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Cortés

  • Date Submitted: 01/28/2010 06:28 AM
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Cortés, Hernán or Cortez, Hernando (1485-1547), Spanish explorer and conqueror of the Aztec Empire


of Mexico.







Cortés was born in Medellín, Extremadura. He studied law at the University of Salamanca, but cut short


his


university career in 1501 and decided to try his fortune in the New World. He sailed for Santo Domingo in


the


spring of 1504. In 1511 he joined the Spanish soldier and administrator Diego Velázquez in the conquest


of


Cuba, and subsequently became alcalde (mayor) of Santiago de Cuba. In 1518 he persuaded Velázquez, who


had


beco1me governor of Cuba, to give him the command of an expedition to Mexico. The mainland had been


discovered the year before by the Spanish soldier and explorer Francisco Fernández de Córdoba and


subsequently by Juan de Grijalva, nephew of Velázquez.


On February 19, 1519, Cortés, with a force of some 600 men, fewer than 20 horses, and 10 field pieces,


set sail


from Cuba, despite the cancellation of his commission by Velázquez, who had become suspicious that


Cortés,


once in a position to establish himself independently, would refuse to recognize his authority. Cortés


sailed along


the coast of Yucatán and in March 1519 landed in Mexico, subjugating the town of Tabasco; the artillery


of the


Spaniards, the ships, and particularly the horses filled the natives with awe. From the natives of


Tabasco Cortés


learned of the Aztec Empire and its ruler, Montezuma II.


Cortés took numerous captives, one of whom, Malinche (baptized Marina), became his mistress; out of


loyalty to


him she acted as the interpreter, guide, and counselor for the Spaniards. Finding a better harbor a


little north of


San Juan, the Spaniards moved there and established a town, La Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz (now Veracruz).


Cortés organized an independent...

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