Hernán Cortés

Hernán Cortés was a Spanish conquistador who explored Central America, overthrew Montezuma and his vast Aztec empire and won Mexico for the crown of Spain.

hernan cortes


Who Was Hernán Cortés?

He first set sail to the New World at the age of 19. Cortés later joined an expedition to Cuba. In 1518, he set off to explore Mexico.

Cortés strategically aligned some Indigenous peoples against others and eventually overthrew the vast and powerful Aztec empire. As a reward, King Charles I appointed him governor of New Spain in 1522.

Cortés, marqués del Valle de Oaxaca, was born around 1485 in Medellín, Spain. He came from a lesser noble family in Spain. Some reports indicate that he studied at the University of Salamanca for a time.

In 1504, Cortés left Spain to seek his fortune in New World. He traveled to the island of Santo Domingo, or Hispaniola. Settling in the new town of Azúa, Cortés served as a notary for several years.

He joined an expedition of Cuba led by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar in 1511. There, Cortés worked in the civil government and served as the mayor of Santiago for a time.

Aztec Empire

In 1518, Cortés was to command his own expedition to Mexico, but Velázquez canceled it. In a mutinous act of defiance, Cortés ignored the order, setting sail for Mexico with more than 500 men and 11 ships that year.

In February 1519, the expedition reached the Mexican coast. By some accounts, Cortés then had all his ships destroyed except one, which he sent back to Spain. This brazen decision eliminated the possibility of any retreat.

Cortés became allies with some of the Indigenous peoples he encountered, but with others, he used deadly force to conquer Mexico. He fought Tlaxacan and Cholula warriors and then set his sights on taking over the Aztec empire.

He marched to Tenochtitlán, the Aztec capital and home to ruler Montezuma II . After being invited into the royal palace, Cortés took Montezuma hostage and his soldiers plundered the city.

But shortly thereafter, Cortés hurriedly left the city after learning that Spanish troops were coming to arrest him for disobeying orders from Velázquez.

After fending off the Spanish forces, Cortés returned to Tenochtitlán to find a rebellion in progress, during which Montezuma was killed. The Aztecs eventually drove the Spanish from the city, but Cortés returned again to defeat them and take the city in 1521, effectively ending the Aztec empire.

In their bloody battles for domination over the Aztecs, Cortés and his men are estimated to have killed as many as 100,000 Indigenous peoples. King Charles I of Spain (also known as Holy Roman Emperor Charles V) appointed him the governor of New Spain in 1522.

Later Years and Death

Despite his decisive victory over the Aztecs, Cortés faced numerous challenges to his authority and position, both from Spain and his rivals in the New World. He traveled to Honduras in 1524 to stop a rebellion against him in the area.

In 1536, Cortés led an expedition to the northwestern part of Mexico, in the process exploring Baja California and Mexico's Pacific coast. This was to be his last major expedition.

Back in the capital city, Cortés found himself unceremoniously removed from power. He traveled to Spain to plead his case to the king, but he was not reappointed to his governorship.

In 1541, Cortés retired to Spain. He spent much of his later years desperately seeking recognition for his achievements and support from the Spanish royal court. Wealthy but embittered from his lack of support and acclaim, Cortés died in Spain in 1547.


  • Name: Hernán Cortés
  • Birth Year: 1485
  • Birth City: Medellín
  • Birth Country: Spain
  • Gender: Male
  • Best Known For: Hernán Cortés was a Spanish conquistador who explored Central America, overthrew Montezuma and his vast Aztec empire and won Mexico for the crown of Spain.
  • Politics and Government
  • War and Militaries
  • Nacionalities
  • Death Year: 1547
  • Death date: December 2, 1547
  • Death City: Castilleja de la Cuesta
  • Death Country: Spain

We strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn't look right, contact us !

  • I love to travel, but hate to arrive.
  • He travels safest in the dark night who travels lightest.
  • Better to die with honor than live dishonored.

European Explorers

vintage color illustration of christopher columbus standing on a ship deck with one hand on a large globe and the other on his hip holding a paper scroll, he wears a hat, dark jacket, long sleeve shirts, dark pants and leggings, several people surround him on the deck many with their hands out toward him

Christopher Columbus

ferdinand magellan with a crew of men sailing in a small boat as large ships wait in the background

10 Famous Explorers Who Connected the World

walter raleigh

Sir Walter Raleigh

ferdinand magellan

Ferdinand Magellan

juan rodriguez cabrillo

Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo

leif eriksson

Leif Eriksson

vasco da gama

Vasco da Gama

bartolomeu dias

Bartolomeu Dias

giovanni da verrazzano photo

Giovanni da Verrazzano

jacques marquette

Jacques Marquette

rené robert cavalier sieur de la salle

René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle

Premium Content


Guns, germs, and horses brought Cortés victory over the mighty Aztec empire

The Aztec outnumbered the Spanish, but that didn't stop Hernán Cortés from seizing Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital, in 1521.

a painting showing Hernán Cortés at the gates of the capital of the Aztec Empire

After the expedition led by Vasco Núñez de Balboa who crossed Central America to reach the Pacific in 1513, Europeans began to see the full economic potential of this "New World." At first, colonization by the burgeoning new world power, Spain, was centered on the islands of the Caribbean, with little contact with the complex, indigenous civilizations on the mainland.

It was not long, however, before the lure of wealth spurred Spain’s adventurers beyond exploration and into a phase of conquest that would lay the foundations of the modern world. Whole swaths of the Americas rapidly fell to the Spanish crown, a transformation begun by the ruthless conqueror of the Aztec Empire, Hernán Cortés. (See also: New clues to the lost fleet of Cortés   .)

hernan cortes years of voyage

Cortés beginnings

Like other conquistadores of the early 16th century, Cortés had already gained considerable experience by living in the New World before embarking on his exploits. Born to modest lower nobility in the Spanish city of Medellín in 1485, Cortés stood out at an early age for his intelligence and his restless spirit of adventure inspired by the recent voyages of Christopher Columbus.

In 1504, Cortés left Spain for the island of Hispaniola (today, home to the Dominican Republic and Haiti), where he rose through the ranks of the fledgling colonial administration. In 1511 he joined an expedition to conquer Cuba and was appointed secretary to the island's first colonial governor, Diego Velázquez.

During these years, Cortés developed the skills that would stand him in good stead in his short, turbulent career as a conquistador. He gained valuable insights into the organization of the islands’ indigenous peoples and proved an adept arbiter in the continual squabbles that broke out among the Spaniards, forever vying to enlarge their estates or snag lucrative administrative positions.

In 1518 Velázquez appointed his secretary to lead an expedition to Mexico. Cortés—as Velázquez was to discover to his cost—was set on becoming a leader rather than a loyal follower. He set off for the coast of the Yucatán Peninsula in February 1519 with 11 ships, about 100 sailors, 500 soldiers, and 16 horses. Over the following months Cortés would take matters into his own hands, disobey the governor’s orders, and turn what had been intended to be an exploratory mission into a historic military conquest.

Aztec introductions

To the Aztec, 1519 was a year that began with their empire as the uncontested power in the region. Its capital city, Tenochtitlan, ruled 400 to 500 small states with a total population of five to six million. The fortunes of the kingdom of Moctezuma, however, were doomed to a swift and spectacular decline once Cortés and his men disembarked on the Mexican coast. (See also: Rare Aztec Map Reveals a Glimpse of Life in 1500s Mexico. )

hernan cortes years of voyage

Having rapidly imposed control over the indigenous population in the coastal region, Cortés was given 20 slaves by a local chieftain. One of them, a young woman, could speak several local languages and soon learned Spanish too. Her linguistic skills would prove crucial to Cortés’s invasion plans, and she became his interpreter as well as his concubine. She soon came to be known as Malinche, or Doña Marina. The conquistador had a son with her, Martín, who is often regarded as the first ever mestizo—a person of mixed European and American Indian ancestry. (See also: Call the Aztec midwife: Childbirth in the 16th century. )

The news of the foreigners’ arrival soon reached the Aztec emperor, Moctezuma, in Tenochtitlan. To appease the Spaniards, he sent envoys and gifts to Cortés, but he only succeeded in inflaming Cortés’s desires for more Aztec riches. Cortés once described the land near Veracruz, the city he founded on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, as rich as the mythical land where King Solomon obtained his gold. As a mark of his ruthlessness, and to quash any misgivings his crew may have had in disobeying the orders of Governor Velázquez, Cortés ordered the destruction of the fleet he had sailed with from Cuba. There was now no turning back.

a mosaic mask representing the Aztec God Tezcatlipoca

Mosaic mask of turquoise and lignite covers a human skull and represents an Aztec god, Tezcatlipoca.

Cortés had a talent for observing and manipulating local political rivalries. On the way to Tenochtitlan, the Spaniards gained the support of the Totonac peoples from the city of Cempoala, who hoped to be freed from the Aztec yoke. Following a military victory over another native people, the Tlaxcaltec, Cortés incorporated more warriors into his army. Knowledge of the divisions among different native peoples, and an unerring ability to exploit them, was central to Cortés’s strategy.

The Aztec had allies too, however, and Cortés was especially belligerent toward them. The holy city of Cholula, which joined with Moctezuma in an attempt to stall the Spaniards, was sacked for two days at Cortés’s command. After a grueling battle lasting more than five hours, as many as 6,000 of its people were killed. Cortés’s forces seemed invincible. In the face of their unstoppable advance, Moctezuma stalled for time, allowing the Spaniards and their allies to enter Tenochtitlan unopposed in November 1519.

Fighting on two fronts

Fear gripped the huge Aztec capital on Cortés’s entry, the chroniclers wrote: Its 250,000 inhabitants put up no resistance to Cortés’s small force of a few hundred men and 1,000 Tlaxcaltec allies. At first Moctezuma formally received Cortés. Seeing the value of the emperor as a captive, Cortés seized him and guaranteed his power over the city.

hernan cortes years of voyage

Establishing a pattern that would recur throughout his career, Cortés soon found himself as much at threat from his own compatriots as from the peoples he was trying to subdue. At the beginning of 1520 he was forced to leave Tenochtitlan to deal with a punitive expedition sent from Cuba by the enraged Diego Velázquez. In his absence, Cortés left Tenochtitlan under the command of Pedro de Alvarado and a garrison of 80 Spaniards.

You May Also Like

hernan cortes years of voyage

These 5 leaders' achievements were legendary. But did they even happen?

hernan cortes years of voyage

‘A ball of blinding light’: Atomic bomb survivors share their stories

hernan cortes years of voyage

The incredible details 'Masters of the Air' gets right about WWII

The hotheaded Alvarado lacked Cortes’s skill and diplomacy. During Cortes’s absence, Alvarado’s execution of many Aztec chiefs enraged the people. After defeating Velázquez’s forces, Cortés returned to Tenochtitlan on June 24, 1520, to find the city in revolt against his proxy. For several days, the Spaniards vainly used Moctezuma in an attempt to calm tempers, but his people pelted the puppet king with stones. Moctezuma died a few days later, but his successors would fare no better than he did.

On June 30, 1520, the Spanish fled the city under fire, suffering hundreds of casualties. Some Spaniards died by drowning in the surrounding marshes, weighed down by the vast amounts of treasure they were trying to carry off. The event would come to be known as the Night of Sorrows.

Technology Triumphs

hernan cortes years of voyage

Although the Aztec had the superior numbers, advanced Spanish weaponry ultimately gave them the upper hand. With firearms and steel blades at his disposal, just one Spaniard might annihilate dozens or even hundreds of opponents: “On a sudden, they speared and thrust people into shreds,” wrote one indigenous chronicler, having witnessed the terrifying impact of European arms. “Others were beheaded in one swipe... Others tried to run in vain from the butchery, their innards falling from them and entangling their very feet.”

A smallpox epidemic prevented the Aztec forces from finishing off Cortés’s defeated and demoralized army. The outbreak weakened the Aztec while giving Cortés time to regroup. Spain would win the Battle of Otumba a few days later. Skillful deployment of cavalry against the elite Aztec jaguar and eagle warriors carried the day for the Europeans and their allies.“Our only security, apart from God,”Cortés wrote,“is our horses.”

Victory allowed the Spaniards to rejoin with their Tlaxcaltec allies and launch the recapture of Tenochtitlan. Waves of attacks were launched on settlements near the Aztec capital. Any resistance was brutally crushed: Many indigenous enemies were captured as slaves and some were even branded following their capture. The sacking also allowed the Spaniards to build up their large personal retinues, taking captives to use as servants and slaves, and kidnapping others for exchanges and ransoms. Growing in number to roughly 3,000 people, this group of captives vastly outnumbered the fighting Spaniards.

