Short Biography of Hernando Cortes
Regarded as one of Spain’s most staunch conquistador, Hernando Cortes led a conquest that not only conquered the Aztecs, but also settled the area that would become known as New Spain. His ambitions, leadership skills, and military planning were unmatched in his day.
Born in Spain, the young Hernando had dreams of adventure and exploration even at a young age. Discovering that school was not for him, he subsequently dropped out of the University of Salamanca and secured a spot on a ship sailing for the Americas.
In Santa Domingo, which was then called Hispaniola, he wanted to find other ways to explore the neighboring islands and civilizations. Upon visiting Cuba, he was given a high position under governor Diego Velazquez. Cortes took command of different expeditions, but the governor soon saw that Cortes would often surpass his own expeditions and he wanted to ensure that Cortes wouldn’t lead any more units to South America or Mexico. Cortes, who knew what the governor was up to, decided to sail to Mexico, as planned. Before word got out to his crew that they should halt their mission, they had already set off with nearly 1000 men and almost 20 horses.
Sailing up the Mexican coast, he founded Veracruz and took legal leadership over the area. With area tribes, he made friends and built up his forces to impressive amounts. It was the Aztecs, however, under Montezuma II, who did not want the Spaniards in their lands, but Cortes was also able to obtain the support of the Tlascala Tribes, who had been enemies of the Aztecs for generations.
Cortes took Montezuma hostage after not being able to work out a treaty with him regarding surrounding lands. At the same time, a group of Spanish soldiers were in hot pursuit of him based on orders from Governor Velázquez, who wanted to chase down Cortes due to his disobedience to his wishes. But, Cortes had already gotten too deeply involved in the politics of the area. The soldiers sent from Cuba to get Cortes were attacked and, surprisingly, many of them joined his crusade just after the battle.
Within a few months, Cortes had built an army of men and a small navy that was ready to attack Tenochtitlan. After nearly three months of fighting, planning, plotting, and blood spilling, the Aztecs fell and the Spaniards took over the region. For his tactics in helping Spain gain more land and settle a troubled area, Cortes was made the governor of New Spain and the Spanish controlled most of Mexico.