Hernan Cortez

Cortez was the Spanish conquistador who conquered Mexico.

Cortez was born in Spain. At the age of 19 he sailed for Hispaniola. With Diego Velazquez he conquered Cuba and settled there until 1518 when Velazquez appointed him to lead an expedition to Mexico.

With his force of 700 men he landed on the coast of Mexico and founded the settlement of Veracruz. Cortez burned his ships behind him, thereby committing his entire force to survival through conquest.

Cortez moved to Tenochtitlan (Mexico City), the capital of the powerful Aztec Indians. The Aztecs had conquered most of the surrounding tribes. Montezuma, the Aztec ruler received the Spaniards graciously, but was made prisoner and used by Cortez to rule the country.

The Aztecs, angered by Montezuma's submission, revolted and forced the Spaniards to withdraw. But Cortez received reinforcements from the West Indies and from many Indian groups who hated the Aztecs because of their cruelty. With this increased army, Cortez captured Tenochtitlan in 1521 and terminated the Aztec empire.

For many years Cortez governed Mexico, then called New Spain, but in 1540 he fell out of favor with the king of Spain. He returned to Spain to plead his case in vain. He died in a small village near Seville.