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The conquest of Mexico. The Big Idea The Aztecs built a great empire in central Mexico but were conquered by the Spanish in 1521. Main Ideas The Aztecs built an empire through warfare and trade and created an impressive capital city in Mesoamerica (Tenochtitlan).

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The Big Idea

The Aztecs built a great empire in central Mexico but were conquered by the Spanish in 1521.

Main Ideas

  • The Aztecs built an empire through warfare and trade and created an impressive capital city in Mesoamerica (Tenochtitlan).
  • Hernán Cortés conquered the Aztec Empire.

In the late 1400s Spanish explorers and soldiers arrived in the Americas. The soldiers, or conquistadors, came to explore new lands, search for gold, and spread the Catholic religion.

hernan s
Hernan s
  • Cortes was born in 1485 in Medellin, Spain. His parents were of small Spanish nobility. In 1499, when Cortes was 14 he attended the University of Salamanca, at this university he studied law. Two years later in 1501 he gave up on his education and started wandering around.
  • Hernán Cortés left Spain at the age of nineteen and sailed for what is now the Dominican Republic to try his luck in the New World.
  • In 1511, he joined an army under the command of Spanish soldier named Diego Velázquez & helped Velasquez to conquer Cuba. Velázquez became the governor of Cuba, and Cortes was elected Mayor-Judge of Santiago.
  • Cortés' past performance made him the perfect candidate for the Governor's expedition to the main land in 1519 (Mexico).
journey of cortes
Journey of Cortes

  • In March 1519, Cortes landed in Mexico, and suppressed the town of Tabasco.
  • This was where Cortes met his soon to be mistress Malinche. She became a guide and interpreter.
  • "La Malinche." Slave, interpreter, secretary, mistress, mother of the first "Mexican."
  • Many Mexicans continue to revile the woman called Doña Marina by the Spaniards and La Malinche by the Aztecs, labeling her a traitor and harlot for her role as the mistress of Cortes as he conquered Mexico.

malinche con d
Malinche, con’d
  • However, she saved thousands of lives by enabling Cortes to negotiate rather than slaughter.
  • Herself a convert, she was baptized Marina.
  • She bore Cortes a son, Don Martin Cortes

A small group of conquistadors led by Cortés reached Mexico in 1519.

  • Montezuma II, the Aztec leader, believed that Cortés was a god (due to Cortes' physical resemblance to the light-skinned Quetzalcoatl, whose return was prophesied in Aztec legend).
  • Montezuma sent Cortés gifts, including gold. Cortés wanted more gold, so he went to Moctezuma.

Cortés took Montezuma prisoner. The other Aztecs attacked Cortés and his men. The Spanish were driven out, but Montezuma was killed.

  • There is a controversy about how Montezuma died. Some historians believe he was killed by one of the Aztecs from the stone thrown on his head. Others think that Cortes got rid of him. No one knows exactly.
  • Cortés returned with many Indian allies and in 1521 they defeated the Aztecs and ended their empire.
what helped cortes defeat the aztec empire
What helped Cortes defeat the Aztec Empire?
  • Cortes’s alliances with the Aztecs’ enemies.
causes of the defeat of the aztecs
Causes of the Defeat of the Aztecs
  • Alliances The Spanish had made allies in the region who gave them supplies, information, and warriors.
  • Weapons The Spanish had better weapons than the Aztecs. They had cannons, armor, swords, and horses that the Aztecs did not have.
  • Geography The Spanish were able to cut off the capital city. The people had no food or water, so many Aztecs died of starvation.
  • Disease The Spanish had unknowingly brought deadly diseases such as smallpox to the Americas. These diseases killed the Aztecs, who had never been exposed to such diseases.
one invent two stories historical interpretation of the conquest of mexico
One invent …two storiesHistorical interpretation of the conquest of Mexico

Aztec Account

  • 1. Spaniards were agents of a barbaric and superstitious Catholic culture.
  • 2. The Spaniards were motivated primarily by greed
  • 3. The Spaniards destroyed great cultures such as the Aztec and Inca civilizations.
  • 4.Conquest gave rise to an especially exploitative colonial system based on cruel systems of forced labor

Spanish Account

  • 1. Spaniards were agents of great Catholic civilization
  • 2. Conquistadors were motivated to spread Catholic religion
  • 3. Spanish conquest eliminated human sacrifice and cannibalism, and introduced domestic animals and tools to improve agricultural production. 
  • 4. Spanish colonial system protected and incorporated natives, such as Aztecs

Now, your turn.. You will read 2 documents written from 2 different point of views of Aztecs and Spanish. Then we will record your opinion as a class. While you read keep in mind: 1. Did the Spaniards attack the Aztecs or were they defending themselves? Why did that happen? 2. Why didn’t Aztecs defeat themselves or did they?

  • Spanish Account
  • Aztec Account

Why did the Spaniards attack the Aztecs?

Why didn’t Aztecs defeat themselves?

letters from spanish soldiers
Letters from Spanish Soldiers
  • Many of the Spanish conquerors wrote letters to their friends and loved ones describing their role in the events

Be a historian…investigate! You will be working with a group, read the Aztec and Spanish account primary sources and underline key terms, and rewrite the events in the order they occurred Discuss with your group whose fault was the conquest of Mexico? Why?

the prompt
The prompt
  • Summarize the two accounts of the Spanish attack on the Aztec. How do they differ? What might account for these differences?
  • Write a well thought our response to the prompt. Use evidence from the text to defend your answer.
you may use these sentence starters to assist you with writing
You may use these sentence starters to assist you with writing.
  • The Spanish and the Aztecs had different goals:….
  • According to Cortez, Aztecs were…..
  • According to Aztecs, Spanish were….
  • Their point of view differ because…