The conqueror from Spain by the name of Hernando Cortes was born in 1485 and was best known for conquering the Aztecs Empire. He is also responsible for the conquer of Mexico city which later secured the position of Spain in the New World.
Early Life of Hernando Cortes
Cortes was born in a small town of Spain known by the name of Medellin which is located in the Estremadura Province in Spain. He was the son of Martin Cortes and Catalina Pizarro Altamirano. The Cortes Family was very noble apart from being extremely wealthy.
Cortes fell frequently ill as a child, however, his health later improved when he entered in his teenage. To pursue his career in law, Cortes was sent to the University of Salamanca at the age of 14 in the year 1499. But he grew tired of his studies and dropped out from the University and returned back his home.
The Exploration Journey of Cortes
One of the other reason was that he was highly fascinated by adventures and desired to have a life of action. He was thrilled by the tales of gold and treasures in the New World. Hence he signed up for the expedition that was carried out by Nicolas de Ovando, the governor of Hispaniola. But he met with an accident that injured his back and he could not set sail with them.
Hernando Cortes sailed to Santo Domingo, Hispaniola in West Indies at the age of 18 years which was then the headquarters of the Spanish there. He then began farming in the Spanish colony that made him wealthy and rich enough to hire his own slaves.
The Journey of Cortes to Cuba
Cortes then went on to his first exploration to conquer Cuba that was led under the guidance of Diego Velasquez in 1511. The journey was successful and Cortes was appointed as a Clerk to the treasure at the age of 26, while Velasquez was now the governor of Cuba.
Cortes promised to marry Catalina Suarez on his return. Catalina was the sister of his friend Juan Suarez, but he backed out from his words in last minute. Velasquez imprisoned him for not fulfilling his promise. After this Cortes agrees to marry Catalina but still there was a sour relation between Cortes and Velasquez.
When in Cuba, Cortes became more powerful among the people. He eventually led a revolt which stated that more Indians should be allowed to settle down in Cuba. Later in 1518 Cortes was appointed as the Captain General of an expedition that gave him more money and power.
He became the mayor-judge of Santiago when Velasquez was the governor. He was chosen to build a colony in Mexico by Velasquez but later he withdrew his order as he felt Cortes now thirst for more power and money. Cortes, however, defied Velasquez and continued with the expedition in spite of the latter’s objections.
What did Cortes Discover?
In the year 1519, Cortes left Cuba with 500 men,11 ships, 13 horses, lot many canons and set sail for the Yucatan region of Mexico. In his journey, he first arrived in Cozumel and started exploring the land. During his exploration, he found out the natives and the large bloodstained pyramids having human remains on it. On more research, he came to know that the pyramid was used for sacrifices of human to Gods.
Being shocked by this Cortes started to put efforts to convert the natives into Christian. For communication Cortes was dependent on native translators and guides. Later he and his men sailed on for Tabasco.
He reached Tabasco where men of Cortes and natives clashed. On March 1519, both the sides fought in a battle that later came to be known as the Battle of Cintla. However Spanish soldiers were too powerful for them as 800 Tabascans were killed and in return, only 2 Spanish soldiers were killed.
To honor Cortes, Tabascans pledge their loyalty to him and offered him Gold and woman slaves. One of the gifted slave women was Malinche. He made her into his advisor as well as his interpreter in order to communicate and understand the natives better. She was also her mistress and they both had a son named Martin.
After this, he continued his journey and on reaching Veracruz, he burnt his ships to ensure that he was not tempted to retreat under any circumstances. He left a few of his people at the shore and led most of his men into the land where they were attacked and outnumbered by the natives.
Cortes Expedition to Aztec
After this, he and his men reached the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, where he was honorably received by the emperor of Aztec, Montezuma II. He made it his base and on hearing about the plunder of Veracruz, he captured the emperor and killed the attackers of Veracruz.
In the meantime, Cortes also defeated the army sent by Velasquez against him and forced most of the men on his opponent side to join him. Although it seemed that Cortes had almost won over the Aztecs it was not that easy either.
The Aztec people defied and attacked him and his men. In fact, when the emperor tried to pacify them, they injured him which later caused his death.
However, Cortes managed to kill the Aztec chieftain and this prompted the natives to retreat. After a year Cortes once again attacked the capital in August 1521.
This time the then emperor totally surrendered to him and this marked the fall of the famous Aztec empire. Cortes had total control over Mexico for Spain. King Charles I of Spain appointed him as the new governor of Spain the following year. He later went on to establish Mexico city on the ruins of the fallen Aztec capital.
When did Hernando Cortes Die?
After Cortes successful victory over Aztec, he faced many difficulties for his position and authority. There started a rebellion against him in the area of Honduras for which he traveled there to stop it in 1524.
Meanwhile, Cortes was deprived of his power in Mexico also and was also suspended from his office of governor of New Spain by Ponce de Leon. He traveled to Spain to pledge a request to King to reappoint him, but that was in vain.
The years 1534 and 1535 were marked by his explorations of the Lower California where he fought Algerian pirates and he later went on an expedition to Yucatan. In 1540, Cortes returned to Spain and spent his years seeking appreciation and recognition oh his achievements.
In the end, Cortes was allowed to return to Mexico but he died near Seville in Spain on 2nd December 1547.
Hernando Cortes was indeed a great man and one of the most popular and successful Spanish conquistadors. Perhaps his greatest contribution was in the form of the ‘Cartas de Relacion’ where he had narrated his conquest of Mexico through five famous letters to Charles V. Through these letters his expeditions and experiences are alive even today upholding a living glimpse of the adventures and people of the time!