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Profile of Hernan Cortes
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Cortes' army...took over the city easily, mercilessly killing thousands of
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Today, we're looking into the life of Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes.Cortes is remembered as one of the first explorers of the New World who accumulated a vast amount of wealth and land for Spain during the early period of European colonization. The bloodshed from his battles is infamous, as is his treatment of conquered peoples, significantly tainting his legacy.Cortes was born in 1485 in the Spanish village of Medellin to a military family. He enrolled at the University of Salamanca to study law as a teenager, but the promise of success in the New World was too much for him to pass up.Cortes travelled to the Caribbean island of Hispaniola in 1503, where family connections landed him a job as a notary. There, he trained to become a soldier and developed an excellent reputation as both a leader and a fighter. His skills were noticed by Diego Velazquez de Cuellar, who was leading a Spanish expedition to conquer the island of Cuba in 1511. Originally put on the trip as a clerk under the treasurer of the expedition, Cortes distinguished himself as a powerful military figure in Cuba. He led several brutal massacres of the indigenous people and subjugated the island. This is when he became one of the major conquistadors of the first era of Spanish colonization in the New World. Cortes became mayor of Santiago, a city on the island, and watched as two expeditions in 1517 and 1518 failed to conquer parts of Mexico.Later that year, at the age of 33, Cortes was selected by Velazquez to lead another Spanish attempt to conquer the interior of Mexico. This became Cortes' most famous accomplishment. After defeating several small tribes, Cortes continued moving inward, setting his sights on the mighty Aztec Empire, which dominated almost all of Mexico. Cortes' army, accompanied by warriors from some of the tribes he already conquered, marched into Tenochtitlan, the capital of the empire, and took over the city easily, mercilessly killing thousands of indigenous people.Governor Velazquez, who had had issues with Cortes in previous years, sent a separate expedition to Mexico to overthrow Cortes. Cortes left the Aztec capital to defeat the Spanish attack, and added the remaining soldiers to his own reinforcements. Upon his return to Tenochtitlan, Cortes found the capital city in a state of chaos. Pedro de Alvarado, one of Cortes' lieutenants, had attempted a massacre of the Aztec nobility, which led to an Aztec uprising called Noche Triste, or "sad night," that expelled the Spanish from the city.Cortes returned to Tenochtitlan in 1521 and reclaimed the city. He became the governor of the Mexican territory, called New Spain. He led several more expeditions throughout Mexico. However, his governorship was revoked in 1528, severely limiting his power in the New World. He returned to Spain, in 1540, where he died in 1547, at the age of 62.Thanks for watching this profile of Hernan Cortes. For more information, be sure to check out About.com
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