Hernándo Cortés gained celebrity by posing genocide on Aztec/Mexican people. Less than two years after he first set foot in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán on November 8, 1519 then led by Moctezuma II it was swiftly conquered.
While stationed in Cuba Cortés embraced his promised assignment to lead an expedition to Mexico. Expecting that it would not happen he disobeyed the orders of Cuban Governor Diego Velázquez and organized his own rogue crew of 100 sailors, 11 ships, 508 soldiers and 16 horses. He set sail from Cuba on the morning of February 18, 1519, to begin an unauthorized expedition to Mesoamerica. Cortés received word that the Cuban governor had sent a Spanish force to arrest Cortés for insubordination. Leaving his top lieutenant Pedro de Alvarado in charge of Tenochtitlán, Cortés took men to attack the Spanish forces at the coast. Corte’s men defeated the troops and took the surviving solders to supplement his force. In the meantime, Alverado executed many of the natives during a cultural celebration.
When the Spanish arrived in the Americas they came from a war-oriented culture that had seen battle against other European nations for dominance and against North Africans for sovereignty. The conquistadors arrived in Mesoamerica with better guns and had been trained in tactical strategies. They deployed a cavalry that could chase down retreating warriors, dogs trained to track down and encircle enemies and horses capable of trampling adversaries. Up against large armies of Spanish and Indigenous forces, surrounded and cut off from the mainland, and with a population succumbing to an unknown, devastating virus, the Aztec Empire was unable to fight off the invading Spanish conquistadors.
In their bloody battles for domination over the Aztecs, Cortés and his men are estimated to have killed as many as 100,000 Indigenous peoples. More than 3 million Aztecs died from smallpox, and with such a severely weakened population, it was easy for the Spanish to take Tenochtitlán. It is uncertain how Montezuma died.
So get real! When you hear or have heard of the benefits that the Spaniards brought to the Aztecs and the Incans that they helped modernize the society. That they introduced the Aztecs to domestic animals, sugar, grains, and European farming practices. Most significantly, the Spanish ended the Aztec’s practice of human sacrifice.
Hernándo Cortés was not an “Explorer” as we were taught in school. He was a Spanish conquistador, essentially a sanctioned pirate: sanctioned to steal with a license to kill. His goal was to claim land and resources for their investors and conquer natives of other lands for treasure and glory.
The two most famous conquistadors were Hernán Cortés who conquered the Aztec Empire and Francisco Pizarro who led the conquest of the Incan Empire. They were second cousins born in Extremadura, where many of the Spanish conquerors were born.
These men were ruthless killers but not unlike many others, as the times were molded by near and past history.
Itzcoatl, leader of the Aztec/Mexica people in 1427, brought together -Tenochtitlán, Tetzcoco and Tlacopán City States of Mexico. Their territory extended from central Mexico to what is now Guatemala.