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The Encounter. Hispanic Exploration and Conquest 1492 -- 1542. In one generation Hispanics explored and colonized over half the earth & waters During the period of exploration, in one generation , approximately 300,000 Spaniards had emigrated to the New World

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Hispanic exploration and conquest 1492 1542
Hispanic Exploration and Conquest1492 -- 1542

  • In one generation Hispanics explored and colonized over half the earth & waters

  • During the period of exploration, in one generation, approximately 300,000 Spaniards had emigrated to the New World

  • They established over 200 cities and towns throughout the Americas.

  • In one generation Hispanics acquired more new territory than Rome conquered in five centuries .

Major hispanic explorations and conquests
Major HispanicExplorations and Conquests

  • 1492- 1504: Columbus’s 4 voyages to New World

  • 1500: Pedro Cabral discovered Brazil

  • 1501-02: Amerigo Vespucci (Italian) after accompanying Spanish conquistadors decided that what they had discovered was not Asia, but new continents

  • 1508-21: Juan Ponce de Leon explored Cuba, Jamaican and Florida –Cuban conquest: 1508

  • 1513 -Vasco de Nuñez de Balboa crossed the Isthmus of Panama and named the Pacific ocean

Detailed chronology of Spanish explorations and conquests

Major hispanic explorations and conquests1
Major HispanicExplorations and Conquests

  • 1519- 22: Ferdinand Magellan's crew & ship, completed voyage of circumnavigation.

  • 1519-21: Hernando Cortez’s conquest of the Aztecs in Mexico

  • 1531: Pizarro’s conquest of the Incas in Peru

  • 1540: Vasquéz de Coronado explores California, Kansas, Arizona, New México, Texas, Oklahoma.

Detailed chronology of Spanish explorations and conquests


  • Although there was never such a thing as a Maya Empire, the diverse peoples and politico-religious formations that in the past occupied Yucatán and modern day Belize, Chiapas, Guatemala and Honduras, all had common cultural characteristics:

    • a highly developed calendar

    • a rich complex writing system, and sophisticated mathematics..

  • Archeologists and historians recognize several periods in the history of these cultures:

    • Preclassic 2000 bce-100ce

    • Classic 100 -900 ce

    • Postclassic 900 ad-1500 ce

Maya classic era ca 300 900 ce
MAYA Classic Eraca. 300-900 ce

“Shield Jaguar”

Lord of Yaxchitlan

Ritual Bloodletting

by Nobles

Sun God on mosaic collar

Barbed rope

Blood-spotted paper


The great ballgame
The Great Ballgame

  • Olmec lords created a ritual ballgame.

  • A rubber ball was hit back and forth between two teams. The individuals could only return the ball by striking it with their hip, thigh or a cushioned belt adorned around the waist.

  • The ballgame became so important that by 1500 bce an Olmec ruler’s costume consisted of ballgame equipment as well as rulership emblems and religious emblems of fertility.

Mayan hieroglyphics
Mayan Hieroglyphics

  • The unit of the Maya writing system is the glyphic cartouche, which is equivalent to the words and sentences of a modern language.

  • Maya cartouches included at least three or four glyphs and as many as fifty.

  • There is no Maya alphabet.

  • Writing considered to be a sacred gift from the gods.

  • Knowledge of reading and writing was jealously guarded by a small elite class, who believed that they alone could interact directly with the gods


  • Maya glyphs were also painted on codices made of either deer hide or bleached fig-tree paper that was then covered with a thin layer of plaster and folded accordion-style.

  • Record rituals, chronologies and important events.

  • Most were burned by the Spanish during the 16th c.

4 Extant Codices:

Dresden, Madrid, Paris, Grolier

Popul vuh
Popul Vuh

  • Book of Council

  • Sacred book of Quiche Maya

  • Lords of the great kingdom of Quiche had a way of seeing what could not be seen with the physical eye.

  • Their guide was Popul Vuh, a book that could allow the lords to know past and future events.

  • The book speaks of occurrences before the first sunrise.

Madrid Codex

Popul vuh1
Popul Vuh

  • Popul Vuh is titled “The Dawn of Life” because it describes the creation of the morning star along with the sun and moon.

  • Authors of Popul Vuh were from three families of lords, the Cauecs, Great Houses and Lord Quiches.

  • All three families once controlled the Quiche kingdom.

The hero twins
The Hero Twins

  • An imposter god named Gukup-Caqix appeared and claimed to be the sun, moon and light all rolled into one.

  • He was a giant with a sparkling face adorned with silver and emeralds.