Fall of the Aztec

For an assault on a city the size of Tenochtitlan, the number of Spanish troops seemed paltry—just under 1,000 soldiers, including harquebusiers, infantry, and cavalry. However, Cortés knew that his superior weaponry, coupled with the additional 50,000 warriors provided by his indigenous allies, would conquer the city, which was already weakened from starvation and thirst. In May 1521 the Spaniards had cut off the city’s water supply by taking control of the Chapultepec aqueduct.

hernan cortes years of voyage

Even so, the siege of Tenochtitlan was not a given. During fighting in July 1521, the Aztec held strong, even capturing Cortés himself. Wounded in one leg, the Spanish leader was ultimately rescued by his captains. During this setback for the conquistador, the Aztec warriors managed to regain lost ground and rebuild the city’s fortifications, pushing the Spanish onto the defensive for nearly three weeks. Cortés ordered the marshland to be filled with rubble for a final assault. Finally, on August 13, 1521, the city fell.

“Not a single stone remained left to burn and destroy,” one witness wrote. The loss of human life was staggering, both in absolute figures and in its disproportionality. During the siege, around 100 Spaniards lost their lives compared to as many as 100,000 Aztec.

Ladies' Man

a painting of Cortés and Malinche

According to the chronicler Francisco López de Gómara, Cortés was “very given to women and always gave into temptation.” His biography abounds in romantic entanglements. Throughout his career, Cortés's personal life held a selfish, manipulative streak. In 1514 he married a young Spanish woman named Catalina Suárez, a relative of Governor Diego Velázquez, who soon promoted Cortés after the wedding. But Cortés was not faithful. After the conquest of Mexico, he and Malinche, an Aztec woman who served as his interpreter, had a son together. The marriage to Caralina only ended when she was found dead under mysterious circumstances in 1522. Cortés was suspected of her murder, but nevery charged. Cortés then took as a consort Princess Isabel Moctezuma, the Aztec emperor's daughter. She and Cortés had a daughter, but he later abandoned them. In 1529 Cortés took a Spanish noblewoman, Juana de Zúñiga, as his bride and became a marquis, securing both a high social status and a rather rakish reputation.

The conquest of Tenochtitlan and the subsequent consolidation of Spanish domination over the former Aztec Empire was the first major possession in what became the Spanish Empire. This vast territory would reach its greatest extent in the 18th century, with territory throughout North and South America.

Cortés’s triumph would be short-lived. In just a few years, he would lose many of his lands in the New World. Despite being made a marquis years later, the Conqueror of Mexico did not have a glorious end. In 1547, at the age of 62, he died in a village near Sevilla, Spain, embroiled in lawsuits and his health broken by a series of disastrous expeditions. Decades of rapid expansion in the Americas seemed to have eclipsed his own exploits, and few bells tolled for the man whose ruthlessness and cunning transformed the Americas.

Related Topics


hernan cortes years of voyage

The truth behind the turbulent love story of Napoleon and Joséphine

hernan cortes years of voyage

Who were the Aztec, really? It’s complicated.

hernan cortes years of voyage

What do long flights do to our bodies?

hernan cortes years of voyage

'Magic' mirror in Elizabethan court has mystical Aztec origin

hernan cortes years of voyage

The first sack of Rome wasn't when you think it was

  • History & Culture
  • Environment
  • Paid Content

History & Culture

  • History Magazine
  • Terms of Use
  • Privacy Policy
  • Your US State Privacy Rights
  • Children's Online Privacy Policy
  • Interest-Based Ads
  • About Nielsen Measurement
  • Do Not Sell or Share My Personal Information
  • Nat Geo Home
  • Attend a Live Event
  • Book a Trip
  • Inspire Your Kids
  • Shop Nat Geo
  • Visit the D.C. Museum
  • Learn About Our Impact
  • Support Our Mission
  • Advertise With Us
  • Customer Service
  • Renew Subscription
  • Manage Your Subscription
  • Work at Nat Geo
  • Sign Up for Our Newsletters
  • Contribute to Protect the Planet

Copyright © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society Copyright © 2015-2024 National Geographic Partners, LLC. All rights reserved

hernan cortes years of voyage

  • History Classics
  • Your Profile
  • Find History on Facebook (Opens in a new window)
  • Find History on Twitter (Opens in a new window)
  • Find History on YouTube (Opens in a new window)
  • Find History on Instagram (Opens in a new window)
  • Find History on TikTok (Opens in a new window)
  • This Day In History
  • History Podcasts
  • History Vault

How Hernán Cortés Conquered the Aztec Empire

By: Karen Juanita Carrillo

Updated: June 26, 2023 | Original: May 20, 2021

How Hernán Cortés Conquered the Aztec Empire

The Aztec Empire , Mesoamerica’s dominant power in the 15th and early 16th centuries controlled a capital city that was one of the largest in the world. Itzcoatl, named leader of the Aztec/Mexica people in 1427, negotiated what has become known as the Triple Alliance —a powerful political union of the city-states of Mexico-Tenochtitlán, Tetzcoco and Tlacopán. As that alliance strengthened between 1428 and 1430 it reinforced the leadership of the Aztecs, making them the dominant Nahua group in a landmass that covered central Mexico and extended as far as modern-day Guatemala.

And yet Tenochtitlán fell into decline after the siege and destruction of the city by the Spanish in 1521—less than two years after Hernándo Cortés and Spanish conquistadors first set foot in the Aztec capital on November 8, 1519. How did Cortés manage to overthrow the seat of the Aztec Empire?

Tenochtitlán: A Dominant Imperial City 

Tenochtitlan, the ancient capital of the Aztec empire, Mexico

When Spanish conquistadors arrived in the Aztec imperial city in 1519, Mexico-Tenochtitlán was led by Moctezuma II. The city had prospered and was estimated to host a population of between 200,000 and 300,000 residents.

At first , the conquistadors described Tenochtitlán as the greatest city they had ever seen. It was situated on a human-made island in the middle of Lake Texcoco. From its central location, Tenochtitlán served as a hub for Aztec trade and politics. It featured gardens, palaces, temples and raised roads with bridges that connected the city to the mainland.

Other city-states were forced to pay periodic tributes to Tenochtitlán’s public markets and to its religious center, the Templo Mayor or “Great Temple.” Religious tributes sometimes took the form of human sacrifices . While the Aztec’s monetary and religious demands empowered the empire, it also fostered resentment among surrounding city-states. 

Hernándo Cortés Makes Allies with Local Tribes

Hernándo Cortés, Moctezuma II

Hernándo Cortés formed part of Spain’s initial colonization efforts in the Americas. While stationed in Cuba, he convinced Cuban Governor Diego Velázquez to allow him to lead an expedition to Mexico, but Velázquez then canceled his mission. Eager to appropriate new land for the Spanish crown, convert Indigenous people to Christianity and plunder the region for gold and riches, Cortés organized his own rogue crew of 100 sailors, 11 ships, 508 soldiers and 16 horses. He set sail from Cuba on the morning of February 18, 1519, to begin an unauthorized expedition to Mesoamerica.

Arriving on the Yucatán coast, Cortés encountered Indigenous people who told him about other Europeans who had been shipwrecked and captured by local Mayans. Cortes freed Jerónimo de Aguilar , a Franciscan friar, from the Mayans and made Aguilar part of his crew. Aguilar turned out to be an invaluable asset to Cortes due to his ability to speak Chontal, the local Mayan language. With Aguilar at his side, Cortés and his conquistadors continued traveling the region, battling Indigenous groups along the way.

Cortés and his men then acquired another asset when an Aztec chief gifted them some 20 enslaved young Mayan women, including Malinalli, a Nahua woman from the Mexican Gulf Coast. Malinalli became baptized with the Christian name Marina and was later known as La Malinche. La Malinche spoke both the Aztec language of Náhuatl and Mayan Chontal and worked alongside the Spanish invaders, providing the conquistadors with the ability to communicate with any Indigenous groups they encountered.

With La Malinche and Aguilar in tow, the conquistadors made their way to the island city of Tenochtitlán where they were initially welcomed by Emperor Moctezuma II. When Cortés became concerned that Moctezuma's people would turn against his men, he placed Moctezuma under house arrest and Cortés attempted to rule through the detained Moctezuma.

Soon Cortés received word that the Cuban governor had sent a Spanish force to arrest Cortés for insubordination. Leaving his top lieutenant Pedro de Alvarado in charge of Tenochtitlán, Cortés took men to attack the Spanish forces at the coast. Cortes's men defeated the troops and took the surviving Spanish soldiers back with him as reinforcements to Tenochtitlán. In Cortés' absence, Alvarado had hundreds of Aztec nobles killed during a ceremonial feast, leading to further unrest among the Aztec people. 

Tenochtitlán residents demanded the Spanish be removed from the city. When the detained Moctezuma could no longer control Tenochtitlán’s residents, the Spaniards either allowed him to die during a skirmish in 1520 or killed him—depending on varying accounts .

Driven from the capital, the Spanish later circled back with a small fleet of ships. Working in alliance with some 200,000 Indigenous warriors from city-states, particularly the Tlaxcala and Cempoala (groups who had resented the Aztec/Mexicas and wanted to see them vanquished), the Spanish conquistadors held Tenochtitlán under siege from May 22 through August 13, 1521—a total of 93 days.

Disease Further Weakens the Aztec

With Tenochtitlán encircled, the conquistadors relied on their Indigenous allies for key logistical support and launched attacks from local Indigenous encampments. Meanwhile, another factor began to take its toll. Unbeknownst to the Spanish, some among their ranks had been infected with smallpox when they had departed Europe. Once these men arrived in the Americas, the virus began to spread—both among their indigenous allies and the Aztecs. (Some research has suggested that salmonella , not smallpox, had weakened the Aztecs.)

The first known case reportedly emerged in Cempoala—one of the city-states that had allied with the Spanish—when an enslaved African came down with the disease. The virus then spread. As the Spaniards and their allies later attacked Tenochtitlán, even when they lost battles, the smallpox virus infected the Aztecs. Aztec troops, members of the noble class, farmers and artisans all fell victim to the disease. 

While many Spaniards had acquired immunity to the disease, the virus was new in the Americas and few Indigenous understood it. The bodies of smallpox victims piled up in the streets of Tenochtitlán and, with the city under siege, there were few available ways to dispose of the bodies.

Spaniards and their allies were taken in as prisoners (the Aztecs tended to hold captured prisoners for sacrifice to the gods, rather than kill them in battle) and traces of the virus were left on the clothes, hair and on dead bodies of those who had had the disease. As Tenochtitlán residents contracted smallpox they had no place to turn for help. Aztec priests and medicinal practitioners knew of no remedy and Tenochtitlán residents had little immunity.

The Spanish Wielded Better Weaponry

The conquistadors arrived in Mesoamerica with steel swords, muskets, cannons, pikes, crossbows, dogs and horses. None of these assets had yet been used in battle in the Americas. The Aztecs fought the Spanish with wooden broadswords, clubs and spears tipped with obsidian blades. But their weapons proved ineffective against the conquistadors’ metal armor and shields.

When the Spanish arrived in the Americas they came from a war-oriented culture that had seen battle against other European nations for dominance and against North Africans for sovereignty. The conquistadors arrived in Mesoamerica with better guns and had been trained in tactical strategies. They deployed a cavalry that could chase down retreating warriors, dogs trained to track down and encircle enemies and horses capable of trampling adversaries.

hernan cortes years of voyage

Up against large armies of Spanish and Indigenous forces, surrounded and cut off from the mainland, and with a population succumbing to an unknown, devastating virus, the Aztec Empire was unable to fight off the invading Spanish conquistadors. The Aztecs, including members of the Aztec royal family—then were forced to adjust to life under Spanish rule.  

"Cada Uno En Su Bolsa Llevar Lo Que Cien Indios No Llevarían: Mexica Resistance and the Shape of Currency in New Spain, 1542-1552.”  by Allison Caplan, American Journal of Numismatics (1989-), vol. 25, 2013, pp. 333–356. JSTOR .

“Jeronimo de Aguilar,”  American Historical Association . 

“Aztec Warfare Imperial Expansion and Political Control,” by Ross Hassig, University of Oklahoma Pres s, 1988, p. 244. 

“Searching for the Secrets of Nature The Life and Works of Dr. Francisco Hernández,” by Dora B. Weiner, Stanford University Press , 2000, p. 86.

“Viruses, Plagues, and History Past, Present, and Future,” by Michael B. Oldstone, Oxford University Press , 2020, p. 46.

