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Cortes- The Conquistador

A Deadly Meeting

Who is Hernan Cortes?

Cortes was the man leading the Spanish troops
towards Tenochtitlan.
Cortes was an adventurous and ambitious young
man. He heard people talking about the gold
that Columbus brought back from the Caribbean.
At the age of 19, Cotes set sail for the colonies
in the New World.
In many ways Cortes embodied the Spanish
worldview of his time. He had a strong lust for
glory and gold. He also felt a duty to claim land
in the name of Spain and spread the Catholic
religion to those overseas.

The Two Images of Cortes

Cortes by Christoph Weiditz

Cortes by Diego Rivera

Cortes and the New World

Cortes believed that the Caribbean would be a good place to
make his fortune.
When he arrived in Hispaniola (Dominican Republic) in 1504,
the governor immediately gave him a large farm. But I
came to get gold, not to till the land like a peasant, said
Cortes joined a 300 man expedition to conquer Cuba, which
succeeded using their usual formula.
Cortes remained in Cuba as second in command to Governor
Velazquez. Velazquez sent out two expeditions to learn
about the Yucatan Peninsula, a land mass west of Cuba.
The expeditions reported that there was a civilization in this
new land that was stronger, more advanced, and wealthier
than any group the Spanish had yet to encounter.
This is the opportunity Cortes had been waiting for. He got
Velazquez to help finance an expedition to the Yucatan. In a
few months, Cortes had 11 ships, 508 fighting men, 100
sailors, 200 indigenous slaves, and 16 horses.

The Richest Men Who Ever Crossed the Seas

Before leaving the harbor in Cuba, Cortes stood on a packing
crate and made a speech to his forces. He wanted to inspire
them to face the dangers and hardships that were ahead.

If you do not abandon me, as I shall not

abandon you, I shall make you the richest men
who ever crossed the seas
Then, just as Cortes was setting sail, Velazquez arrived and
tried to cancel the expedition. He grew worried that Cortes
would get all the glory for his discoveries and that Cortes did
not respect his authority over the new lands Cortes might
Cortes ignored the governor and the expedition sailed off.
Once landing on the coast of Mexico, Cortes established a
town and declared an independent government. This meant
that he was now responsible only to the King of Spain and
not Velazquez. He sent one ship to Spain with treasure and
sank the other ten ships. If there remained any soldiers loyal
to Velazquez, it was now impossible for them to leave!

The Conquistadors Formula

1. An expedition would set out from a recent colony.

2. After landing, the Spanish would meet peacefully with

the Indigenous people they encountered. Their aim
was to discover which group in the area was the most
3. The Spanish would then invite the leader of that
powerful group to a meeting to exchange gifts. They
would then seize the leader and threaten to kill him
unless his followers obeyed their orders.
4. If they did have to fight, the Spanish would fight on
open ground. Their horses, armor, and weapons gave
them a huge advantage.
5. The leader of the expedition would remain as
governor of the new colony and his second in
command would organize the next expedition. The
indigenous peoples would be forced into slavery.