  • The gods realized they had to get rid of this imposter before they could continue their time on the humans.

  • It was the hero twins, Hunapu and Xbalanque, who defeated the imposter.

Hero twins
Hero Twins

  • They also believed they had a duty to go into the underworld and revenge their father’s death and challenge the lords of the underworld to a ballgame.

  • This ballgame had started many years ago when their father, Hun-Hunapu, had not only been defeated but had his head chopped off and hung on a tree in Xibalba as a warning to any other challengers.

  • In honor of their victory over the underworld and the evil lords of Xibalba, the hero twins were reborn as the sun and moon and they have enjoyed the new earth in light ever since.

Aztecs 1350 1519

Aztecs 1350 15191

  • Aztecs came into the Valley of Mexico during the 12th and 13th century and rose to be the greatest power in the Americas by the time the Spaniards arrived in the 16th century.

  • According to myth, Huitzilopochtli told Tenoch to lead his people to a place of refuge on a swampy island in Lake Texcoco. When they reached their destination, they were to look for an eagle perched on a cactus.

  • At that location, they were to build their city and honor Huitzilopochtli with human sacrifices. The city they built was called Tenochtitlán, the city of Tenoch.

Tenochtitl n

  • Its site had been fixed by the god Huitzilopochtli, who sent a sign in the form of a great eagle

Codex Mendoza

Offerings to the Gods

  • Images of the gods Huehueteotl and Tlaloc, presided over most of the offerings found in the Templo Mayor.

  • Representing fire and water respectively, they symbolized the concept of "burning water," a metaphor for warfare

Human sacrifice
Human Sacrifice

  • Human sacrifice was conducted on a sacrificial stone with a flint knife

  • The most precious thing was offered, namely blood and life itself, so that by way of death life arose anew.

Aztec creativity
Aztec Creativity

  • Aztec art often reflects the culture’s fierceness

  • Coatlicue, goddess of the earth embodies Aztec belief in the creative principal

Aztec poetry
Aztec Poetry

  • “Flower-songs”

  • Celebrated warriors

    • Endurance of warriors on the battlefield

    • Endurance of women in childbirth

At Aztec feasts guests were presented with flowers,Florentine Codex,late 16th century

The conquest of mexico during the year ce acatl one reed 1519
The Conquest of MexicoDuring the year Ce Acatl ( One Reed)1519

Hern n cort s
Hernán Cortés

  • April 21, 1519 (Good Friday), Cortés landed on an island off eastern Gulf Coast with 11 galleons, 550 soldiers and sailors, and 16 horses

  • Staked claim for God and King and founded a settlement Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz

  • Sailed to Cozumel and rescued de Aguilar from the Mayas – valuable Mayan interpreter

  • Took Malintzin/Marina as Nahuatl interpreter and mistress

  • Burnt the remainder of his fleet and proceeded on to Tenochtitlán, making allies of tribes hostile to the Aztecs.

La malinche c 1505 c 1529
La Malinchec. 1505- c.1529

  • Malinalli (Malintzin) was born to a noble family, but sold to a Tabascan chief by her mother to ensure her half-brother’s inheritance

  • Brought from her native Nahuatl-speaking home of Veracruz to the Yucatan, she learned the Maya language

La malinche
La Malinche

  • Given to the Spaniards by the Maya, she was baptized as Marina in 1519.

  • She began to work for the Spanish as an interpreter between the Nahuatl and Maya and quickly learned Spanish.

La malinche1
La Malinche

  • She became Cortés’s interpreter, confidante and mistress, called "la lengua de Cortés" (Cortés's tongue, or interpreter)

  • Bore him a son, Martín, the first mestizo of historical note

  • “After God we owe this conquest of New Spain to Doña Marina.” – Cortés

José Clemente Orozco

Cortés and Malinche

La malinche2
La Malinche

Diego Rivera,

murales del Palacio Nacional

Malina, the homonym of the Spanish name, Marina, became Malintzin (the Nahuatl suffix "-tzin" denotes respect).

Then, attempting to pronounce this Nahuatl name, Spanish-speakers rendered the soft Nahuatl tzin-é sound as ch; the result was Malinche.

Today Mexican Spanish-speakers use the word "malinchista" to mean "one who prefers foreign things," and for many Malinche is synonymous with "traitor."

Others view Doña Marina, the mother of mestizo children as the Mother of the Mexican Nation


Here I am

in the defendant’s seat

you call me traitor

whom have I betrayed?

