Cortes And Montezuma Conquistadores: Search For Aztec Gold

In 1519, Hernan Cortes and his conquistadores, about 500 men with 16 horses, set sail for present day Mexico. In two years they defeated Montezuma and the Aztec Empire.

Hernan Cortes was born in Spain in the year of 1485, and like many other Spainards, when he was a young man he sought his fortune in the New World. He sailed from Seville in 1504 for Hispaniola, present day Dominican Republic, an island in the Caribbean Sea discovered by Columbus in 1492.

Cortes had little in the way of money, but he did have influence with the Governor, Nicholas de Ovando, who was a friend of the family. He received land and slaves to work it. Later he participated in the invasion of Cuba and was awarded more land and slaves. He became prosperous and influential, but hungered for more.

In 1519, at the age of 34, he got his chance to lead an expedition to solve the riddle of a mysterious place called "Mexico" by the natives of the recently discovered Yucatan Peninsula which was thought to be rich in gold.

Hernan Cortes had 11 ships, 100 sailors, 508 soldiers, and 16 horses. These plus a few small canons that fired rounded rocks and the normal weapons of his day like the musket, crossbow, pikes, and swords were his army's arsenal to defeat tens of thousands of native warriors.

Montezuma, or Moctezuma, as some call him was 55 years old in 1519. He was the chief priest, head of the army, and ruler of the Aztec Nation, as was his father before him. As chief priest, he oversaw and participated in the thousands of human sacrifices to Huitzilopochtli, the god of the sun, war, and hunting and the chief deity of the Aztec people. As general he lead his army into battle, and as ruler of the Aztecs he formed military alliances and subdued his countries enemies.

When Montezuma first heard of Cortes he though he might be Quetzelcoatl, the God of Wisdom, who hated human sacrice and, according to legend, was due to return to Mexico after being banished by wizards, rulers of the land. This worked to advantage of Cortes, because it made Montezuma indecisive in his dealings with Cortes. He sent gifts instead of armies to Cortes and his men.

Cortes first landed at Cozumel Island off the coast of present day Yucatan, then made his way north along the coast. He fought a won a battle in Tabasco, and more importanly found the woman Malinche, a nineteen year old slave who spoke several native languages. She learned Spanish with equal facility and became Cortes' interpreter and later the mother of his son, Martin.

Continuing up the coast, he fought when he had to and made allies of Indian peoples who hated the Aztecs. Upon reaching present day Vera Cruz, he sent all the loot taken to date to King Charles, got himself elected Governor, and burned his ships. They were now committed to succeed or die. The only way they could survive was to conquor Montezuma and the Aztec Empire.

It took two years, but in the end Cortes and the conquisitatadores prevailed even though outnumbered a thousand to one. At one point Cortes kidnapped Montezuma and threatened to kill him if he did not follow Cortes' wishes. Finally, Montezuma was killed by his own people according to the Spaniards. Cortes and his men looted the country, then settled the country, tore down its sacrificial altars, replacing the Aztec ritual with Christanity, and brought European government to the New World.

The amount of gold, silver, and other resources taken out of Mexico is incalculable. A nation vanished.

Tenochtitlan, present day Mexico City, in 1519 was the largest city in the western world. What Montezuma and other Aztec rulers had built fell to the driving forces of Gold and God.

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