“So Why Were the Aztecs Conquered, and What Were the Wider Implications? Testing Military Superiority as a Cause of Europe's Pre-Industrial Colonial Conquests,” by George Raudzens. War in History, vol. 2, no. 1, 1995, pp. 87–104. JSTOR . Accessed May 18, 2021.

hernan cortes years of voyage

Sign up for Inside History

Get HISTORY’s most fascinating stories delivered to your inbox three times a week.

By submitting your information, you agree to receive emails from HISTORY and A+E Networks. You can opt out at any time. You must be 16 years or older and a resident of the United States.

More details : Privacy Notice | Terms of Use | Contact Us

Ancient Origins

Hernan Cortes: The Conquistador Who Beat the Aztecs

  • Read Later  

Hernan Cortes was a Spanish conquistador who lived between the 15th and 16th centuries AD. He is best remembered for his expedition against the Aztec Empire centered in Mexico. This was part of the first phase of Spain’s expansion into the New World. Hernan Cortes’ expedition resulted in the collapse of the Aztec Empire, and the control of a large part of modern-day Mexico by the Spanish Empire. On the one hand, Cortes is regarded as a heroic character who contributed greatly to the Spanish Empire. On the other hand, he is perceived as a villain whose murderous actions caused the downfall of a sophisticated civilization.

The Early Life of Hernan Cortes

Hernan Cortes was born in 1485 in Medellin, a village in the province of Badajoz, Extremadura , Spain. At that time, Cortes’ place of birth was part of the Kingdom of Castile . Cortes’ father was Martin Cortes de Monroy, an infantry captain, whilst his mother was Catalina Pizarro Altamirano. Cortes’ family belonged to the lesser nobility, though they were by no means wealthy. Incidentally, through his mother, Cortes was a second cousin of Francisco Pizarro, another conquistador who gained fame from his expedition in the New World.

  • Becerrillo: The Terrifying War Dog of the Spanish Conquistadors
  • Conquistadors caused Toxic Air Pollution 500 years ago by changing Incan Mining

At the age of 14, Cortes was sent to study at the University of Salamanca . This was Spain’s foremost center of learning at the time. Although it is unclear what Cortes studied at the university, it is assumed that he studied Law, and perhaps Latin. It seems that Cortes’ parents were hoping that their son would embark on a legal career, which would have made him wealthy. Unfortunately, Cortes returned to Medellin after spending two years at Salamanca, as studying was probably not his strong point. Although Cortes did not finish his studies, his time at Salamanca did help him familiarize himself with the legal codes of Castile, which would come in handy later in his life.

Hernan Cortes portrait on a Spanish 1000 peseta note from 1992. (vkilikov / Adobe Stock)

Hernan Cortes portrait on a Spanish 1000 peseta note from 1992. (vkilikov / Adobe Stock)

Cortes’ return to Medellin was not exactly a change for the better for the future conquistador. As Medellin was only a small village, it would have been a rather stifling place for the ambitious young man. Around the same time, Christopher Columbus was making his voyages to the New World, and news of his exciting discoveries would have certainly reached the ears of Cortes and his parents, who recognized that Cortes might be able to make a name for himself in these newly discovered lands.

Therefore, in 1502, arrangements were made for Hernan Cortes to sail to the New World with Nicolas de Ovando, the newly appointed governor of Hispaniola , and a family acquaintance.

Cortes, however, was not destined to be part of this voyage. Before he could even set sail, Cortes sustained an injury whilst escaping from the bedroom of a married woman in Medellin. Consequently, he had to take some time to recover from his injury, after which, he spent a while wandering around Spain.

Cortes did manage to sail to the New World in 1503, as part of a convoy of merchant ships headed to the capital of Hispaniola, Santo Domingo. Cortes was on a ship commanded by Alonso Quintero, who attempted to deceive his superiors. Quintero did so to reach the New World first, and to secure personal advantages. It is suggested that Quintero’s actions might have been a model for Cortes’ own treacherous behavior when he became a conquistador later on.

In any case, this was still many years before Cortes became the man who conquered the Aztec Empire . When he arrived in Santo Domingo, Cortes registered himself as a citizen, which gave him the right to a building plot, and some land for cultivation. As de Ovando was still the governor at that time, he gave Cortes a repartimiento (corvée labor) of natives and made him a notary of the town of Azuza. Thus, over the next couple of years, Cortes slowly established himself in Hispaniola.

Portrait of Diego Velasquez de Cuellar, who led the expedition to Cuba in which Hernan Cortes was given a chance to prove his spirit. (John Carter Brown Library / Public domain)

Portrait of Diego Velasquez de Cuellar, who led the expedition to Cuba in which Hernan Cortes was given a chance to prove his spirit. (John Carter Brown Library / Public domain )

Hernan Cortes’ Expedition to Cuba

In 1511, Cortes joined the expedition to conquer Cuba . The expedition was led by Diego Velazquez de Cuellar, an aide to the governor of Hispaniola. Velazquez, who became the governor of Cuba, was so impressed by Cortes that he gave him a high position in the colonial administration.

  • The Stolen Treasure of Montezuma
  • Test Show’s Aztec Gold Bar Was Lost By Fleeing Conquistadors

Although Cortes and Velazquez were initially on good terms, the relationship between the two men deteriorated over time. For instance, Cortes was jailed twice by the governor, but succeeded is escaping on both occasions. Nevertheless, Cortes earned a reputation for being daring and bold. Moreover, following Cortes’ marriage to Catalina Xuarez, Velazquez’s sister-in-law, relations between the two men improved.

In 1518, Velazquez and Cortes signed an agreement, which placed the latter in command of an expedition to explore the coast of Mexico . Cortes was to initiate trade with the indigenous people he met during his voyage. It has been suggested that the governor wanted Cortes to only engage in trade, so that he could have the privilege to conquer the indigenous people himself later.

Cortes, however, used the legal knowledge he gained during his days at Salamanca to insert a clause in the agreement that would allow him to take necessary emergency measures without Velazquez’s prior approval if they profited Spain.

Although Velazquez had earlier commissioned another expedition to explore the Mexican coast, Hernan Cortes’ was much bigger. This earlier one, led by the governor’s nephew, consisted of four ships, whereas Cortes assembled a fleet of 11 ships. About half of Cortes’ expedition was financed by Velazquez. Cortes himself went into debt as a result of borrowing additional funds for the expedition, when his own assets went dry. The financial commitment of both men showed that they were both keenly aware that the conquest of Mexico would bring them great fame, fortune, and glory.

It was also this awareness that made Velazquez suspicious that Cortes would betray him, conquer Mexico on his own, and establish himself as governor of the newly conquered land. Therefore, the governor decided to replace Cortes with someone he had more faith in.

Luis de Medina was sent with Velazquez’s orders to replace Cortes. Unfortunately for de Medina, he was intercepted, and killed by Cortes’ brother-in-law. When Cortes heard the news, he sped up the preparations for his expedition. On the 18 th of February 1519, Cortes was about to set sail, when Velazquez himself arrived at the dock, in one last attempt to revoke the conquistador’s commission. Cortes, however, ignored the governor, and hurriedly sailed off.    

This old painting by an unknown artist shows the entrance of Hernan Cortes into the city of Tabasco on the Yucatan. (Public domain)

This old painting by an unknown artist shows the entrance of Hernan Cortes into the city of Tabasco on the Yucatan. ( Public domain )

Before Attacking the Aztecs, Cortes Visits the Yucatan

Prior to arriving on the mainland, Cortes spent some time on the island of Cozumel , where he heard stories of other white men living in the Yucatan. It turns out that there were two Spaniards, Geronimo de Aguilar, and Gonzalo Guerrero living amongst the Maya . These two were survivors of a shipwreck in 1511.

Whilst Guerrero chose to continue living with the Maya, de Aguilar, who was a Franciscan priest, joined Cortes’ expedition. During his time with the Maya, de Aguilar picked up Yucatec Mayan, as well as a few other Mesoamerican languages, which made him valuable as a translator.

Geronimo de Aguilar, however, was not the only translator on Cortes’ expedition. Shortly after leaving Cozumel, the expedition landed at Potonchanon, on the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula . It was here that Cortes found his second translator, a woman whom Cortes referred to as Dona Marina, and known also as Malintzen, or La Malinche.

The story of Malintzen’s early life is unclear, though it is generally accepted that she was born into a family but was enslaved as a child. It is believed that during her slavery, Malintzen was sold several times, which brought her to different parts of the Yucatan Peninsula. As a result of her forced travels, Malintzen became fluent in both Yucatec and Nahuatl, the latter being the language of the Aztecs, and a lingua franca of the area.

When Cortes arrived in Potonchanon, he was given 20 enslaved women, one of whom was Malintzen, as a peace offering. The women were forced to join the expedition and were baptized as Catholics. Malintzen’s linguistic skills were soon recognized, and she was paired with de Aguilar. Initially, Cortes would speak to de Aguilar in Spanish, who would translate it into Yucatec. Malintzen would then translate this into Nahuatl, thereby enabling Cortes to speak with the natives.

Eventually, Malintzen learned Spanish as well, which allowed her to communicate directly between Cortes and the Aztecs he met without de Aguilar as an intermediary. Malintzen, however, was more than just an interpreter, and played a significant role in Cortes’ conquest of the Aztec Empire. For instance, Malintzen was instrumental in helping Cortes to form alliances with tribes that were eager to overthrow their Aztec overlords. Malintzen also uncovered plots against the Spanish, who foiled them before any serious harm could be done. Thus, Malintzen was addressed by Cortes’ men with the title Dona, meaning “Lady.”

It was on this Veracruz, Mexico beach (where the Quiahuiztlan archeological site stands today) that Hernan Cortes landed his Mexican expedition in 1519 and scuttled his fleet to ensure maximum motivation for his soldiers. (Gengiskanhg / CC BY-SA 3.0)

It was on this Veracruz, Mexico beach (where the Quiahuiztlan archeological site stands today) that Hernan Cortes landed his Mexican expedition in 1519 and scuttled his fleet to ensure maximum motivation for his soldiers. (Gengiskanhg / CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Hernan Cortes Attacks the Aztecs from Veracruz, Mexico

After a few months in the Yucatan, Cortes continued his journey westward, and founded the settlement of La Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz (modern-day Veracruz). Cortes got himself elected as captain-general of the new settlement, which freed him from the authority of Velazquez. It was from this settlement that Cortes began his campaign to conquer the Aztec Empire. Initially, the Aztecs did not see the Spanish as a threat. In fact, their ruler, Moctezuma II sent emissaries to present gifts to these foreign strangers. This, however, did little to change the minds of the Spanish. As a matter of fact, Cortes had all but one of his ships scuttled, which meant that he and his men would either conquer the Aztecs Empire or die trying.

As Cortes marched towards Tenochtitlan , the Aztec capital, he made alliances with the local tribes, one of the first being the Tlaxcalans, who were bitter enemies of the Aztecs. Following the Massacre of Cholula in 1519, more tribes decided to submit to the Spanish, fearing that they would suffer the same fate as the Cholulans if they refused.

In any event, when Cortes and his men arrived in Tenochtitlan, he was warmly welcomed by Moctezuma. It seems that the emperor intended to learn more about the Spanish, especially their weaknesses, so that he could crush them later. Cortes, however, found out about Moctezuma’s plot, and took the emperor hostage, believing that this would stop the Aztecs from attacking him and his men.

In the meantime, an expedition under Panfilo de Narvaez was sent in 1520 by Velazquez to relieve Cortes of his command, capture the renegade conquistador, and bring him back to Cuba to be tried. When he heard of the expedition, Cortes took some of his men, and launched a surprise night attack on de Narvaez’s much larger army, thereby defeating it.

After this victory, he hurried back to Tenochtitlan, as the situation there was quite tense as well. During Cortes’ absence, the Spanish in the city had killed many Aztec nobles during a religious festival, which led to them being besieged in Moctezuma’s palace. When Cortes returned, he decided that the best course of action was to retreat from Tenochtitlan.

The decision to retreat was in part caused by the death of Moctezuma. According to one version of the story, Moctezuma was killed by the Spanish after they realized he had outlived his usefulness. According to another account, the emperor was pelted with stones when he tried to speak to his subjects from a balcony and died of his wounds.

Whilst the Cortes were crossing the causeway to the mainland, his rear guard was attacked by the Aztecs, and he lost many men. This episode became known as La Noche Triste, or “The Night of Sorrows.”

Spanish conquistador, Hernan Cortes, as he must have looked towards the end of his life by an unknown artist. (Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando / Public domain)

Spanish conquistador, Hernan Cortes, as he must have looked towards the end of his life by an unknown artist. (Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando / Public domain )

Cortes Takes The Aztec Capital And Moves On

In spite of this victory, the Aztecs had not crushed the Spanish, and Cortes, having regrouped his men, returned to Tenochtitlan in 1521, besieged the city, and captured it. Although the fall of Tenochtitlan made Cortes the conqueror of the Aztec Empire, in reality the Spanish took many more years to conquer the rest of Mesoamerica.

