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Objectives. Describe how the Spanish were able to defeat the empires of the Aztecs and Incas. Identify Spanish explorations in areas that later became parts of the United States. Explain how society was organized in Spain’s empire in the Americas.
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In 1519, conquistador Hernando Cortés sailed from Cuba to Mexico with more than 500 soldiers.
Later that year, Cortés marched into the Aztec capital city of Tenochtitlán, where the Aztec leader Moctezuma tried to convince him to leave.
At first, the Aztecs rebelled and drove the Spanish out.
Cortés returned with a larger force, destroyed Tenochtitlán, and built Mexico City, the capital of the Spanish colony of New Spain.
In 1513, Juan Ponce de León sailed north from Puerto Rico and landed in present-day Florida.
He became the first Spaniard to set foot in what is now the United States.
At first, Spain let the conquistadors govern the lands they had conquered, but that did not work well.
Spain then created a formal system of government to rule its colonies.
Government officials granted settlers huge tracts of land to start mines, ranches, and plantations.
This rigid social system, based on birthplace and blood, helped Spain keep control of its empire in the Americas for more than 300 years.
Bartolomé de las Casas was a missionary who greatly influenced the policies of Spain.
The Spanish government granted encomiendas to help colonists find workers for their land.
The Spanish forced Native Americans to work in gold and silver mines, where many died.
Largely due to Las Casas’s efforts, the government of Spain ordered reform of the encomienda systemin the mid-1500s.
Nevertheless, so many Native Americans died under Spanish rule that the colonists started importing African slavesin 1517.
By 1530, the rulers of Sweden, Denmark, and several European states had split with the Roman Catholic Church.
They set up Protestant churches in their countries.
Swiss thinker John Calvin influenced the development of Protestant churches in France, Switzerland, Scotland, and the Netherlands.
Queen Mary (Catholic) of England died in 1558, and Elizabeth I, a Protestant, took the throne.
At this time, Spain and England were rivals because:
The English were raiding Spanish ships for gold from the Americas.
England was helping Holland, a Spanish province, try to win its independence.
King Philip II of Spain wanted to make England a Catholic nation again.
In 1588, King Philip sent 130 ships to England, hoping to force Queen Elizabeth from the throne.
English ships met the Spanish ships off the coast of France and sank half of them.
Spain’s control of the seas was weakened, so England and France were able to found colonies in the Americas.
Cabot thought a more northern route to Asia would be easier than the route Christopher Columbus had tried.
Europeans soon realized the lands Cabot reached were not Asia, and they financed voyages to the new regions.
Explorers from England, France, and Holland set out to find anorthwest passage.
English explorer Henry Hudson made four voyages in search of a northwest passage.
After two unsuccessful voyages, Hudson’s English backers gave up on him.
However, in 1609, the Dutch financed his third voyage, during which he reached New York and explored the river that today bears his name.
In 1610, the English sponsored Hudson’s fourth voyage, during which his ship got stuck in the icy waters of Hudson Bay.
In the spring of 1611, his irate crew mutinied and set him, his son, and several crew members adrift in a small boat.
Hudson was never heard from again.
After Hudson, European countries shifted their focus from finding a northwest passage to exploring the land itself.
Europeans began to consider exploiting the resources of the land for profit.
At the time, European leaders supported an economic theory called mercantilism.
By establishing colonies, European nations could increase their own power and wealth.