Hernan Cortes

Jared Gummig

Hernan Cortes was born in 1485 in a town called Medellin in Extremadura. It talks about little of his child hood and little about his young life except that he studied law at the University of Salamanca. His law school years were cut short in 1501 when he decided to try his luck in the New World. He sailed from Santo Domingo in the Spring of 1504. After he had got there in 1511 he joined he Spanish Soldier and Administrator Diego Velasquez in the conquest of Cuba, and there he became alcalde or mayor of Santiago de Cuba. In 1518 he persuaded Velasquez to give him command to the expedition of Mexico. Juan de Grijalva, nephew of Velasquez, had discovered the mainland the year before by the Spanish soldier and explorer Fernandez de Cobia and.

On February 19, 1519 Cortes set sail west from Cuba even though Velasquez cancelled his pay because of suspicion that Cortes would find himself independent and refuse to take order. Cortes took with him about 600 men, less than 20 horses, and 10 field pieces. Cortes sailed along the east coast of Yucatan and in March 1519 landed in Mexico. Cortes neutralized the town of Tabasco. The artillery, the ships, and especially the horses awed the natives. From these people of Tabasco Cortes learned about the Aztecs and their ruler Montezuma II.

Cortes took lots of captives one of which they baptized and renamed Marina. She became his lover and out of loyalty to him became his interpreter, Translator, Guide, and Counselor. Finding a better harbor a little North of San Juan they established a town called La Villa Rica De La Vera Cruz, which literally translates to The Rich Village Of The Vera Cruz. This was later called just Varacruz. Cortes did what Velasquez that he would do, and abandoned the authority of everybody except the king and queen. Cortes was a strategical thinker and destroyed his group of vessels in order to prevent small forces from opposing him and returning to Cuba to tell Velasquez.

At about this time Cortes started his famous march inland even after negotiations with Montezuma. Montezuma tried to persuade Cortes not to enter the capital city of Tenochtitlan but Cortes was good at not following directions. Cortes overcame the native tribe Tlascalans. This tribe quickly became an alliance to the Spanish because they were enemies to the Aztecs. As the conquest went on this tribe continued to be the most important alliance of the Spaniards.

Montezuma pursued an insecure policy during Cortes's march, and he 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 November8, 1519, Cotes and his small force and with another 600 native allies entered the city and established headquarters in one of its communal dwellings. There was an Aztec prophecy about the return of Quetzalcoatl, a legendary god-king who was light skinned and bearded. Because of this prophecy Cortes was believed to be a god and was received with honor. The Spanish soldiers were allowed to wander throughout the city at there digression. They found mounds of gold in stalk houses. Despite the friendly reception giving to the Spanish, Cortes had reason to believe that there would be attempts to drive them out of the city. To safeguard his position he took Montezuma as a hostage and forced him to swear allegiance to Charles I, king of Spain and to provide ransom of an enormous sum in gold and jewels. While Cortes was doing this Velasquez dispatched an expedition under the Spanish soldier Panfilo de Narveas to Mexico.

In April 1520 Cortes received word that Narveaz had arrived on the coast. Leaving 200 men at Tenochtitlan under the command of Pedro de Alvarado. Cortes marched with a small force toward the shore entered the Spanish camp at night and captured Narveas and persuaded the majority of the Spaniards to join his force.

While Cortes was at work with this Alvarado?s harsh rule had aroused the Aztecs in the capital. An Aztec revolt against the Spaniards and even their imprisoned ruler was under way when Cortes reentered the capital. He was allowed to enter with his followers and he was allowed to join Alvarado but was immediately surrounded and attacked. At Cortes?s request, Montezuma tried to calm the revolt. Montezuma was stoned,