(Medellin, Badajoz, 1485 - Castilleja de la Cuesta, Seville, 1547) Spanish conqueror of Mexico. Few times the story has attributed to verve and determination of one-man conquest of a vast territory. in this reduced list is Hernán Cortes, who always preferred to burn their ships to retreat. With limited means, without hardly more support than his intelligence and his intuition military and diplomatic managed in only two years reduced to the Spanish domain the splendid Aztec, populated, Empire estimates by some fifteen million people.
Moctezuma II receives Hernán Cortes
It is true that various favourable circumstances accompanied him, and that, driven by ambition and thirst for honours and riches, he committed abuses and violence, as well as other conquerors. But of them all, cuts was the most educated and most capable captain, and although it does not serve as a mitigation, led him also a great religious fervor; his moral conscience came to ask if it was lawful to enslave Indians, an unusual question at the beginning of the colonization of the Americas.
Coming from a family of noblemen of Extremadura, Hernán Cortés studied briefly at the University of Salamanca. In 1504, he joined the Indies, newly discovered by Cristóbal Colón, and was established as a scribe and landowner in Hispaniola (Santo Domingo).
In 1511 he participated in the expedition to Cuba as the Secretary of the Governor Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, who married to marry his sister-in-law; Velázquez appointed him mayor of the new city of Santiago. In 1518 Diego Velázquez put Hernán cuts in command of an expedition to Yucatán; However, the Governor was wary of Cortes, who had already imprisoned on one occasion accused of conspiracy, and decided to relieve you of the order before leaving.
Warned cuts, accelerated his departure and was made to the sea in 1519, prior to receiving notification. With eleven ships, about six hundred men, sixteen horses and fourteen pieces of artillery, Hernán Cortés sailed from Santiago to Cozumel and Tabasco; There he defeated the Mayans and received (among other gifts) to india Doña Marina, also known as Malinche, which would serve him as a lover, counselor and interpreter throughout the campaign. Disobeying express orders from the Governor Velázquez, he founded the city of Villa Rica de la Veracruz on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.
The conquest of the Aztec Empire
There it had news of the existence of the Aztec Empire in the interior, whose capital said that it was great treasures, and was its conquest. To avoid the temptation to return that threatened many of his men before the obvious numerical inferiority, Hernán Cortes sank their boats in Veracruz; This episode comes from the phrase burn the ships, expression of an irrevocable determination. He soon managed to the Alliance of some indigenous peoples subjected to the Aztecs, toltecs and Tlaxcala.
After plundering Cholula, courts came to the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, where was greeted peacefully by the Emperor Moctezuma II, which was declared a vassal of the King of Castile. The possible identification of the Spaniards with divine beings and courts with the announced return of the God Quetzalcoatl perhaps favoured this host to a few foreigners who, however, immediately began to behave as ambitious and violent invaders.
Moctezuma II receives Hernán Cortes
Meanwhile, to punish the rebellion of cuts and force him to return to Cuba, the Governor Diego Velázquez sent against him an expedition under the command of Pánfilo de Narváez. Cortes had to leave the city to his Lieutenant Pedro de Alvarado to meet the troops of Narváez, who defeated in Cempoala in 1520, in addition getting most of the contingent joined him.
When he returned to Tenochtitlan, Cortés was found with a large indigenous agitation against the Spaniards, provoked by the attacks to their beliefs and religious symbols and the massacre that had unleashed Pedro de Alvarado to thwart an alleged plot. Cortés asked Moctezuma II prisoner and tried this mediate to calm his people, without achieving anything other than the death of the emperor.
Hernán Cortés was then forced to leave Tenochtitlan in the so-called «Noche Triste» (June 30, 1520), in which his small army was decimated. Taken refuge in Tlaxcala, continued fighting against the Aztecs (now under the command of Cuauhtémoc), who they defeated at the battle of Otumba; and, finally, he fenced and took Tenochtitlan (1521). Destroyed the Aztec capital, built in the same place (an island in the middle of a Lake) the Spanish city of Mexico.
Governor of new Spain
Already mastered the ancient Aztec Empire, Cortés launched expeditions to the South to annex the territories of Yucatan, Honduras and Guatemala. The details of the conquest of Mexico, as well as arguments that justified the decisions of Hernán cuts, were exposed in the four letters of relationship that sent to the King. In 1522 he was appointed Governor and captain general of new Spain (name given by the conquerors to Mexican territory).
However, the Spanish Crown (already in the hands of Carlos V) practiced a policy of cutting the powers of the conquistadors to more directly control the Indies; Royal officers appeared in Mexico sent to share the authority of the courts, to which, in 1528, was removed and sent to the Peninsula.
In Spain he was acquitted of all charges and he was even appointed Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca, as well as keep the honorary captain general, although no governmental functions position. Back to Mexico in 1530, yet organized some expeditions of conquest, as Mexico which joined the Baja California (1533 and 1539).
He returned once again to Spain to try to gain the Crown mercedes for services rendered, which came to take part in an expedition against Algiers in 1541, but their claims were never obtained full satisfaction; While awaiting response, settled in a nearby town to Seville, where he met a gathering of literary and humanistic and spent the last six years of his life.