  • The Many Burials of Hernan Cortes: Locating the Gravesite of a Conquistador
  • Will The Lost Fleet of Hernán Cortés And Its Treasures of the Aztec Finally be Found?

In any case, Cortes’ achievement, as well as all the treasures he brought back to Spain, made him a very popular man when he returned home. At the same time, there were also those who were jealous of Cortes’ success, and sought to bring him down. In 1528, Cortes returned to Spain to seek justice from the Spanish king, Charles V. He succeeded in convincing the king and was rewarded for his efforts in Mexico.

Cortes returned to Mexico in 1530 with new titles, but his powers were reduced. Cortes stayed in Mexico till 1541, and led several expeditions, though these are much less celebrated than his conquest of the Aztec Empire.

In 1541, Cortes returned to Spain, and was part of the expedition against Algiers. In 1547, Cortes decided to return to Mexico, but died whilst he was in Seville on the 2 nd of December that year.

His remains were moved several times, before their location was lost, only to be rediscovered in Mexico City during the 20 th century.

Top image: Hernan Cortes burning his ships to motivate his men as they begin to tackle the Aztec Empire from their base in Veracruz, Mexico. Source: joserpizarro / Adobe Stock

By Wu Mingren

American Historical Association, 2021. Jeronimo de Aguilar. [Online] Available at: https://www.historians.org/teaching-and-learning/teaching-resources-for-...

History.com Editors, 2019. Hernan Cortes. [Online] Available at: https://www.history.com/topics/exploration/hernan-cortes

Innes, R. H., 2021. Hernán Cortés. [Online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Hernan-Cortes

New World Encyclopedia, 2017. Hernán Cortés. [Online] Available at: https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Hern%C3%A1n_Cort%C3%A9s

Szalay, J., 2018. Hernán Cortés: Conqueror of the Aztecs. [Online] Available at: https://www.livescience.com/39238-hernan-cortes-conqueror-of-the-aztecs....

The BBC, 2014. Hernando Cortés (1485-1547). [Online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/cortes_hernan.shtml

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2021. Montezuma II. [Online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Montezuma-II

Women & the American Story, 2021. Life Story: Malitzen (La Malinche). [Online] Available at: https://wams.nyhistory.org/early-encounters/spanish-colonies/malitzen/

dhwty's picture

Wu Mingren (‘Dhwty’) has a Bachelor of Arts in Ancient History and Archaeology. Although his primary interest is in the ancient civilizations of the Near East, he is also interested in other geographical regions, as well as other time periods.... Read More

Related Articles on Ancient-Origins

World History Edu

  • Famous Explorers / Spanish History

Hernán Cortés: History, Life, Accomplishments, & Atrocities Committed

by World History Edu · February 5, 2020

hernan cortes years of voyage

Spanish Conquistador Hernán Cortés – Life and Accomplishments

Most known for invading Mexico and defeating the Aztec Empire in 1521, Hernán Cortés was a Spanish nobleman and famous explorer who helped expand the Empire of Spain into the New World. Why and how did this conquistador vanquish the Aztecs – one of history’s greatest civilizations? Here is everything that you need to know about the life story and accomplishments of Hernán Cortés.

Hernán Cortés was born in Medellín, Spain, to a family of not so much renowned nobility. Growing up, Cortés was not the strongest of children. Regardless of that he was quite intelligent for his age.

When he was 14, his parents sent him to study Latin at his uncle’s school in Salamanca. Two years into his studies, Cortés abandoned the course and went back home. His decision to abandon school was primarily influenced by news of famed explorer Christopher Columbus’ expeditions into the New World.

Cortés desired nothing than to follow in Columbus’s footstep and become a renowned explorer and Spanish conquistador.

Expeditions to Haiti and Cuba

Cortés’s maiden voyage to the Americas occurred in 1504. He sailed for Hispaniola (modern day Haiti and Dominica Republic). Aged around 19, Cortés arrived in Santo Domingo in 1504. Santo Domingo was the capital of Hispaniola. In the city, he had brief educational spells training to become a lawyer. The late teenager spent the next seven years of his life in Hispaniola. He worked as notary official. Sometimes, he worked on the farm.

In 1511, he signed up to the crew of famous Spanish explorer Diego Velázquez’s expedition to Cuba.  While in Cuba, he served as a treasury assistant to Governor Nicolás de Ovando.

For his contribution to the conquest of Cuba, he was rewarded with large parcels of land and Indian slaves. As the years rolled by, Cortés became an influential person in Cuba. He was particularly close to the governor of Cuba, Diego Velázquez. He served as Velázquez’s lieutenant.

Expedition to Mexico

In 1518, Cortes was able to convince Velázquez to let him lead an expedition into Mexico. Velázquez accepted his request and gave Cortés his blessings.

Just a few months before Cortes’s expedition, Velázquez had a change of mind. However, the brave and daring Cortés refused to back down. He proceeded and sailed to Mexico with about 11 ships and over 500 men.

Cortés’s mutiny against the governor of Cuba was not uncommon. Early Spanish colonization of the Americas was rife with mutinies and betrayals. For example, the ship that Cortes boarded on his maiden voyage to the Americas had a captain (Alonso Quintero) who mutinied against his superiors.

In 1519, Cortés’s crew of explorers arrived at place called Yucatan, off the Mexican coast. Looking for wealth and glory, Cortés consistently disobeyed Velázquez’s order to come back home. In addition to fame and glory, Cortés had it at the back of his mind to roll out a massive conversion exercise of the natives to Catholicism.

A month after his arrival at Yucatan, Cortés and his men seized the territory in the name of the Spanish Empire. Along the way, he also engaged in a number of battles with native tribes. He and his priests also converted some of the natives into Christianity. Many of those converts were forced into the faith. Also, he encouraged his men to pillage the land and abuse the conquered natives.

Cortés had several illegitimate children with native Indian women. For example, he and La Malinche had a child called Martín (El Mestizo). After a brief period of time, she learned Spanish. For most part of the time, Malinche served as his interpreter. Her usefulness came in the fact that she was reasonably fluent in Aztec and Mayan languages.

Veracruz Settlement

A few months into his stay on the continent, Cortés proceeded west and established a settlement called, Veracruz. He took some of the locales as his allies. In spite of this, it did not stop Cortés from thinking the indigenous people as culturally and religiously inferior to the Spanish. It was not uncommon for Spanish explorers to have this notion about the natives. They found the practice of human sacrifices by the natives particularly abhorrent.

In September, 1519, he briefly clashed with the Otomis and the Tlaxcalans. In the end, some of those indigenous people later allied with Cortés.

After claiming Veracruz for himself, under the Crown’s name, Cortés destroyed his ships. The rationale behind this was to prevent his men from sailing back. His men, therefore, had only one option – march into the heart of the Aztec Empire, Tenochtitlán.

Invasion of the Aztec Empire

hernan cortes years of voyage

Hernando Cortés invades Tenochtitlan, the Capital of the Aztec Empire, in 1521 | Image:  Britannica.com

Cortes first met officials of the Aztec Empire at San Juan de Ulúa in spring 1519. On several occasions he asked for a meeting with Moctezuma II, the ruler ( tiatoani ) of the Aztecs. The Aztecs refused to have any meeting.

In August 1519, Cortes, along with about 600 men, headed for the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan. He was also in the company of several hundreds of local tribe men from the Totonacs and the Nahuas.

On his way to Tenochtitlán, he killed several thousands of unarmed noblemen and civilians in Cholula in 1519. His men also burned down a great portion of the city.

In November 1519, Cortes was received by Moctezuma II. The Spanish explorer was given a warm welcome and Cortes entered the city unimpeded. Many say the emperor did this in order to learn the weaknesses of the invading force. However, some historians believe that some Aztecs  regarded Cortés as a messenger of the god Quetzalcoatl – the feathered serpent deity of the Aztecs.

Owing to this fascination, Moctezuma dashed Cortés several ounces of gold and other gifts. Consumed by greed, Cortés decided to take Moctezuma hostage.

Why did Hernán Cortés take Moctezuma hostage?

First of all, some historians say that what prompted Hernán Cortés to hold the ruler of the Aztecs hostage was because Cortés received news that some Aztecs had attacked his men. The second and more likely reason is that Cortés wanted more gold for himself.

In 1520, Governor Veláquez sent a number of ships, which were under the command of Pánfilo de Narváez, to relieve Cortés of his command in Mexico. Narváez sailed to Mexico with about a thousand men. While Cortes held Tenochititlán as a prisoner, Cortés was able to rule the entire Aztec people.

Cortés captures Tenochtitlán

About 200 men to stayed behind stay behind in Tenochtitlán while Cortés marched the rest of his men to face off with Pánfilo de Narváez. Even though Narváez had the numerical advantage, Cortés was still able to hand Narváez a crushing defeat. The remaining men of Narváez surrendered and joined Cortes. Now with a relatively bigger troop numbers, Cortes headed back to Tenochtitlán.

Upon arriving, he found the city in a state of civil rife. His lieutenant that he had left behind did a poor job of keeping the peace and order. There was even a massacre in the Great Temple. Shortly after that the people rebelled. In the heat of this rebellion, Moctezuma was murdered on July 1, 1520. The Aztecs became hostile, forcing Cortés to leave the city. He escaped to Tlaxcala. While retreating, he lost about 870 men, as well as a great deal of his looted gold and other treasures.

Majority of the Aztecs had grown fed up with their rulers. In addition to this, many of them were blighted by smallpox that the Europeans brought along with them. Realizing this, Cortés capitalized on the situation and took control of the city in the name of the Crown. After conquering the city, he renamed it Mexico City. He built Mexico City on the ruins of Tenochtitlán.

From 1521-1524, he served as governor of the city. During his reign, Cortés may have been treated unfairly by the Spanish Empire. His work for the Crown was disregarded. His role in the colonization of the New World was watered down by his critics, including Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, Diego Columbus and Francisco Garay. Veláquez, in particular, did not want Cortes to be governor in Mexico. He worked hard to convince King Charles V of Spain. The king then moved Cortés from civilian duties by promoting him to captain-general.

Some say Cortes acted too entitled and may have been a very vain governor. On so many occasions, he disobeyed to orders of the Crown.

King Charles appointed him as governor, captain general and chief justice of the newly conquered territories in the New World. However, the king kept an eye on him by appointing royals to be his assistant. For his conquests in Mexico, the Spanish Crown rewarded Cortes with a coat of arms.

hernan cortes years of voyage

Hernando Cortes crest from Charles V

Honduras Expedition

From 1524 to 1526, Cortes waged war with Cristóbal de Olid – the man who claimed Honduras for himself. Cortes emerged the victor. He pointed finger at Velázquez for his alleged role in Olid’s rebellion. Hence Cortés implored King Charles to arrest Velázquez on the charges of treason.

After his exploits in Honduras, Cortes returned to Mexico only to find out that his power base had been eroded. He quickly headed for Spain to beseech King Charles. However, Charles’ paid little attention to the political situation in the New World. All the king cared about was his quinto, i.e. taxes from the American colonies. Charles did however confer the order of Santiago on Cortés in 1529. Cortés also received the title of Marquis of the Oaxaca (Marqués del Valle de Oaxaca ) . On his way back to Mexico, Charles made him in charge of the army in Mexico.

Later Life and Death

Although his governorship position had been taken away from him, Cortés still wielded some amount of power in Mexico. For example he was still able to embark on a number of minor expeditions. In one such expedition, he discovered Baja California Peninsula in 1536.  

With his civil authority stripped from him, Cortés’s influence in the New World waned. In 1541, he went back to Spain to attend to some problems concerning his estates.

Hernán Cortés spent a fortune during his expeditions in the Americas and conquest of Mexico. He tried desperately to get back most of the money he spent from the Spanish Crown, but to no avail.

He spent his later years not as wealthy as he used to be when he was the governor of Mexico. Feeling neglected in Spain, he decided to give Mexico a shot again. However, he was struck down with dysentery in the course of his preparations. On December 2, 1547, the famous Spanish conqueror of Mexico died in Castilleja de la Cuesta, Seville Province. He was 62.

Before he was eventually buried at Hospital de Jesus in Mexico City, his body was moved about eight times.

What was Hernán Cortés’s legacy?

hernan cortes years of voyage

Hernán Cortés (1485 – 1547)

Over the centuries, Hernán Cortés has been scorned by many due to his involvement in years of abuse, killings and devastation amongst the natives in the Americas. In his defense, some historians have stated that his was pretty much the norm during Europeans’ conquest of the Americas. Regardless of this, Cortés cannot be excused from all the atrocities that he committed.

