What was Hernan Cortes known for/expeditions/biography

Hernan Cortes (1485 – 1547)

In history there are few men who are attributed character and determination in the conquest of a vast territory. Among these few, is Hernan Cortes, who is a recognized character who is remembered as the one who preferred to burn his ships before retiring. What was Hernan Cortes known for?

Hernan Cortes had only his military intuition, intelligence and diplomacy to achieve his objective of reducing in a short time the Spanish dominance of the Aztec Empire .

Who was Hernan Cortes?

He was a Spanish explorer and conqueror who managed to defeat the Aztec empire and claimed Mexico for Spain. He came to stand out among the many conquerors as the most capable, cultured, and religiously inclined captain. Although he was also carried away by wealth, ambition and a thirst for honors, all this led him to commit some abuses.

He had high moral principles, which helped him rethink whether it was permissible to enslave the Indians. He is remembered as a very famous conqueror who contributed to the rise of Spain as an imperial power.

Biography of Hernan Cortes

Hernan Cortes was born in 1485 in Medellín, Corona de Castilla, his full name was Hernan Cortes Monroy Pizarro Altamirano. He came from a family of noblemen from Extremadura, being the only son of Martín Cortés and Catalina Pizarro . He is known for being the second cousin of Francisco Pizarro, who came to conquer the Inca Empire . What was Hernan Cortes known for?

At the age of 14 his father sent him to study law in Salamanca, since it was a custom in the noblemen, but he did not stay there long due to his desire to travel the world.

Hernan Cortes expeditions

After several unsuccessful attempts to embark to the Indies, he succeeded in 1504, where he established himself as a clerk and landowner in the Spanish, Santo Domingo . Then in 1511 under the position of secretary to the governor, he accompanied Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar on the expedition to Cuba with the purpose of conquering it. During this trip he became related to Diego Velázquez when he married his sister-in-law, for which he was named Mayor of Santiago de Baracoa.

By the year 1518, Diego Velásquez already distrusted Cortés and had accused and imprisoned him on the charge of conspiracy. That is why he decides to send him to Yucatan in order to relieve him of his position before leaving. Cortés, who had already been informed of the intentions, quickly began to plan his departure and put to sea in the year 1519, without letting him be notified. What was Hernan Cortes known for?

His next destination was Cozumel and Tabasco, upon his arrival he defeated the Mayas who were established there and founded the city of Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico coast , disobeying the governor’s orders. There he received as a gift to India Doña Marina or better known as Malinche, who became his counselor, interpreter and lover throughout his campaign.

Hernan Cortes Fame: Conquest the Aztec Empire

What prompted Cortés to conquer the Aztec empire was the knowledge that it had great treasures. As a strategy to prevent many men from returning because there were fewer men, he ordered the ships to sink in Veracruz . In this way he achieved the alliance with the indigenous peoples who had been subjected by the Aztecs, such as the Toltecs and Tlaxcalans.

Then he decided to sack Cholula, to go to the Aztec capital Tenochtitlán where he was received peacefully by Emperor Moctezuma II. Later, Governor Diego Velázquez, with the purpose of having Cortés pay for his rebellion and return to Cuba, decides to send an expedition against him under the command of Pánfilo de Narváez, for which he had to leave the city to face the troops of Narváez whom he defeated in Cempoala in the year 1520.

Meanwhile in Tenochtitlán, Cortés in his absence left Pedro de Alvarado in command , who in an attempt to prevent an alleged conspiracy on the part of the indigenous people unleashed a massacre. All this turmoil was sparked by attacking the religious beliefs and symbols of the indigenous people. In order to mediate that situation, Cortés takes Moctezuma II prisoner but without any result, since the death of the emperor occurred. What was Hernan Cortes known for?

The death of the emperor caused Cortés to leave Tenochtitlán on June 30, 1520, a day that was given the name Noche Triste, since his army was annihilated. After this he took refuge in Tlaxcala where he continued fighting against the Aztecs who were under the command of the emperor Cuauhtémoc whom he defeated in the battle of Otumba and managed to surround and take Tenochtitlán. In this way the Aztec capital was destroyed and an island was built in the center of the lake.

Last expeditions of Hernan Cortes

After having achieved dominance of the Aztec empire, Cortés organized expeditions to the south with the objective of adding the territories of Guatemala, Yucatán and Honduras.   After this he was appointed governor and captain general of Nueva Esparta, which was the name that the Mexican territory received.

At that time the Spanish Crown was in the hands of Carlos V who made a cut in the powers granted to the conquerors. In the year 1528 Cortés was dismissed and sent to the Peninsula, received the position of Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca and retained the position of captain general, without governmental functions. After this he returned to Mexico and organized expeditions of conquest to Mexico such as Baja California . What was Hernan Cortes known for?

Chronology of Hernan Cortes

The last three most significant years of Cortés’s life can be summed up this way:

Year 1519

  • In February he made the third expedition to discover the coasts of Mexico.
  • He leaves Cuba and disembarks in Cozumel .
  • On April 22, he founded the town hall of Villa Rica de la Veracruz.
  • In May, he meets Moctezuma II’s ambassador .
  • In July, he began a trip to Tenochtitlán.
  • In August, Cortés, along with other Cempoala allies, set out for Tlaxcala.
  • Then, in September, he achieved an alliance with the Tlaxcalans .
  • In October , the Choula massacre occurs .

Year 1520

  • He manages to enter Tenochtitlán through the Iztapalapa road.
  • Cortés returns to Veracruz to fight the Spaniards who are under the leadership of Pánfilo de Narváez and defeats them.
  • He returns to Tenochtitlán finding a brawl between the conquerors and the Mexicans.
  • Emperor Moctezuma II dies.
  • The so-called Noche Triste occurs , which is the departure of the Spanish from Tenochtitlán .
  • Get the Tlaxcala as allies. What was Hernan Cortes known for?
  • Cuitláhuac is chosen as the new emperor .
  • Smallpox breaks out, leaving the emperor as a victim.
  • Cuauhtémoc is the one who supplants Cuitláhuac .
  • In December Cortés arrived in Texcoco and installed his headquarters.

Year 1521

  • In the month of May Cortés gets ready to attack Tenochtitlán .
  • In June it devastates the temples and palaces, where it is severely attacked for many days.
  • Coanacochtzin was taken prisoner in July.
  • In August he tries to escape in a canoe along with other nobles but they are captured by García Holguín and brought before Cortés.

Important achievements

Throughout Hernan Cortes’ career, it is possible to highlight that he was an excellent leader, soldier, administrator, mayor and even governor. He perfectly combined audacity with ambition, which allowed him to fulfill his greatest achievement, which was to have led the Spanish expedition in the conquest of the Aztec empire , becoming the first man to establish contact with the indigenous peoples of Mexico, facing opposition such as conqueror and even his own people. He is also credited with having sent an expedition to explore California and discover the Californian peninsula as another important achievement.

The positions he held throughout his career were:

  • Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca from 1529 to 1547.
  • Pre-Viceregal Governor of Nueva Esparta from 1521 to 1524.
  • Pre-Viceregal Governor of Nueva Esparta since 1526.


Hernan Cortes died on December 2, 1547 in Castilleja de la Cuesta Seville Spain, he died of pleurisy, an inflammation of the tissues that lined the lungs and the thoracic cavity. What was Hernan Cortes known for?

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