The Arrival of Hernan Cortes
In 1519 an expedition left Cuba to explore the coast of Mexico. The
commander of this expedition was a 33 year old gentleman named Hernan
Hernan’s ships landed in present day Veracruz in April of 1519. When the
Aztec emperor Moctezuma II had heard of the Spaniards arrival he ordered
for their supplies to be replenished and for lavish gifts of precious jewels
and feathers to be sent and of course for human sacrifices to be performed
for the Spanish arrivals. Aside from the human sacrifices which the Spanish
deemed barbaric and savage, Hernan saw the gifts as a beacon to the Aztec
The Spanish expedition made its way to a region dominated by the Tlaxcala
which was a native civilization that was the enemy of the Aztecs. The
Tlaxcala first engaged in combat against the Spaniards but after seeing their
superior technology they made an alliance with them because they believed
the Spanish to be the enemy of their enemy, the Aztecs.
Hernan continued this pattern of recruiting native civilizations to ally
themselves with him all along his way to Mexico.
By this time Cortes had founded the country’s first Spanish town at
Veracruz andwas given his own army and the authority to colonize and to
set on conquest of his choosing.
Cortes Sets His Eyes On The Prize
Cortez traveled to Tenochtitlan where he was greeted by the Aztec Emperor Moctezuma II and
other elite members of the Aztec Empire. Moctezuma and his noblemen showered Cortez with gifts
but it was only soon there after that Cortes had his forces massacre the most eminent members of
the Aztec nobility where they were all gathered in celebration of the feast of Huitzilopochtli. The
Spaniards are said to have killed almost ten thousand Aztecs including Moctezuma himself.
(although it is still not clear if Moctezuma was killed by the Spanish or his own people.)
Cortez and his Spaniards took residence in the palaces of Tenochtitlan but there stay was brief. The
remaining Aztec nobility were able to organize and assemble a force strong enough to drive out
Cortes and his forces from the Aztec capital. The Aztecs had surrounded the Spanish in the capital
and on June 30th 1520, during a moonless and heavy night of rain the Cortez and his men fled to
the mainland but took on heavy and substantial losses.
Cortez survived the escape but had every intention of returning and reclaiming the capital of
He returned to Tenochtitlan with greater forces and made use of the alliances he had made with
other native civilizations and finally took the city back on August 13th 1521. It is estimated that
roughly 240,000 Aztec lives were lost during his siege on the capital.
In 1522 the Spanish Monarchy gave Hernan the title of Governor and Captain-general of New
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