Cortés, like many of his fellow conquistadors, was responsible for infecting (unknowingly) the natives with terrible diseases such as smallpox, which killed millions of indigenous people.

Another brutal act of Cortés came in the form of mass conversion of the indigenous peoples into Christianity. He asked for several friars to be sent from Spain to Mexico. He was particularly cautious in doing so. He made sure that only friars, instead of secular priest or diocesan, performed the conversion.

Did you know : The Gulf of California used to be called the Sea of Cortes ?

From the perspective of the Spanish Empire, he was hailed as a hero. Owing to his efforts, the Crown was able to stretch its tentacles wide and far into the Americas. Those new found territories brought unimaginable riches and prosperity to Spain.

Cortés certainly goes down in history as founder and builder of Mexico City. Although one mention of his name still elicits scorn and disgust from many people in Mexico today, Hernán Cortés undoubtedly occupies a unique and prestigious place in the history of both Mexico and Spain.

Personal life and family

All in all, Hernando Cortés is believed to have fathered quite a lot of children. He married twice. His first wife, Catalina Suárez, died under mysterious circumstances in November 1522. There were rumors floating about that Cortés was responsible. In any case, Catalina bore no children with Hernán Cortés.

In 1529, he got married to Doña Juana de Zúñiga. Unlike his first wife (Catalina), Cortés’s second wife was from a noble family. The couple gave birth to a son called Martín, who would become his heir and successor. Additionally, he had three daughters—Maria, Catalina, and Juana.

With regards to his illegitimate children, it is believed that he had several of them with the natives in Cuba and Mexico. He even worked tirelessly to have the Pope legitimize four of his illegitimate children. In his will, he was also generous to his surviving children, including the illegitimate ones and their mothers.

FACT CHECK : At worldhistoryedu.com, we strive for utmost accuracy and objectivity. But if you come across something that doesn’t look right, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.

Tags: Aztec Empire Cuba Hernán Cortés Mexico Mexico City Moctezuma Spanish Conquistadors Tenochtitlán The New World Velázquez de Cuéllar

You may also like...

hernan cortes years of voyage

Amerigo Vespucci’s Greatest Achievements and Voyages

November 4, 2021

Spanish Civil War Facts

All the Major Facts Surrounding the Spanish Civil War

November 25, 2019

hernan cortes years of voyage

Lewis and Clark Expedition: Summary, Team, Challenges, and Importance

April 26, 2020

  • Pingbacks 0

' src=

Excellent historical account of Cortes

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

  • Next story  Birth, Death & Resurrection of Osiris, the Ancient Egyptian God of the Underworld
  • Previous story  Biography, Achievements & Quotes of Seretse Khama, the First President of Botswana
  • Popular Posts
  • Recent Posts

hernan cortes years of voyage

Antigone in Greek Mythology – Origin Story & Death

hernan cortes years of voyage

History of Saint Patrick: When and Why he became Patron Saint of Ireland

hernan cortes years of voyage

Circumstances that led to the death of Medusa in Greek Mythology

hernan cortes years of voyage

History and major facts about the discovery of the DNA structure

hernan cortes years of voyage

History and Major Facts about the Three Most Acclaimed Greek Tragedians

African Leaders

Greatest African Leaders of all Time

hernan cortes years of voyage

Queen Elizabeth II: 10 Major Achievements

hernan cortes years of voyage

Donald Trump’s Educational Background

Donald J. Trump

Donald Trump: 10 Most Significant Achievements

John F. Kennedy

8 Most Important Achievements of John F. Kennedy

hernan cortes years of voyage

Odin in Norse Mythology: Origin Story, Meaning and Symbols

Ragnor Lothbrok

Ragnar Lothbrok – History, Facts & Legendary Achievements

hernan cortes years of voyage

9 Great Achievements of Queen Victoria

U.S. Presidents

12 Most Influential Presidents of the United States

African Dictators

Most Ruthless African Dictators of All Time

hernan cortes years of voyage

Kwame Nkrumah: History, Major Facts & 10 Memorable Achievements

Hermes, the Greek god

Greek God Hermes: Myths, Powers and Early Portrayals

Rosa Parks

8 Major Achievements of Rosa Parks

hernan cortes years of voyage

How did Captain James Cook die?

Pharaohs of Egypt

10 Most Famous Pharaohs of Egypt

hernan cortes years of voyage

Kamala Harris: 10 Major Achievements

Elizabeth II versus Elizabeth I

The Exact Relationship between Elizabeth II and Elizabeth I


Poseidon: Myths and Facts about the Greek God of the Sea

hernan cortes years of voyage

Nile River: Location, Importance & Major Facts

hernan cortes years of voyage

Importance and Major Facts about Magna Carta

  • Adolf Hitler Alexander the Great American Civil War Ancient Egyptian gods Ancient Egyptian religion Aphrodite Apollo Athena Athens Black history Carthage China Civil Rights Movement Constantine the Great Constantinople Egypt England France Germany Ghana Hera Horus India Isis John Adams Julius Caesar Loki Military Generals Military History Nobel Peace Prize Odin Osiris Pan-Africanism Queen Elizabeth I Ra Ragnarök Religion Set (Seth) Soviet Union Thor Timeline Women’s History World War I World War II Zeus
  • Art History
  • U.S. History
  • World History

Hernán Cortés

Hernán Cortés (1485-1547), also known as Hernando Cortés was a Spanish Conquistador, born in Medellin, which is in the province of Castile of Spain. He was responsible for the bold conquest of the Aztec Empire in 1519 in Central Mexico. Hernán was the son of Doña Catalina Pizarro and Martín Cortés.

Hernán initially studied law at the University of Salamanca for 2 years, but later on he dropped out hoping to make a fortune in America. Hernán’s parents were opposed to his plans since they thought that he would have been equipped for a lucrative legal career after his studies. However, the 2 years of legal education would later on secure him the upper hand in justifying his unconstitutional conquest of Mexico.

Years in Hispaniola

By the time when Hernán was dropping out of the university, news of thrilling discoveries of Christopher Columbus in the New World was spreading quickly throughout Spain. The news likely motivated Hernán to leave Spain for the Americas. His initial plans were to sail to the Americas with Nicolas de Ovando, a distant relative and governor of Hispaniola.

In 1504 at the age of 19 years, he left Spain and sailed to Hispaniola, Santo Domingo island (current Dominican Republic). When Hernán arrived at Hispaniola, he registered as a citizen and acquired permission to own and build a plot of farmland.

Immediately after he settled down, Ovando gave made him a notary of the Azua de Compostela town. During the next 5 years, Cortés managed to establish himself in the colony. In 1506, he participated in the conquest of Cuba and Hispaniola and was rewarded with Indian slaves and a large estate of land for his contribution during the expedition. People referred to him as an intelligent administrator, ruthless fighter, and capable leader.

Life in Cuba

Over the time, the relationship between Governor Velázquez and Cortés started to become strained. This worsened when Juan de Grijalva (Spanish conquistador) reached Velázquez to help him to set up a colony on the mainland. In October, 1518, Cortés was appointed as the captain-general of the newly found expedition and was advised to move rapidly before the governor changed his mind.

He managed to assemble 300 men and 6 ships within one month. On the other hand, the governor became jealous and decided to give the leadership of the mission to someone else. At the same time, Cortés was in a relationship with Catalina Juárez, Velázquez’s sister-in-law. At first, the governor was displeased with the relationship, but over time Hernán managed to marry Catalina.

Hernán Cortés established himself as an administrator and soldier and became the mayor of the city of Santiago, where he stayed until 1518.

Conquest of Tenochtitlan

From 1517 to 1518, Cortés had watched 2 missions fail in the attempt to conquer the mainland. In 1518, he persuaded Velázquez to make him the commander of an expedition to the mainland. Initially, Velázquez appointed Cortés to command the expedition, but later on he canceled his commission after he started to suspect Cortés’ motives. However, Cortés ignored this and set out.

By then, Mexico was being ruled by Aztec Empire under the leadership of Montezuma II. Cortés had gathered 600 in preparation to conquer the Aztec Empire. In March, 1519, he arrived at Tabasco where he camped with the intention of acquiring intelligence from the locals.

Cortes landed at the Mayan capital, Tenochtitlan on November 8, 1519. Here, he met Montezuma, who welcomed him and his small army of Spaniards. Cortés then informed Montezuma that he was seeking gold. Montezuma offered him so much that the Spaniards were tempted to seek for more. It is believed that Montezuma was setting Cortés and his army up and was planning to kill them.

Meanwhile, Velázquez was planning to capture Cortés and sent an expedition in April 1520. When Cortés left to fight Velázquez’s expedition, a revolt started in Tenochtitlan. Cortés returned to the city and asked Montezuma to order his people to end the revolt. Unfortunately, while addressing the crowd, Montezuma was struck by a stone and died. The Aztecs drove the Spaniards out of their city.

In the summer of 1521, Cortés regrouped and returned to capture the Mayan capital. He began by cutting off all supplies and fresh water routes to the capital, entering the city afterwards. Despite opposition by the Aztecs, he managed to eradicate the Aztec civilization by August 1521. He embarked on rebuilding the capital and renamed it Mexico City. Spain appointed him the governor of Mexico for his efforts.

Return to Spain

Mexico City was becoming a popular city as many Europeans started to migrate to the Americas. By then Hernán had already begun to rebuild the Aztec ruins. He also collected a lot of jewels and gold, garnering popularity back in Spain. In 1528, his fame spread like wildfire, and the government of Spain started to get worried that he was getting too powerful.

He was forced to go back to Spain where the king appointed him a captain-general. In 1530, he persuaded the king to send him back to Mexico and the king agreed. However, this time he would have less freedom and power than before. In 1536, he explored the northwestern region of Mexico where he discovered the Baja-California peninsula. This was his last major expedition.

Later Life and Death

In 1541, Hernán Cortés went back to Spain where he was served with many lawsuits, including alleged debts. He thought that the king would come to his aid, but the king ignored him. Due to his many debts, he made claim on the royal treasury in February 1544 but was awarded with a royal runaround for the next 3 years instead. He was disgusted by this gesture and decided to go back to Mexico in 1547. On reaching Seville, he got sick and died on December 2, 1547 at the age of 62. His body was buried in the mausoleum of Medina’s Duke in Seville. Since then, his remains have been moved more than 8 times.

Newest Additions

  • The Beheading of John the Baptist
  • Jesus Sends Out His Twelve Apostles
  • The Miracle of Healing: Jesus and the Paralytic
  • Parables of Wisdom: The Teachings of Jesus
  • Jesus’ Response to John’s Disciples

Copyright © 2020 · Totallyhistory.com · All Rights Reserved. | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Contact Us

This site is for modern browsers.

The Ages of Exploration

Hernando cortes interactive map, age of discovery.

Quick Facts:

Hernando Cortes sailed from Spain to the Caribbean and then eventually to Mexico where he went on to conquer the Aztec Empire

Click on the world map to view an example of the explorer’s voyage.

hernan cortes years of voyage

How to Use the Map

hernan cortes years of voyage

  • Click on either the map icons or on the location name in the expanded column to view more information about that place or event

hernan cortes years of voyage

  • Original "EXPLORATION through the AGES" site
  • The Mariners' Educational Programs

Distance Learning ad

Ten Facts About Hernan Cortes

  • History Before Columbus
  • Colonialism and Imperialism
  • Caribbean History
  • Central American History
  • South American History
  • Mexican History
  • American History
  • African American History
  • African History
  • Ancient History and Culture
  • Asian History
  • European History
  • Medieval & Renaissance History
  • Military History
  • The 20th Century
  • Women's History
  • Ph.D., Spanish, Ohio State University
  • M.A., Spanish, University of Montana
  • B.A., Spanish, Penn State University

Hernan Cortes (1485–1547) was a Spanish conquistador and the leader of the expedition which brought down the mighty Aztec Empire between 1519 and 1521. Cortes was a ruthless leader whose ambition was matched only by his conviction that he could bring the Indigenous peoples of Mexico to the Kingdom of Spain and Christianity, and make himself fabulously wealthy in the process. As a controversial historical figure, there are many myths about Hernan Cortes. What's the truth about history's most legendary conquistador?

He Wasn't Supposed to Go on His Historical Expedition

In 1518, Governor Diego Velazquez of Cuba outfitted an expedition to the mainland and selected Hernan Cortes to lead it. The expedition was to explore the coastline, make contact with Indigenous peoples, perhaps engage in some trade, and then return to Cuba. As Cortes made his plans, however, it was clear that he was planning a mission of conquest and settlement. Velazquez tried to remove Cortes, but the ambitious conquistador hurriedly set sail before his old partner could remove him from command. Eventually, Cortes was forced to repay Velazquez' investment in the venture, but not cut him in on the fabulous wealth the Spaniards found in Mexico.

