HERNÁN CORTÉS Born in 1485 in Medellín, Spain Cortés was originally a law student, but he gave up his education to search for fame and fortune in the Americas. He sailed out to the Dominican Republic in 1504, then on to Cuba in 1511 where he helped Diego Velázquez conquer the island. In 1518, Velázquez made Cortés the head of an expedition to Mexico. Cortés quickly gathered over 300 men and an impressive fleet of ships. He sailed out to sea not long after, despite the fact that an irritated Velázquez had by then changed his mind about his decision to send Cortés. Cortés and his men made landfall at the Yucatan Peninsula in early 1519. He harvested information from the locals and appointed a native, known to the world today by the name Malinche, to be his advisor and interpreter. He founded the settlement of Veracruz soon after. Later that year, Cortés found himself in Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire. The king, Montezuma, welcomed him and his army with gifts and kindness, believing the conquistador to be the embodiment of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl. Because of this, Cortés’s siege of the capital was met with little resistance.
HERNÁN CORTÉS In 1520, Cortés was forced to leave Tenochtitlan in the hands of one of his captains in order to contest the seizure of his power by Velázquez’s army. When the victorious conquistador returned to the Aztec capital, he found his army overpowered by the revolting natives. He was forced out of the city, but returned not long after. With the help of his Indian allies, who were also bitter enemies of the Aztecs, Tenochtitlan and, in turn, the entire Aztec Empire fell to the hands of Cortés in 1521.Cortés’s Impact Negative: the great Aztec Empire fell, many perished from conquest and the new diseases brought over from Europe, many natives became slaves, cultures were destroyed Positive: Spain gained new territory and fame and benefited from new wealth, the Spanish got to spread their religion throughout Mexico and Central America, a new people known as mestizos arose (the offspring of Spanairds and Native Americans), horses and other cattle were introduced to the New World, the Spaniards gained the Native American staple of corn (or maize)
FRANCISCO PIZARRO Born somewhere between 1471-1478 in Trujillo, Spain He traveled with Alanso de Ojeda to Colombia in 1509-1510. In 1513, Pizarro joined Vasco Núñez de Balboa on an expedition across the Isthmus of Panama, becoming one of the first Europeans to ever see the Pacific Ocean. He served as the mayor of Panama City for a number of years, from 1519 to 1523, under Balboa’s successor. After hearing of the successes of Hernán Cortés, Pizarro began making plans to sail south and explore the lands below Panama. He made a pact with a soldier, Diego de Almagro, and a priest, Hernando de Luque. In in 1524, with Almagro and Luque, Pizarro set sail for South America. Unfortunately, the trio only made it to Columbia before difficulties forced them to turn back. Two years later, Almagro, Luque, and Pizarro set out again with Bartolomé Ruiz. Ruiz sailed ahead and, after crossing the equator, came across a raft belonging to the locals that was packed with riches and goods from Peru. Spurred on by Ruiz’s discovery, Pizarro sent Almagro back to Panama for reinforcements and supplies, but the new governor of Panama refused to entertain any requests from Pizarro or his men and demanded Pizarro’s return.
