Hernán Cortés was born in 1485 in Spain. At the age of 14, he was sent to university to prepare for a law career. He grew tired of his studies and after two years dropped out of school. Cortés was fascinated by the tales of gold and riches in the New World.
In 1504, he sailed on a ship to the modern-day Dominican Republic. He began farming in the Spanish colony, which brought him wealth, and he owned several native slaves. In 1519 Cortés set out for Mexico to begin his invasion with 600 men.
In Cozumel he explored the land for colonization. He encountered natives and their large pyramid, used for human sacrifices to their gods. Cortés began to convert the natives to Christianity. He tore down their idols and replaced them with crosses and statues of the Virgin Mary. The Tabascan natives pledged loyalty to Spain, and gave Cortés gold and slave women.
Cortés formed an allegiance with the great Aztec ruler Montezuma, who gave him several thousand warriors. By this time, Cortés’ men were beginning to grumble. Afraid his men would leave, Cortés destroyed all the ships. His men now had no choice but to follow him onward.
By 1521 Cortés seized control of neighboring territories and the capital, marking the fall of the Aztec empire. Cortés had seized control of Mexico for Spain. Cortés was named governor, and went on to establish Mexico City, built on the ruins of the fallen Aztec capital.
Hernán Cortés is most known for his capture of the Aztec Empire. He enslaved much of the native population, and many of them were died from European diseases such as smallpox. He was a smart, ambitious man who wanted to take land for the Spanish crown, convert native inhabitants to Catholicism, and plunder the lands for gold and riches. In addition to overseeing the building of Mexico City, he opened the door for further exploration and conquest of Central America to the south, and eventually the acquisition of California towards the north.
Source: Hernán Cortés
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