He Had a Knack for Legality

Had Cortes not become a soldier and conquistador, he would have made a fine lawyer. During Cortes' day, Spain had a very complicated legal system, and Cortes often used it to his advantage. When he left Cuba, he was in a partnership with Diego Velazquez, but he didn't feel that the terms suited him. When he landed near present-day Veracruz, he followed the legal steps to found a municipality and "elected" his friends as the officials. They, in turn, canceled his previous partnership and authorized him to explore Mexico. Later, he coerced his captive Montezuma to verbally accept the King of Spain as his master. With Montezuma an official vassal of the king, any Mexican fighting the Spanish was technically a rebel and could be dealt with harshly.  

He Didn't Burn His Ships

A popular legend says that Hernan Cortes burned his ships in Veracruz after landing his men, signaling his intention to conquer the Aztec Empire or die trying. In fact, he did not burn them, but he did dismantle them because he wanted to keep the important parts. These came in handy later in the Valley of Mexico, when he had to build some brigantines on Lake Texcoco to begin the siege of Tenochtitlan.

He Had a Secret Weapon: Malinche

Forget cannons, guns, swords, and crossbows - Cortes' secret weapon was a teenage girl he had picked up in the Maya lands before marching on Tenochtitlan. While visiting the town of Potonchan, Cortes was gifted 20 women by the local lord. One of them was Malinali, who as a girl had lived in a Nahuatl-speaking land. Therefore, she spoke both Maya and Nahuatl. She could converse with the Spanish through a man named Aguilar who had lived among the Maya. But " Malinche ," as she came to be known, was far more valuable than that. Although she was essentially enslaved, she became a trusted advisor to Cortes, advising him when treachery was afoot and she saved the Spanish on more than one occasion from Aztec plots. 

His Allies Won the War for Him

While he was on his way to Tenochtitlan, Cortes and his men passed through the lands of the Tlaxcalans, traditional enemies of the mighty Aztecs. The fierce Tlaxcalans fought the Spanish invaders bitterly and although they wore them down, they found that they could not defeat these intruders. The Tlaxcalans sued for peace and welcomed the Spanish into their capital city. There, Cortes forged an alliance with the Tlaxcalans which would pay off handsomely for the Spanish. Henceforth, the Spanish invasion was supported by thousands of doughty warriors who hated the Mexica and their allies. After the Night of Sorrows, the Spanish regrouped in Tlaxcala. It is not an exaggeration to say that Cortes would never have succeeded without his Tlaxcalan allies.

He Lost the Treasure of Montezuma

Cortes and his men occupied Tenochtitlan in November of 1519 and immediately began badgering Montezuma and the Aztec nobles for gold. They had already collected a great deal on their way there, and by June of 1520,​ they had amassed an estimated eight tons of gold and silver. After Montezuma's death, they were forced to flee the city on a night remembered by the Spanish as the Night of Sorrows because half of them were killed by angry Mexica warriors. They managed to get some of the treasure out of the city, but most of it was lost and never recovered.

But What He Didn't Lose, He Kept for Himself

When Tenochtitlan was finally conquered once and for all in 1521, Cortes and his surviving men divided up their ill-gotten loot. After Cortes took out the royal fifth, his own fifth and made generous, questionable "payments" to many of his cronies, there was precious little left for his men, most of whom received fewer than 200 pesos apiece. It was an insulting sum for brave men who had risked their lives time and again, and most of them spent the rest of their lives believing that Cortes had hidden a vast fortune from them. Historical accounts seem to indicate that they were correct: Cortes most likely cheated not only his men but the king himself, failing to declare all of the treasure and not sending the king his rightful 20% under Spanish law.

He Probably Murdered His Wife

In 1522, after finally conquering the Aztec Empire, Cortes received an unexpected visitor: his wife, Catalina Suárez, whom he had left behind in Cuba. Catalina could not have been pleased to see her husband with another woman, but she remained in Mexico anyway. On November 1, 1522, Cortes hosted a party at his home at which Catalina is alleged to have angered him by making comments about the Indigenous peoples. She died that very night, and Cortes put out the story that she had a bad heart. Many suspected that he actually killed her. Indeed, some of the evidence suggests that he did, such as servants in his home that saw bruise marks on her neck after death and the fact that she had repeatedly told her friends that he treated her violently. Criminal charges were dropped, but Cortes lost a civil case and had to pay off his deceased wife's family.

The Conquest of Tenochtitlan Was Not the End of His Career

Hernan Cortes' audacious conquest made him famous and rich. He was made Marquis of the Oaxaca Valley and he built himself a fortified palace which can still be visited in Cuernavaca. He returned to Spain and met the king. When the king didn't recognize him right away, Cortes said: "I am the one who gave you more kingdoms than you had towns before." He became governor of New Spain (Mexico) and led a disastrous expedition to Honduras in 1524. He also personally led expeditions of exploration in western Mexico, seeking a strait which would connect the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico. He returned to Spain and died there in 1547.​

Modern Mexicans Despise Him

Many modern Mexicans do not see the arrival of the Spanish in 1519 as bringers of civilization, modernity or Christianity: rather, they think the conquistadors were a brutal gang of cutthroats who plundered the rich culture of central Mexico. They may admire Cortes' audacity or courage, but they find his cultural genocide abominable. There are no major monuments to Cortes anywhere in Mexico, but heroic statues of Cuitlahuac and Cuauhtémoc, two Mexica Emperors who fought bitterly against the Spanish invaders, grace the beautiful avenues of modern Mexico City.

  • Important Events in the Conquest of the Aztec Empire
  • The Conquest of the Aztec Empire
  • 8 Important Figures in the Conquest of the Aztec Empire
  • Hernan Cortes and His Tlaxcalan Allies
  • Hernan Cortes and His Captains
  • Biography of Malinche, Enslaved Woman and Interpreter to Hernán Cortés
  • Timeline of Hernan Cortes' Conquest of the Aztecs
  • Treasure of the Ancient Aztecs
  • 10 Facts About Aztec Leader Montezuma
  • Biography of Diego Velazquez de Cuellar, Conquistador
  • The Death of Emperor Montezuma
  • The Cholula Massacre
  • Biography of Hernán Cortés, Ruthless Conquistador
  • The Night of Sorrows
  • Biography of Hernando Cortez
  • Ten Facts About Pedro de Alvarado

Have Fun With History

Facts About Hernán Cortés

10 Facts About Hernán Cortés

Hernán Cortés was a Spanish conquistador who commanded the expedition that conquered Mexico and brought the Aztec Empire to an end.

He is a contentious historical character, revered by some as a hero and reviled by others as a brutal invader who brought down a great empire.

Hernán Cortés is well known as the Spanish conquistador who led the expedition that brought the Aztec Empire to its knees and captured Mexico for Spain. He is well remembered for conquering the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan and defeating its emperor, Montezuma II.

Cortés arrived in Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital, with the support of local allies, and was originally acclaimed as a deity. However, tensions between Cortés and the Aztecs increased, and he was compelled to abandon the city in 1520 during the Noche Triste (“Sad Night”).

Conquest of Mexico by Cortés

He later returned to Tenochtitlan, where he besieged the city for several months before finally taking it in 1521 with the help of his friends. Cortés was designated governor and captain-general of New Spain after the conquest, which comprised Mexico and parts of Central America.

The conquest of Mexico by Cortés had a tremendous impact on Mexican history as well as the world at large.

Hernán Cortés Facts

1. he was not the first born son of his family.

Born in 1485 in Medellín, Spain, he came from a lesser noble family but was not the firstborn son, which meant he had to find his own path in life.

Also Read: Hernán Cortés Accomplishments

When he was 19 years old, he left Spain and traveled to the Caribbean, where he worked as a soldier and later as an administrator on the island of Hispaniola.

2. Cortés amassed riches and power in Cuba

Hernán Cortés left Spain in 1504 and went to the island of Hispaniola, where he served as a soldier and governor for several years.

He eventually relocated to Cuba, where he was granted an encomienda, a system of land concessions that granted him the ability to collect tribute from the indigenous population in exchange for protection.

Hernan Cortes

Cortés amassed riches and power in Cuba through his encomienda, and he utilized this position as a springboard for his voyage to Mexico in 1519.

3. He established the city of Veracruz

In the year 1519, Cortés was given the responsibility of leading a fresh voyage to Mexico with the intention of exploring the area and establishing new colonies there.

Also Read: Hernan Cortes Timeline

He led a group of six hundred soldiers ashore on the coast of Mexico, where they established the city of Veracruz.

From there, he launched his march deeper into Aztec territory, intent on bringing the Aztec Empire and Montezuma II, its king, under his control.

4. Upon his arrival, he was first greeted as a deity by the Aztecs

Cortés arrived in Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire, with the assistance of local allies. Upon his arrival, he was first greeted as a deity by the Aztecs .

Cortés was eventually compelled to abandon the city in 1520 during what became known as the “Nite of Sorrow,” which occurred as a result of the growing tensions between him and the Aztecs (“Sad Night”).

Once some time had passed, Cortés made his way back to Tenochtitlan . There, with the assistance of his allies, he laid siege to the city for a number of months prior to finally capturing it in 1521.

5. The Cholula Massacre

The Cholula Massacre was a key incident during Hernán Cortés’ invasion of the Aztec Empire in Mexico. Cortés and his army arrived in Cholula, a significant center of the Aztec civilization, in October 1519.

Cortés opted to strike first because the Aztec ruler, Moctezuma II, warned him that the people of Cholula were plotting an attack on his men.

Cortés directed his forces to invade the city, and they slaughtered thousands of unarmed inhabitants. The massacre lasted several days, according to some sources, and the army looted and burnt the city.

The tragedy became known as the Cholula Massacre, and it is considered one of the most heinous actions of the Spanish conquest of Mexico.

6. Cortés and his army arrived in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan in November 1519

When Hernán Cortés and his army arrived in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan in November 1519, they were greeted by Montezuma II, the Aztec emperor. Cortés’ meeting with Montezuma II was a watershed occasion in the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire.

According to some versions, Montezuma II initially thought Cortés was a god or supernatural creature, and he greeted the Spanish conquistadors with great pomp and circumstance. Montezuma II was famed for his wealth and power, and he lavishly gifted gold and beautiful stones to Cortés.

Nonetheless, tensions between Cortés and Montezuma II quickly arose. Cortés was adamant on conquering the Aztec Empire and converting the indigenous peoples to Christianity, however Montezuma II refused to submit to European rule.

Cortés grew increasingly hostile to Montezuma II over time, and in 1520, he had the Aztec ruler imprisoned.

7. Cortes a second cousin once removed of Francisco Pizarro

The Inca Empire of Peru was conquered by Francisco Pizarro, a second cousin once removed of Hernán Cortés.

Both men became famous for their conquests of important indigenous civilizations in the Americas, and both were born in Spain during the same age of exploration and colonization.

Cortés and Pizarro were related by blood, but they did not get along and there is no proof that they coordinated or worked together.

In spite of this, their victories were pivotal moments in American history, cementing their place in legend as two of the most influential personalities of the Spanish colonial era.

8. He married a woman by the name of Catalina Juarez

While Hernán Cortés was residing in Cuba, he wed Pedro Arias Dávila’s sister-in-law. Pedro Arias Dávila was the governor at the time. She went by the name Catalina Juarez, and the couple was blessed with a child they named Martin.

Cortés was able to launch his voyage to Mexico and secure an encomienda with the help of his influence after securing it through his marriage to Catalina, which served to further consolidate his status in Cuba.

9. He had a child with a interpreter

Cortés had a child with his interpreter, Dona Marina, also known as La Malinche, during his conquest of Mexico.

She was an indigenous woman who spoke multiple languages and was instrumental in assisting the Spanish conquistadors in communicating with the indigenous peoples they encountered.

Cortés and Dona Marina had a son, Martin Cortés, who became one of New Spain’s wealthiest men.

10. Cortés fell out of favor with King Charles V of Spain

Despite his accomplishments in Mexico, Hernán Cortés fell out of favor with King Charles V of Spain in his later years.

Cortés had gained tremendous wealth and power in Mexico, and he was known for being ambitious and self-sufficient. As a result, he posed a potential threat to the Spanish monarchy, and he was accused of several acts of corruption and misbehavior.

Cortés was forced to return to Spain in 1540 to address these charges. Although he was able to defend himself and keep his job at first, he finally fell out of favor with Charles V and was removed as governor of New Spain.

He lived the rest of his life in relative obscurity, with little influence or power.