FRANCISCO PIZARRO At this point, refusing to go back to Panama, Pizarro was said to have drawn a line in the sand, telling his men to either cross it and join him in his quest for wealth or to leave him. Only thirteen individuals, known as the Famous Thirteen, stayed behind and accompanied Pizarro as he continued south. Thirteen men could only do so much; the conquest of Peru required more recruits and more supplies. After the governor denied the request for a third expedition, Pizarro travelled to Spain in 1528 to gain the support of royalty. He won the king’s favor and was given permission to conquer Peru. Pizarro embarked on his third expedition in 1530. Shortly after arriving at the Incan city of Cajamarca, the Incan Emperor met with and dismissed the Spaniards, refusing to accept the foreigners’ religion and surrender. Pizarro killed the Emperor not long after and conquered the Incan capital of Cuzco in 1533.Pizarro’s Impact Negative: the Incan Empire fell, many were killed via violence and disease Positive: Spain grew richer and gained new territory, the city of Lima (now the capital of Peru) was founded
FERDINAND MAGELLAN Born in 1480 in either Porto or Sabrosa, Portugal At the age of ten, Magellan, due to his noble lineage, became a page to the queen of Portugal. In 1505, Magellan joined an expedition to India. While he was in Morocco in 1512, he was seriously wounded and took leave without permission from his commanding officer. Not long after this, Magellan was bombarded with false accusations of trading illegally with the Moors, and, despite his innocence, his reputation was badly damaged. Offers of employment dwindled down to zero. In 1517, after the king of Portugal refused to allow Magellan to organize an expedition to the Spice Islands, he left for Spain. In 1519, King Charles V grants Magellan permission to attempt to circumnavigate the Earth for Spain. He was given a fleet of five ships and over 250 men. By late 1520, Magellan and his crew had reached the tip of South America. One ship had been destroyed and the captain of another had deserted the expedition, sailing back to Spain. The three remaining ships soon crossed into the Pacific Ocean, having managed to safely navigate through the dangerous waters of what is now known as the Strait of Magellan.
FERDINAND MAGELLAN In 1521, Magellan and his crew made it to Guam and then sailed on to the Philippines. The natives there welcomed the Spaniards and the king of the natives even underwent a conversion to Christianity. However, it wasn’t long before the peaceful activities were interrupted; Magellan and his men found themselves in the middle of a war between tribes. On April 27th, Magellan died of fatal wounds on the battlefield. Shortly after, another ship had been burned and the remaining two vessels set out for Spain. One year later on September 6th, 1522, the Victoria, the only ship that managed to survive the voyage, docked in Spain. Less than 20 of the original crew, which was over 250 in number, were aboard. The first ever circumnavigation of the globe was complete.Magellan’s Impact: Negative: many perished including Magellan himself Positive: provided solid proof that the world was round, Spain gained fame, the accuracy of maps increased, new trade routes were discovered
CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS Born in 1451 in Genoa, Italy Columbus made his first voyage into the Atlantic in 1476. He was nearly killed off the coast of Portugal after pirates launched an attack on his vessel, but he escaped and swam to shore. Columbus moved to Spain in 1485 and began devising a plan to reach India and Asia by travelling west as opposed to going east around the tip of Africa. Columbus’s finished plan was rejected in Italy and Portugal, and it was initially rejected by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain; they all cited potential flaws in Columbus’s estimations regarding distance. In 1492, despite being previously turned down, Columbus was finally granted permission from the king and queen of Spain to organize an expedition and attempt to find a better trade route to Asia. In August of the same year, Columbus departed from Spain with three ships: the Santa Maria, the Pinta, and the Niña. After over a month out at sea, Columbus and his crew arrived at an island which would later become part of the Bahamas. He and his crew engaged in friendly trade with some of the natives.
CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS Columbus sailed on to Cuba and Hispaniola (modern day Haiti/Dominican Republic). The Santa Maria collided with a reef near the latter and sank. He founded a settlement on Hispaniola called “La Navidad” using salvaged ship parts. Believing he did what he had set out to do (find a trade route to Asia), Columbus returned to Spain to report his findings to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Columbus would later embark on three more voyages. He would visit many more islands and sail near the coast of what he believed was Asia, but was truly South and Central America, in search of a trade route to the Indian Ocean. In 1506, Columbus dies, still completely oblivious to the fact that what he discovered was not a trade route to Asia, but two entirely new (to the Europeans, at least) continents.Columbus’s Impact: Negative: countless indigenous peoples would later die from disease or violence stemming from European colonization, cultures would be destroyed and lost forever Positive: remaining Native Americans gain the horse, the Old World would gain territory and all different sorts of food and goods that were previously unavailable, European colonization would lead to the rise of new civilizations Other: Native Americans are often called “Indians” and the Caribbean islands are known as the “West Indies” because Columbus had believed he landed in India