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Hernán Cortés

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Hernán Cortés

Hernán Cortés (1485 - 2 December 1547) was an explorer and conqueror from Spain. Between 1519 and 1521, he conquered the Aztec empire of emperor Montezuma where Mexico is today. Cortes was born Medellín, Extremadura province, in the Kingdom of Castile in Spain. He went to Salamanca University, but dropped out at the age of 17. After two years, Cortes failed and finished schooling, returning home. This, however, was later helpful, as he knew how the law of Spain worked.

Hernan's journeys started in 1502 when he had heard stories about the New World. He then went on a journey led by Nicolas de Ovando and Diego Velazquez to the West Indies. He turned out to be a good soldier under the orders of Velázquez.

He went to the New World in 1506. He took part in the Spanish conquest of Hispaniola and Cuba in 1511 where the Arawak people lived. In 1513 the town, Bayamo was made and in 1514 the towns Trinidad, Santo Espiritu, Puerto Principe and Santiago de Cuba were also made. In 1519, he started from Cuba by ships with 600 men and about 20 horses and went to Yucatán to look for gold and to get Mexico ready for colonization. They landed in Yucatán Peninsula and met Jeronimo De Aguilar, a priest who lived through a shipwreck. He knew a lot about Maya, the owners at this section of land. Cortes took Yucatán by winning a battle against the people of Tabasco. He met a woman, La Malinche, who knew the Maya and Nahuatl languages, allowing Cortes to speak both languages, he conquered the Aztec empire.

In July of 1519, the Spanish took over Veracruz and left 100 men. Cortes then went to Tenochtitlan in August that same year and with him 400 men, 15 horsemen and 15 cannons, on his way meeting Native Amercian tribes like the Nahuus of Tlaxcala and the totonaes of Cempoaly.

In October, 1519, Cortes went to Cholula with his soldiers and around three thousand Tlaxcalteca (another tribe) to scare the Aztecs in Tenochtitlan. He then went on a killing spree and burned down the city. When he came to Tenochtitlan, he had a vast army of enemies of the Aztecs. In November, they were welcomed by the emperor of the Aztecs, Moctezuma II, who let them into the territory, where he learned their flaws and then destroyed them. The emperor gave them gold and Cortes later told King Charles V that the Aztecs might have thought he was one of their gods, Quetzalcoatl, a feathered serpent with fair skin and a beard. Cortes quickly realized that some Spaniards had been attacked on the coast and planned to kidnap Moctezuma and his house and make him swear loyalty to King Charles V.

Cortés saw the capital city of the empire, Tenochtitlán, and was surprised that this city was as great as Constantinople. The Aztecs were surprised too, because they had not seen horses before Cortés brought them. On the night of June 30 – July 1, 1520 the Aztecs attacked, but the majority of the Spanish escaped and allied themselves with enemies of the Aztec empire. Later, in 1521 with his army of a few Spaniards and many natives, Cortés destroyed this city.

Cortés returned from Honduras and was Governor of the Viceroyalty of New Spain for a while. Later, he went back to Europe with a lot of treasure. He died in Seville, Spain in 1547 from pleurisy.