Who were the Aztecs?
-Lived in Central Mexico
-A fierce, warrior culture
-Very wealthy in gold.
-Many tribes around the Aztecs were not fond of them.
Who were the Incas?
-Built cities in the mountains.
-Had extensive trade networks and roads.
-Built terraces into the mountainsides to farm.
-Built elaborate rope bridges.
-Lived in the Andes Mountains of Western South America.
Who were the Conquistadors?
-Spanish soldiers given permission
by the King of Spain to conquer the
-Had to pay for equipment, but got
to keep whatever they found.
-Many of them were second and
third sons of Noblemen, with no
real chance at inheriting their
-Most were commoners looking for
Cortes conquers the Aztecs
1519 - Hernan Cortes lands at Veracruz,
Mexico. Proceeds to the Aztec
capital. The Aztecs, thinking that he was
the incarnation of the god Quetzlcoatl,
1520-1521 - After initially making friends
with the Aztecs, Cortes turns on
them. The Aztecs, weakened by a
smallpox epidemic, a siege of the city
and the technological advantage enjoyed
by the Spanish, were defeated in
1521. Cortes levels the city of
Tenochtitlan, rebuilding parts of modern-
day Mexico City on its ruins.
Pizarro conquers the Incas
1532 - Pizarro lands near the Inca
Empire on the West coast of South
1533 - Pizarro captures the Inca
Emperor Atahualpa and holds him for
ransom. Pizarro took the ransom, but
had Atahualpa strangled anyway. He
and his men looted and destroyed the
Inca city of Cuzco.
1541 - Pizarro is assassinated by other
Conquistadors who were trying to seize
the city of Lima.
Other Spanish Adventures in the 1500s.
Francisco Coronado explored much of the Southwestern US
looking for the mythical cities of Cibola, or El Dorado, the
Seven Cities of Gold. He also fought with the Pueblo, Zuni,
and Navajo after failing to convince them to become Christians.
Hernando De Soto, who was with Pizarro in South America,
explored much of the Southeast, at one point making a
powerful enemy in the Choctaws, who eventually killed him in
the mud flats of the Mississippi River.
Ponce de Leon searched modern-day Florida for the mythical
Fountain of Youth and Native American slaves.
Yet another Spanish adventure...
-In August 1519, Ferdinand Magellan and 237 men set sail in 5
ships from Spain to go around South America and across the
-The voyage across the Pacific took longer than expected, with
many of the crew resorting to eating rats, boiled leather and
-Magellan reached the Philippine Islands in February 1521. He
was killed by Phillippine Natives while trying to forcefully
convert them to Christianity.
-In September 1522, 18 of Magellan's 237-man crew returned
to Spain, having completed the first round-the-world voyage.
The Crown takes control
Concerns over Cortes creating an independent empire in
America prompted King Charles V of Spain to take direct
control in the form of establishing the Viceroyalty of New Spain.
After the conquest of the Incas, he established the Viceroyalty
There were four social classes in Spanish America:
Peninsulares: Native-born Spanish. Held all of the most
important government jobs.
Creoles: American-born to Spanish or Creole parents. Owned
most of the productive land and businesses.
Mestizos: Mixed-race (Indian/Spanish): mostly low-level
Mullatoes: Mixed-race (Black/Spanish): Just below Mestizos on
the social scale.
Native Americans/African-Americans: slaves or social outcasts
Gold and silver from the Americas poured into the Spanish
treasury, Spain seemed destined to be THE world's first
dominant power for a long time.