Hernan Cortes

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by Jeep56
Last updated 7 years ago

Social Studies
American History

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Hernan Cortes


Hernan Cortes was the daring and ruthless commander of a Spanish expedition to conquer the Aztec Empire. In 1519, he and a force of only 500 conquistadors sailed from the Spanish colony of Cuba to the mysterious land that would later be called Mexico.

Cortes and his men marched through the Aztec Empire. Along the way, Cortes recruited tribes hostile towards the Aztecs, offering them freedom from brutal Aztec oppression and impressing them with the power of Spanish weaponry. Several tribes such as the Tlaxcala, joined forces with Cortes and his force grew into the thousands.

Within several weeks, the Spanish reached the magnificent capital city of the Aztecs, Tenochtitlan. The emperor of the Aztec Empire, Montezuma II, invited Cortes and his men into the city. It was a fateful decision. Montezuma had hoped to keep a watchful eye on the Spanish strangers, but Cortes seized the opportunity to capture the emperor and hold him prisoner within his own palace.

Through Montezuma, Cortes ordered the Aztecs to bring him offerings of gold. Soon after, though, the Aztecs grew angry with the greed of the Spanish and the ineffectiveness of their ruler. An angry mob attempted to force its way into the palace and Montezuma was killed by his own people as he attempted to calm them from the rooftop. With the emperor dead, Cortes and his men gathered as much gold as they could carry and fled from the city.

Several months later, Cortes retuned with a larger force and laid siege to the city. Eventually the conquistadors and their native allies stormed through Tenochtitlan, razing the city block by block. The Aztecs, who had been decimated by a plague of smallpox, fought to protect their city, but were soon overwhelmed. The once-mighty empire was brought down by the determination of Hernan Cortes and European guns, germs, and steel.


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