Winter is here! Check out the winter wonderlands at these 5 amazing winter destinations in Montana

  • Travel Tips

How Long Was Hernan Cortes’ Voyage?

Published: December 14, 2023

Modified: December 28, 2023

by Rasla Cartagena

  • Plan Your Trip



Hernan Cortes, a Spanish conquistador, is widely known for his historic expedition that led to the conquest of the Aztec Empire in the 16th century. His voyage to the New World was not only a significant chapter in European exploration but also marked a turning point in the history of Mexico. The audacity, determination, and strategic genius displayed by Cortes during his journey continue to captivate historians and adventurers alike.

Born in 1485 in the small town of Medellin, Spain, Cortes grew up in a society that was brimming with tales of wealth, adventure, and unknown lands. From an early age, he developed a fascination for exploration, driven by the tales of Christopher Columbus and other pioneers who had set forth to discover new territories.

At the age of 19, Cortes set sail for the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean, which was then under Spanish control. This journey marked the beginning of his remarkable career as an explorer and conqueror. Over the years, he gained valuable experience in the harsh realities of colonial life, honing his leadership skills and developing a thirst for wealth and glory.

It was in the year 1519 that Hernan Cortes embarked on his most ambitious expedition yet. His goal was to explore and claim new territories on behalf of the Spanish crown. Leading a fleet of ships and accompanied by a diverse group of soldiers, sailors, and adventurers, Cortes set his sights on the vast and mysterious land of Mexico.

The journey itself was filled with challenges and uncertainties. The sailors had to navigate treacherous seas, enduring storms and unpredictable weather conditions. Disease and malnutrition were constant companions, and the crew had to rely on their resilience and resourcefulness to survive the arduous journey.

As they made landfall in Mexico, Cortes and his men were met with a breathtaking landscape teeming with vibrant wildlife, dense jungles, and bustling indigenous civilizations. The allure of untold riches fueled their determination, and they set off on a quest to conquer and claim these lands for Spain.

The voyage of Hernan Cortes was not just a physical journey across vast waters; it was also a voyage of discovery, ambition, and cultural clash. It set in motion a series of events that would forever change the course of history, leaving an indelible mark on both European and Latin American societies.

In the following sections, we will delve into the early life of Hernan Cortes, the challenges he faced during his voyage, the conquest of the Aztec Empire, his eventual return to Spain, and the enduring legacy he left behind.

Early Life of Hernan Cortes

Hernan Cortes was born in 1485 in the town of Medellin, located in the region of Extremadura, Spain. He was raised in a society dominated by tales of exploration and conquest, which fueled his adventurous spirit from an early age.

Cortes came from a modest background, with his father being a minor noble and his mother hailing from a prominent local family. Despite their limited means, his parents recognized his intelligence and ambition and provided him with a quality education.

At the age of 14, Cortes was sent to study law at the University of Salamanca. However, he soon grew disinterested in his studies and developed a yearning for something more thrilling. Inspired by the extraordinary accounts of Christopher Columbus’s voyages, Cortes decided to seek his fortune in the New World.

In 1504, he left Spain and sailed to the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean. There, he became involved in the early stages of Spanish colonization, participating in expeditions and acquiring first-hand knowledge of the challenges and opportunities that awaited explorers in this uncharted territory.

Over the next few years, Cortes gained a reputation for his daring and determined personality. He was known for his exceptional physical strength, intelligence, and persuasive speaking skills.

By 1511, Cortes had become a successful farmer and landowner on the island of Cuba. However, his thirst for adventure and riches continued to burn within him. When news reached Cuba of an expedition led by Diego Velazquez to conquer the mainland, Cortes seized the opportunity and eagerly joined the venture.

Little did Cortes know that this decision would shape the rest of his life, as it was during this expedition that he would lay the foundations for his conquest of the Aztec Empire.

Cortes’s early life was marked by a deep sense of ambition and adventure. His exposure to the tales of exploration, coupled with his resilience and determination, laid the groundwork for the remarkable journey he would embark upon in the years to come.

The Voyage Begins

In the year 1519, Hernan Cortes set sail from the shores of Cuba, leading an expedition of 11 ships and around 500 men. His mission was twofold: to explore the newly discovered lands and establish Spanish dominance in the region.

Cortes’s fleet arrived on the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in present-day Mexico. As they made landfall, they encountered the indigenous Maya civilization, with its awe-inspiring temples, advanced agricultural practices, and intricate hieroglyphic writing system.

Despite initial conflicts with the Mayans, Cortes recognized the potential value in forming alliances with the local populations. Through diplomatic negotiations and the strategic use of gifts and promises, he managed to secure alliances with certain Maya tribes, gaining crucial support and intelligence for his future endeavors.

Continuing his journey, Cortes and his men pressed onward, exploring the peninsula and encountering various indigenous groups along the way. One such encounter proved to be a pivotal moment in the expedition – the meeting with a native slave woman named Malinche.

Malinche, later known as Doña Marina, became an invaluable ally and interpreter for Cortes. She spoke both Maya and Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, enabling communication between the Spanish and the indigenous people. Her presence would prove instrumental in shaping the events that followed.

As they ventured deeper into the heart of Mexico, Cortes and his men marveled at the vast landscapes and the magnificent civilizations they encountered. The Aztec Empire, centered around the grand city of Tenochtitlan, captivated their attention with its towering temples, complex water systems, and bustling markets.

However, the Aztec ruler, Moctezuma II, considered the arrival of the Spanish expedition a potential threat. He sent emissaries bearing gifts and messages, inviting Cortes to meet him in Tenochtitlan. Intrigued by the prospects of meeting Moctezuma and the riches of the Aztec Empire, Cortes accepted the invitation.

The stage was set for a clash of cultures and a monumental power struggle that would change the course of history. Cortes and his men embarked on the final leg of their voyage – the journey to Tenochtitlan.

The voyage of Cortes had now reached a critical juncture. The alliances forged, the encounters with indigenous civilizations, and the presence of Doña Marina all played a significant role in shaping the events that would unfold. As they sailed towards the heart of the Aztec Empire, the expedition teetered on the precipice of a historic encounter, where conquest, conflict, and the clash of civilizations awaited.

Exploring the New World

Upon reaching the magnificent city of Tenochtitlan, Hernan Cortes and his men were in awe of the grandeur and sophistication of the Aztec Empire. They were greeted by Moctezuma II, the revered ruler of the empire, who welcomed them with lavish ceremonies and rich gifts.

Cortes, driven by his desire for power and wealth, saw an opportunity to exploit the internal divisions within the empire. He skillfully played the political game, gaining the trust of disgruntled local tribal chiefs who were resentful of Aztec rule.

As Cortes and his men explored the surrounding regions, they encountered diverse indigenous cultures and witnessed the immense wealth and resources that lay within their grasp. They learned of vast gold mines, rich agricultural lands, and valuable trade networks that spanned the continent.

Word of the Spanish arrival spread quickly, and various groups throughout the region approached Cortes, seeking protection from Aztec domination. This further fueled his ambitions, as he saw the opportunity to form a formidable coalition against the Aztec Empire.

During their explorations, Cortes and his men also observed the complex societal structures and advanced architectural feats of the indigenous civilizations. They marveled at the ancient ruins of Teotihuacan, with its massive pyramids and meticulously planned urban grid.

As the Spanish continued to explore and engage with the native population, they witnessed unique customs, traditions, and artistic expressions. The intricate featherwork, vibrant textiles, and elaborate murals showcased the rich cultural heritage of the indigenous people.

However, tensions were brewing beneath the surface. Moctezuma, uncertain of the Spanish intentions, grew increasingly cautious and suspicious of Cortes and his men. The delicate balance between cooperation and manipulation was beginning to falter.

It was during this stage of exploration that Cortes learned of a great maritime empire to the east, known as the Maya. Eager for further conquests, he set his sights on subjugating these lands, expanding Spanish dominion in the New World.

The voyage of exploration led Cortes and his men to witness the immense diversity and richness of the New World. They encountered advanced civilizations, spectacular landscapes, and bountiful resources. As they trekked through uncharted territories, their appetite for conquest and wealth grew, setting the stage for the dramatic clash that would follow.

Conquest of the Aztec Empire

The conquest of the Aztec Empire stands as one of the most remarkable feats in the history of exploration and conquest. Hernan Cortes and his men, driven by their thirst for power and riches, embarked on a mission that would forever change the destiny of the Aztec civilization.

As tensions between the Spanish and the Aztecs heightened, Cortes saw an opportunity to exploit the internal divisions within the empire. He formed alliances with rival indigenous groups who were eager to overthrow Moctezuma’s rule. Together, they marched towards Tenochtitlan, determined to break the stronghold of the Aztec Empire.

Upon their arrival, Cortes and his small army were initially welcomed into the city by Moctezuma. However, quickly realizing the threat posed by the Spanish, the Aztec ruler found himself in a precarious position. This led to a volatile atmosphere, with periods of uneasy peace interspersed with outbreaks of violence from both sides.

Despite facing overwhelming odds, the Spanish force launched a daring attack on the Aztecs during the Noche Triste (Night of Sorrows). The Aztecs, driven by their desire to rid their city of the invaders, fought fiercely. Cortes and his men were forced to retreat, suffering heavy losses.

However, this setback did not deter Cortes. With his indomitable spirit and tactical brilliance, he regrouped, formed new alliances, and continued his relentless pursuit of victory. The Spanish, bolstered by reinforcements and alliances with indigenous groups who resented Aztec rule, mounted a siege on Tenochtitlan.

The siege of Tenochtitlan was brutal and protracted, with both sides enduring immense hardships. The Aztecs held strong, displaying their fierce warrior spirit and utilizing their sophisticated military strategies.

Ultimately, the siege took its toll on the city and its inhabitants. Disease, starvation, and constant warfare weakened the Aztecs, allowing the Spanish to gain the upper hand. In 1521, after months of intense fighting, Tenochtitlan fell to the Spanish forces. The once-great Aztec Empire was now under Spanish control.

The conquest of the Aztec Empire was not just a military triumph; it was a clash of civilizations that had lasting cultural and societal impacts. The Spanish brought with them their language, religion, and political systems, reshaping the landscape of the region.

Cortes, once driven by his thirst for wealth and power, emerged as a conqueror hailed for his audacity and tactical brilliance. His conquest of the Aztec Empire opened doors to further Spanish exploration and colonization, as well as the spread of Spanish influence throughout the Americas.

However, it is important to note that the conquest came at a great cost. The Aztec civilization, with its rich history and cultural heritage, was forever changed. The legacy of this conquest continues to shape the complex and intricate tapestry of Mexican and Latin American history, leaving an indelible mark on the region.

Return to Spain

After the conquest of the Aztec Empire, Hernan Cortes, now hailed as a hero, turned his attention towards establishing Spanish control and consolidating his newfound power in the conquered territories. However, his triumph in the New World was soon overshadowed by political intrigue and power struggles back in Spain.

Despite his success, Cortes faced criticism and opposition from various factions within the Spanish government. Rivals and detractors accused him of overstepping his authority and acting against the interests of the crown. In an effort to clear his name and secure his position, Cortes decided to return to Spain and present his case directly to Emperor Charles V.

In 1528, Cortes set sail for his homeland, leaving the New World behind. During his journey, he faced numerous challenges, including storms, hostile encounters with rival European powers, and the constant threat of mutiny among his own crew.

Finally, in 1530, Cortes arrived in Spain, where he was received with mixed sentiments. While some celebrated his triumph and were in awe of his achievements, others were skeptical and sought to undermine his reputation.

Cortes faced a grueling legal battle, as individuals with vested interests worked tirelessly to discredit him and challenge his authority. However, his charisma, persuasive skills, and unwavering belief in his cause allowed him to successfully defend himself and maintain influence within the Spanish court.

Despite his legal victories, Cortes was not granted the recognition and rewards he believed he deserved. Emperor Charles V did not bestow upon him the title of viceroy or give him complete control over the conquered territories. Despite this setback, Cortes remained a respected and influential figure within Spanish society.

Realizing that his position in Spain was tenuous and that he would not receive the full recognition he desired, Cortes made the decision to return to the New World. In 1536, he set sail once again, leaving behind the political intrigue and infighting of Spain.

Cortes spent the remaining years of his life in Mexico, where he held various positions of authority and continued to engage in exploration and trade. However, he never fully regained the level of power and influence he had enjoyed during the height of his conquest of the Aztec Empire.

Hernan Cortes, the conqueror of the Aztecs, returned to Spain seeking validation and recognition for his monumental achievements. While his return was met with mixed reactions, it ultimately marked the beginning of a new chapter in his tumultuous life, one that would see him continue to navigate political struggles and seek personal fulfillment on the shores of the New World.

