The Conquest ANTH 221: Peoples and Cultures of Mexico Kimberly Martin, Ph.D.
The Arrival • Hernan Cortez sailed from Cuba on and against orders from Diego Velasquez, Governor of Cuba • Landed on Cozumel and rescued Geronimo de Aguilar who spoke the Maya language • Landed on Good Friday, April 21, 1519 at what is now Vera Cruz • 11 ships, 550 men, 16 horses • Traveled along the coast gathering allies against the Aztec
La Malinche • Cortez was given 20 maidens by a Maya Ruler at Pontonchon including Malintzin • She was baptized Marina (Dona Marina) • Malintzin spoke Maya and Nahuatl and worked with Aguilar to translate • Malintzin became Cortez’s mistress and bore him a son • Was considered a traitor for betraying her people to help Cortez
Strategies • Moctezuma sent gifts and messages with warnings about the dangers of the trip inland, hoping Cortez would go home. • Cortez sent the gifts with letters to Spain (circumventing Cuba) and disabled his ships • Used alliance with Totonacs & Tlaxcalans who opposed the Aztecs • Attacked and took Cholula • Marched into Tenochtitlan in November 1519 • Moctezuma received him as an honored guest and/or a god
More Strategies • Cortez took Moctezuma prisoner in the royal quarters • Left to fight and defeat Spanish troops sent to arrest him by Velasquez in Cuba • Brought defeated troops back as his own • In his absence, his lieutenant, Alvarado, attacked the Aztecs, triggering revolt • Cortez sent Moctezuma to roof to calm the crowd • The crowd stoned Moctezuma to death • Spaniards were driven out of the city with many casualties
A Second Try • Cortez retreated and built a fleet of small boats to use in the next attempt • The Aztecs were weakened by European disease • January 1521 Cortez launched a new attack by water, cutting off the city to food and fresh water. • Tenochtitlan held during an 80 day seige • Aztec Emperor Cuauhtemoc surrendered the city on August 13, 1521