I was still a child

when my father –

my stepfather really –

fearing his son

would not inherit the lands

there were mine

took me to the south

and gave me to strangers

who did not speak my language.

I grew up in that tribe

Serving as a slave

And the white men arrived

And they gave me to the whites.

What do you mean

By the word treason?

Was I not the one betrayed?

Which of my people defended me

when I was raped by the first white man,

when I was forced to kneel

and kiss his phallus,

when I felt my body sundered

and with it my soul?

You demand that I be loyal

even though I’ve been unable

to be loyal to myself.

Before I flowered

my love withered:

a child in my womb

who never saw the light.

How did I betry my homeland?

My homeland is my people

and they abandoned me.

To whom am I responsible?

To whom?

Tell me.

To Whom.

Claribel Alegria (1924-)

Translated by D.J. Flakoll


  • Emperor of the Aztecs, Moctezuma was aware of Cortés’s approach

  • He sent Cortés a cordial message and gifts but warned against approaching Tenochtitlan

  • The gold and finery whetted the Spaniards’ greed

  • Although Moctezuma commanded a huge army, he feared to greet Cortés with a hostile force because of ancient legend

17th C. portrait, artist unknown

The prophecy of quetzalcoatl s return
The Prophecy of Quetzalcoatl’s Return

  • Ancient legend prophesied that Quetzalcoatl, the Plumed Serpent, the bearded, fair-skinned Toltec ruler-god would return in the year Ce Acatl to reclaim his kingdom.

Omens of return
Omens of Return

  • Lake Texcoco flooded Tenochtitlan

  • The temple of Huitzlopochtli caught fire

  • The voice of woman wailing in the night disturbed the city

  • Immense comets shot through the sky

  • A column of fire appeared every night fora year

Tenochtitl n1

A great white city, lightly moored to the shores by three long causeways, floating on a shimmering lake.

Tenochtitl n2

  • The last city the Spanish had seen was Seville, the largest in Spain, population: 60,000.

  • London, Europe’s largest city, had a population of 100,000.

  • Tenochtitlán was almost four times as large as Seville, with thousands more people clustered in the "suburbs" fringing the mainland.

  • Tenochtitlán, unlike the cramped muddle of houses, streets, and byways that made up medieval Spanish towns, had been planned.

Tenochtitl n3

  • Priests were everywhere. Like Spanish priests, they wore long dark robes. But the robes were stained with human blood, and their long hair was clotted with it, and while some of the blood was their own, most came from the human victims they slew daily.

  • An essential part of the rituals conducted in the shrines crowning the shining pyramids was human sacrifice.

Sacrifice of Prisoners

To Huitzlipotchli

Códice Magliabecchi.,

siglo XVI

The beginning of the end
The Beginning of the End

  • Cortés met little resistence and on November 8, 1519 he crossed the causeway over Lake Texcoco to enter Tenochtitlán.

  • Moctezuma personally went out to meet Cortés and his men. Doña Marina interpreted what Moctezuma said for Cortés: "Lord, you are weary. The journey has tired you, but now you have arrived on earth. You have come to your city of México."

  • Then Cortés responded through Marina: "Tell Moctezuma that we are his friends and that there is nothing to fear. We have waited long to meet with him." (Florentine Codex)

  • Within a week Cortés seized the emperor, put him in chains and held him hostage.

Death of moctezuma
Death of Moctezuma

  • Cortés had to leave Tenochtitlan to deal with a Spanish rival

  • In his absence, the Spanish attacked the citizens during a religious festival

  • The Aztecs rebelled

  • Cortes tried to use Moctezuma to appeal for peace, but the people hurled stones and arrows at him

  • The Spaniards threw the body of Moctezuma into a canal

La noche triste
La Noche Triste

  • Cuitláhuac, Moctezuma’s successor, besieiged the Spaniards

  • June 30, 1520, the Spaniards tried to escape but were attacked by the Aztecs – hundreds died

  • Cuitláhuac died of smallpox, succeeded by Cuauhtemoc

  • Cortés regrouped with Tlaxcalan allies

Cuauhtemoc last aztec emperor
CuauhtemocLast Aztec Emperor

  • January, 1521, Cortés reentered valley of Mexico and demanded surrender

  • Cuauhtemoc refused

  • Cortés attacked with a newly built fleet and besieged Tenochtitlan

  • After a valiant resistance and an 80 day seige, the Aztecs, overcome by smallpox and famine, surrendered

  • The Spaniards lay the Aztec Empire to waste, burned Tenochtilan, and levelled the temples.