Legacy of Hernan Cortes

The legacy of Hernan Cortes, the conqueror of the Aztec Empire, is one that continues to spark debate and analysis. While some view him as a brave explorer and visionary leader, others condemn him as a ruthless conqueror who brought devastation to indigenous civilizations.

One of Cortes’s most significant legacies is the establishment of Spanish colonial rule in the New World. The conquest of the Aztec Empire paved the way for further Spanish colonization and laid the foundation for the creation of a vast empire that spanned across much of Latin America.

Cortes’s sense of ambition and adventure opened new opportunities for European powers in the Americas. His success inspired other conquistadors and explorers to follow in his footsteps, leading to the further exploration and colonization of the region.

Although Cortes’s conquest resulted in the destruction of the Aztec Empire, it also led to the fusion of Spanish and indigenous cultures. The blending of languages, religions, and traditions gave rise to a vibrant and unique mestizo culture that remains prevalent in Mexico and throughout Latin America today.

Cortes’s legacy is also marked by controversy and criticism. The brutal tactics employed during the conquest, including violence, exploitation, and forced labor, resulted in the loss of countless lives and the destruction of indigenous civilizations. The scars of colonization and the enduring impact on indigenous communities cannot be ignored.

Furthermore, Cortes’s actions and the Spanish colonization process led to the suppression of native traditions, languages, and ways of life. The imposition of Spanish culture and religion brought about significant changes to the indigenous peoples and challenged their centuries-old belief systems.

However, despite the complexities and controversies surrounding Cortes’s legacy, it is important to acknowledge his role as a pivotal figure in world history. His expeditions expanded European knowledge of the New World, opened new trade routes, and shaped the course of exploration and colonization for centuries to come.

Today, the legacy of Hernan Cortes serves as a reminder of the complex and often turbulent history of exploration and conquest. It prompts us to reflect on the ethical implications of colonization, the clash of cultures, and the lasting effects that continue to shape the Americas.

While the impact of Cortes’s actions cannot be understated, it is crucial to approach his legacy with a critical lens, recognizing the intertwined narratives of conquest, exploitation, and cultural exchange. By examining the legacy of Hernan Cortes, we gain insight into the intricate and multifaceted history of the New World and its enduring effects on our global society.

The story of Hernan Cortes and his voyage to the New World is a tale of exploration, conquest, and complex interactions between cultures. His audacious expedition to the Aztec Empire in the 16th century had far-reaching consequences, forever altering the course of history and shaping the cultures and societies of the Americas.

Cortes’s journey was fueled by ambition, curiosity, and a hunger for wealth and power. His conquest of the Aztec Empire was a remarkable feat that showcased his strategic brilliance and his ability to form alliances with indigenous groups who had their own grievances against Aztec rule.

While Cortes is lauded as a hero by some for bringing vast territories under Spanish control, his actions also left a devastating impact on the indigenous peoples of the region. The clashes and subsequent colonization led to widespread destruction, loss of life, and the suppression of native cultures.

However, it is essential to recognize the complexity of Cortes’s legacy. The blending of Spanish and indigenous cultures resulted in a rich and diverse mestizo heritage, which continues to be celebrated today. Additionally, Cortes’s expeditions paved the way for further exploration and colonization in the Americas, leaving an indelible mark on world history.

From his early life in Spain to his conquest of the Aztec Empire and subsequent legal battles in his homeland, Cortes’s story is one of triumph, ambition, and controversy. It serves as a reminder of the far-reaching impact of European exploration and colonization, prompting us to critically examine the historical narratives and their implications.

The legacy of Hernan Cortes forces us to confront the complexities of history and to question the actions and motivations of historical figures. It challenges us to consider the effects of conquest and colonization on indigenous populations and to seek a deeper understanding of the diverse cultures and perspectives that exist.

Ultimately, the voyage of Hernan Cortes serves as a testament to the human thirst for discovery, power, and wealth. It illuminates the intricate interplay between cultures and the long-lasting consequences that continue to shape our world today.

As we reflect on the journey and legacy of Hernan Cortes, it is crucial to approach history with an open mind, acknowledging the triumphs and tragedies, and seeking to learn from the past to inform a more just and inclusive future.


  • Privacy Overview
  • Strictly Necessary Cookies

This website uses cookies so that we can provide you with the best user experience possible. Cookie information is stored in your browser and performs functions such as recognising you when you return to our website and helping our team to understand which sections of the website you find most interesting and useful.

Strictly Necessary Cookie should be enabled at all times so that we can save your preferences for cookie settings.

If you disable this cookie, we will not be able to save your preferences. This means that every time you visit this website you will need to enable or disable cookies again.


  1. Hernan Cortes: Famous Explorers of the World

    hernan cortes years of voyage

  2. Hernan Cortes Voyage

    hernan cortes years of voyage

  3. The Hernan Cortes Route Stock Illustration

    hernan cortes years of voyage

  4. Hernán Cortés was a Spanish conquistador and the man who won Mexico for

    hernan cortes years of voyage

  5. 1st Expedition

    hernan cortes years of voyage

  6. Hernan Cortes

    hernan cortes years of voyage


  1. Hernán Cortés Conquest of The Aztecs! #shorts #history


  3. Hernán Cortés

  4. Cortés' Voyage: The ConquestBegins #history #mexico #aztec

  5. Hernán Cortés conquered the Aztec Empire #shorts #history #mexico



  1. Hernan Cortes

    Hernan Cortes, Spanish conquistador who overthrew the Aztec empire (1519-21) and won Mexico for the crown of Spain. ... In Hispaniola he became a farmer and notary to a town council; for the first six years or so, he seems to have been content to establish his position. He contracted syphilis and, as a result, ...

  2. Hernán Cortés

    Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés (1485-1547) traveled to Mexico in 1519, where he eventually overthrew the Aztec empire and helped build Mexico City.

  3. Hernán Cortés

    Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro Altamirano, 1st Marquess of the Valley of Oaxaca (/ ɛər ˈ n ɑː n k ɔːr ˈ t ɛ s / air-NAHN kor-TESS; Spanish: [eɾˈnaŋ koɾˈtes ðe monˈroj i piˈθaro altamiˈɾano]; December 1485 - December 2, 1547) was a Spanish conquistador who led an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire and brought large portions of what is now mainland ...

  4. Hernán Cortés

    Hernán Cortés (1485-1547) was a Spanish conquistador who led the conquest of the Aztec Empire in Mexico from 1519. Taking the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan in 1521, Cortés plundered Mesoamerica as he became the first ruler of the new colony of New Spain. Cortés was a gifted leader of men, and he seized every opportunity presented to him in ...

  5. Hernán Cortés

    Cortés disobeyed Velasquez and set out for Mexico in 1519 to begin his invasion. In 1519, Hernán Cortés left Cuba with about 600 men, and set out for the Yucatan region of Mexico.3 He first arrived in Cozumel, and began to explore the land for colonization. He encountered natives, and their large pyramid.

  6. Hernan Cortes Timeline

    7 Jul 1520. Hernán Cortés defeats a large Aztec army at Otumba. 31 Dec 1520. Hernán Cortés captures the city of Texcoco. 1521 - 1525. Cuauhtémoc reigns as leader of the Aztec Empire. 1521. Texcoco provides ships and men to aide the Spanish siege of Tenochtitlan. Apr 1521.

  7. Hernán Cortés

    QUICK FACTS. Name: Hernán Cortés. Birth Year: 1485. Birth City: Medellín. Birth Country: Spain. Gender: Male. Best Known For: Hernán Cortés was a Spanish conquistador who explored Central ...

  8. Hernán Cortés

    Later in the voyage a young woman, La Malinche, would be given to Cortés as a slave by the Chontal Maya inhabitants of the Tabasco coast. ... Life of Hernando Cortes (London, 1871) reprinted as The Life Of Hernando Cortes V1. ... with the whole discovery and notable things that have happened since they were acquired until the year 1551, with ...

  9. Biography of Hernán Cortés, Ruthless Conquistador

    Updated on July 22, 2019. Hernán Cortés (1485-December 2, 1547) was a Spanish conquistador responsible for the audacious, brutal conquest of the Aztec Empire in Central Mexico in 1519. With a force of 600 Spanish soldiers, he was able to conquer a vast empire with tens of thousands of warriors. He did it through a combination of ...

  10. Hernán Cortés summary

    Below is the article summary. For the full article, see Hernán Cortés . Hernán Cortés, later marqués del Valle de Oaxaca, (born 1485, Medellín, near Mérida, Extremadura, Castile—died Dec. 2, 1547, Castilleja de la Cuesta, near Sevilla), Spanish conquistador who won Mexico for Spain. Cortés left Spain for the New World in 1504, joining ...

  11. Hernán Cortés conquers the Aztec Empire

    To the Aztec, 1519 was a year that began with their empire as the uncontested power in the region. Its capital city, Tenochtitlan, ruled 400 to 500 small states with a total population of five to ...

  12. Exploring the Early Americas Cortés and the Aztecs

    In 1519, inspired by rumors of gold and the existence of large, sophisticated cities in the Mexican interior, Hernán Cortés (1485-1547) was appointed to head an expedition of eleven ships and five hundred men to Mexico. At that time the great empire of the Mexica—now known as the Aztecs—dominated much of Mesoamerica.

  13. How Hernán Cortés Conquered the Aztec Empire

    Tenochtitlán, the capital city of the Aztec Empire, flourished between A.D. 1325 and 1521—but was defeated less than two years after the arrival of Spanish invaders led by Cortés.

  14. Hernan Cortes: The Conquistador Who Beat the Aztecs

    Hernan Cortes was a Spanish conquistador who lived between the 15th and 16th centuries AD. He is best remembered for his expedition against the Aztec Empire centered in Mexico. This was part of the first phase of Spain's expansion into the New World. Hernan Cortes' expedition resulted in the collapse of the Aztec Empire, and the control of ...

  15. Timeline of Hernan Cortes' Conquest of the Aztecs

    Timeline of Hernan Cortes' Conquest of the Aztecs. 1492: Christopher Columbus Discovers the New World for Europe. 1502: Christopher Columbus, on his Fourth New World Voyage, meets with some advanced traders: they were likely Mayan vassals of the Aztecs. 1517: Francisco Hernández de Córdoba expedition: three ships explore the Yucatan.

  16. Hernán Cortés: History, Life, Accomplishments, & Atrocities Committed

    As the years rolled by, Cortés became an influential person in Cuba. He was particularly close to the governor of Cuba, Diego Velázquez. He served as Velázquez's lieutenant. Expedition to Mexico. In 1518, Cortes was able to convince Velázquez to let him lead an expedition into Mexico. Velázquez accepted his request and gave Cortés his ...

  17. Hernán Cortés (1485-1547) Biography

    Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire. Hernán Cortés (1485-1547), also known as Hernando Cortés was a Spanish Conquistador, born in Medellin, which is in the province of Castile of Spain. He was responsible for the bold conquest of the Aztec Empire in 1519 in Central Mexico. Hernán was the son of Doña Catalina Pizarro and Martín Cortés.

  18. Hernando Cortes Interactive Map

    Click on the world map to view an example of the explorer's voyage. How to Use the Map. After opening the map, click the icon to expand voyage information. You can view each voyage individually or all at once by clicking on the to check or uncheck the voyage information. Click on either the map icons or on the location name in the expanded ...

  19. Ten Facts About Hernan Cortes

    Updated on November 30, 2020. Hernan Cortes (1485-1547) was a Spanish conquistador and the leader of the expedition which brought down the mighty Aztec Empire between 1519 and 1521. Cortes was a ruthless leader whose ambition was matched only by his conviction that he could bring the Indigenous peoples of Mexico to the Kingdom of Spain and ...

  20. The Ungraceful Start To The Voyage Of Hernán Cortés

    The Ungraceful Start To The Voyage Of Hernán Cortés. In 1518, Governor Diego Velazquez of Cuba chose Hernán Cortés to command a Spanish expedition into Mexico. In a vague series of events that even 16th-century historians hotly debated, Velazquez soon reneged on his choice of Cortés as expedition leader, but the charismatic and politically ...

  21. 10 Facts About Hernán Cortés

    In the year 1519, Cortés was given the responsibility of leading a fresh voyage to Mexico with the intention of exploring the area and establishing new colonies there. Also Read: Hernan Cortes Timeline. He led a group of six hundred soldiers ashore on the coast of Mexico, where they established the city of Veracruz.

  22. How Long Was Hernan Cortes' Voyage?

    The Voyage Begins. In the year 1519, Hernan Cortes set sail from the shores of Cuba, leading an expedition of 11 ships and around 500 men. His mission was twofold: to explore the newly discovered lands and establish Spanish dominance in the region.