged only the supreme authority of the Spanish crown. In order to prevent those of his small force who opposed this movement from deserting him and carrying the news to Cuba, Cortés destroyed his fleet.After negotiations with Montezuma, who tried to persuade Cortés not to enter the capital city of Tenochtitlán, Cortés started his famous march inland. He overcame the native Tlascalans and then formed an alliance with them against the Aztecs, their enemies. From that time until the conquest was achieved, the Tlascalans continued to be the most important of all the native allies of the Spaniards. Montezuma pursued an irresolute policy during Cortés's march, and finally determined not to oppose the Spanish invaders but to await their arrival at the Aztec capital and to learn more about their purposes.On November 8, 1519, Cortés and his small force, with some 600 native allies, entered the city and established headquarters in one of its large communal dwellings. Because of an Aztec...

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