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Spain’s Empire in the Americas. Chapter 2 Section 1. Spanish Conquistadors. By the early 1500s, he Spanish had a firm foothold in the Americas . From Spain’s island colonies in Caribbean, soldier - adventurers called conquistadors set out to explore and conquer the world unknown to them.

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Spanish conquistadors
Spanish Conquistadors

  • By the early 1500s, he Spanish had a firm foothold in the Americas.

  • From Spain’s island colonies in Caribbean, soldier - adventurers called conquistadors set out to explore and conquer the world unknown to them.

  • They hoped for riches and glory for themselves and Spain.

Cort s and pizarro
Cortés and Pizarro

  • In 1519, conquistador Hernando Cortés sailed from Cuba to Mexico with more than 500 soldiers.

  • The first Native Americans presented him gifts of gold.

  • On November 8, 1519, Cortés marched into the Aztec capital city of Tenochtitlan.

  • Many Native Americans joined them because they hated the Aztec’s brutal rule.


  • The Aztec leader Moctezuma, met with Cortés and tried to get him to leave by offering him gold.

  • The gold had the opposite effect.

  • Cortés took Moctezuma hostage and claimed all of Mexico for Spain.

  • However, the Aztecs soon rebelled and forced the Spaniards to flee.

Cort s returns
Cortés Returns

  • About a year later, Cortés returned to recapture Tenochtitlan and destroyed it.

  • In its place he built Mexico City, the capital of the Spanish colony of New Spain.

Francisco pizzaro
Francisco Pizzaro

  • Pizarro landed on the coast of Peru in 1531 to search for the Incas, who were said to have much gold.

  • In September of 1532, Pizarro led about 170 soldiers through the jungle into the heart of the Inca Empire.

  • Pizarro took the Inca ruler Atahualpa prisoner.

  • The Incas paid a huge ransom to free their leader but Pizarro executed him anyway.

  • In November 1533, the Spanish had defeated the leaderless Incas and captured their capital city Cuzco.

Why the spanish were victorious
Why the Spanish were Victorious!

  • Several factors explain why the Spaniard’s were successful.

  • Technology - The Indian’s weapons were no match for their armor, muskets, and cannons.

  • The Spaniards rode horses, which Native Americans had never before seen.

  • Finally, the Native Americans were divided among themselves. In Peru, a civil war had just ended and in Mexico many Native Americans hated the Aztecs.

Spanish explorers in north america
Spanish Explorers in North America

  • In 1513, Juan Ponce de León sailed north from Puerto Rico to investigate reports of a large island.

  • He returned with beautiful flowers there, so he named the place La Florida.

  • Ponce de León became the first Spaniard to set foot in what is now the United States.

Francisco coronado
Francisco Coronado

  • Conquistador Francisco Coronado set out with about 1100 Spaniards and Native Americans to find the golden city.

  • Although they never found the city, they did explore what is now New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, and Kansas.

Hernando de soto
Hernando de Soto

  • While Coronado was trekking through the southwest, Hernando de Soto was searching for riches in what is now Southeastern United States.

  • DeSoto traveled as far north as the Carolinas and as far west as Oklahoma.

  • He died in what is now Louisiana, in 1542, having found the Mississippi River, but no gold. =-(

Colonizing spanish america
Colonizing Spanish America

  • Native Americans became a source of labor for the Spaniards.

  • Government officials granted settlers huge tracts of land to start mines, ranches, and plantations.

  • Plantations are large farms worked by laborers who live on the property.

  • To help Spanish colonists find needed workers, the Spanish government granted encomiendas - land grants that included the right to demand labor or taxes from Native Americans.

Bartolom de las casas
Bartolomé de Las Casas

  • The Spanish forced NA to work in thegold and silver mines.

  • Many died when the tunnels caved in.

  • Some Spaniards protested the cruel treatment.

  • The priest Bartolomé de Las Casas traveled through New Spain working for reform.

  • Mainly because of his efforts, the government of Spain ordered reform of encomienda system in the mid 1500s.

Converting native americans
Converting Native Americans

  • The Spanish believed they had a duty to convert the Native Americans to Christianity.

  • They set up missions (religious settlements) run by Catholic priests and friars.

The trade in humans
The Trade in Humans

  • As the death toll for NA rose, Spanish colonists looked across the Atlantic Ocean for a new source of labor.

  • In 1517, Spain brought about 4000 Africans to the Caribbean islands and forced them to work there.

  • By the middle of the 1500s, the Spaniards were shipping about 2,000 enslaved Africans each year to Hispaniola alone.

Society in the spanish colonies
Society in the Spanish Colonies

  • The rigid social system based on birthplace and blood developed in the Spanish colonies.

  • At the top of the social structure were the peninsulares - Spanish colonists who had been born in Spain.

  • Almost all government officials came from this class.

Society continued
Society Continued

  • Creoles - colonists born in America to two Spanish parents.

  • Creoles also help important positions. Many were wealthy merchants and plantation owners.

  • Mestizos- People who had both Spanish and Indian blood. These people were ranchers, farmers, or merchants.

  • Mulattos- People of Spanish and African heritage.

  • Native Americans and African Americans were held at the bottom of society.