Cortez, Hernando Essay, Research Paper
Cortez, HernandoCort s, Hern n or Cortez, Hernando (1485-1547), Spanish explorer and conqueror of the Aztec Empireof Mexico. Cort s was born in Medell n, 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 Vel zquez in the conquest of Cuba, and subsequently became alcalde (mayor) of Santiago de Cuba. In 1518 he persuaded Vel zquez, who had become 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 Fern ndez de C rdoba andsubsequently by Juan de Grijalva, nephew of Vel zquez. On February 19, 1519, Cort s, 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 Vel zquez, who had become suspicious thatCort s, once in a position to establish himself independently, would refuse to recognize his authority. Cort s sailed along the coast of Yucat n 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 Cort s learned of the Aztec Empire and its ruler, Montezuma II. Cort s took numerous captives, one of whom, Malinche (baptized Marina), became his mistress; out ofloyalty 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). Cort s organized an independent government, and renouncing the authority of Vel zquez, 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, Cort s destroyed his fleet.After negotiations with Montezuma, who tried to persuade Cort s not to enter the capital city ofTenochtitl n, Cort s 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 Cort s’s march, and finally determined not to oppose theSpanish invaders but to await their arrival at the Aztec capital and to learn more about their purposes. On November 8, 1519, Cort s and his small force, with some 600 native allies, entered the city andestablished headquarters in one of its large communal dwellings. Because of an Aztec prophecy about the return of Quetzalcoatl, a legendary god-king who was light skinned and bearded, Cort s was believed to be a god and was received with honor. The Spanish soldiers were allowed to roam through the city at their pleasure and found much gold and other treasures in the storehouses. Despite the amicable reception given the Spaniards, Cort s had reason to believe that attempts would be made to drive him out. To safeguard his position, he seized Montezuma as hostage and forced him to swear allegiance to Charles I, king of Spain, and to provide a ransom of an enormous sum in gold and jewels. Meanwhile Vel zquez dispatched an expedition under the Spanish soldier Panfilo de Narv ez to Mexico. In April 1520, Cort s received word that Narv ez had arrived on the coast. Leaving 200 men at Tenochtitl n under the command of Pedro de Alvarado, an explorer who had also been with Grijalva, Cort s marched with a small force to the coast, entered the Spanish camp at night, captured Narv ez, and induced the majority of the Spaniards to join his force.
Meanwhile harsh rules by Alvarado had aroused the Aztecs in the capital. An Aztec revolt against theSpaniards and their own imprisoned ruler, Montezuma, was under way when Cort s returned to the city. He was allowed to enter with his followers and to join Alvarado, but thereupon was immediately surrounded and attacked. At Cort s’s request Montezuma addressed the Aztecs in an attempt to quell the revolt. The Aztec ruler was stoned, and he died three days later. The Spanish and their allies were driven out of the city by a group of Aztecs led by Montezuma’s nephew Guatemotz n on a dark, rainy night, the famous Noche Triste ( Sad Night ), June 30, 1520. The Aztecs pursued the retreating Spanish troops and at Otumba, on July 7, 1520, after defeating a very large force of Aztecs, Cort s finally reached Tlaxcala. There, during the summer, he reorganized his army with the aid of some reinforcements and equipment from Vera Cruz. Cort s then began his return to the capital, capturing outlying Aztec outposts on the way. On August 13, 1521, after a desperate siege of three months, Guatemotz n, the new emperor, was captured, and Tenochtitl n fell. Cort s had Tenochtitl n razed and built Mexico City on its ruins. Colonists were brought over from Spain, and the city became the principal European city in America. The consolidation of Mexico by Cort s was not accomplished without great cruelty to the indigenous peoples. The popularity that Cort s achieved inSpain because of his conquests and the riches he had sent resulted in his being named governor and captaingeneral of New Spain in 1523. Cort s then undertook an expedition to Honduras from 1524 to 1526. Meanwhile, fearing his ambition, the Spanish court had sent officials to Mexico to investigate his acts. In 1528 Cort s was ordered to relinquish the government of Mexico and return to Spain. There he appealed to the king, was created marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca in the New World, and was reappointed captain general. He was not restored, however, to the civil governorship of Mexico. He married the daughter of the count of Aguilar and in 1530 returned to Mexico. There he found himself constantly checked in his activity, his property kept from him, his rights interfered with, and his popularity waning. In 1536 Cort s discovered the peninsula of Baja California in northwest Mexico, and explored the Pacific coast of Mexico. In 1539 the Spanish explorer Francisco V squez de Coronado secured the right to seek the Seven Cities of C bola, and in disgust Cort s went back to Spain to complain to the court. Again he wasreceived with honor but could secure no substantial assistance toward recovering his rights or his property. He served as a volunteer in 1541 in the unsuccessful Spanish expedition against Algiers, lost a large part of his remaining fortune, and was shipwrecked. Cort s, neglected by the court after the Algiers expedition, retired to a small estate near Seville, where he lived until his death.