Have you ever wondered the methods in history, to wipe out a powerful empire? Hernan Cortes, the Spanish conquistador conquered the Aztec Empire and claimed Mexico for Spain, in the 16th century. The Aztecs were a Nahuatl speaking nation of central Mexico, in MesoAmerica. They were very powerful and wealthy in natural goods, in addition to creating their own weapons and techniques. When Hernan Cortes came to the land of the heart of the Aztecs, he had brought unknown weapons and diseases to the Aztecs, as well as an army of men.
He also had a spy/translator to help communicate between the 2 nations, but most importantly, Cortes killed the Aztec emperor, and destroyed their religious temples! These acts influenced the power of the Aztecs after such an effect it had, as well as debate on whether Cortes was responsible for the fall of the Aztec Empire. When Hernan Cortes arrived, he had brought 508 fighting men, 200 indigenous slaves and 16 horses. In the first encounter with the Aztecs, the Aztecs were amazed at the Spaniards and their horses, because they had never seen anything so spectacular.
The first impression was that they were gods, having been tall with shiny armour and large animals with four feet and a mane. So they had welcomed him into their city, showing him their creations and giving him treasures. It can be quoted, from Moctezuma the Second: “My lord, you are weary, you are tired. You have come to your land; you have arrived in your city, Mexico. You have come to rest beneath your canopy; you have come to your seat, to your throne … If only one of them (the past Aztec rulers] were here to witness, to wonder at what I now see myself: To see what I see: I the last, I the reigning one of all our lords.
No, I am not dreaming; I am not sleepwalking … Jam seeing you now, I set eyes on your face!… Come now and rest; take possession of your royal palaces; give comfort to your body. Enter your land, my lords” Contact and Change Pg 231. This quote explains how bewildered and amazed, Moctezuma was to see their “gods” have come at last. Because of the Aztec’s lack of defense to the horses, weapons, and number of fighting men, they were a pursued victim in their upcoming battles. Even though the Aztecs were cunning, swift, and agile, the Spanish had the advantage to the skill and armour.
If compared, the Conquistador’s weapons would have been more useful and powerful to use. Not only because of the fact that the Spanish weapons were more light and could be dealt with one hand, but also that some of them could be effective from far away. In addition, the Aztecs, fighting on foot, could not compete with the Spanish, who were riding horses. As the Aztecs, had never seen horses in their lives, misunderstandings could arise from their power, speed, and size, as well as being kicked if gotten too close to the rear. Another reason why Cortes is responsible for the fall of the Aztec Empire, was disease.
The Aztecs had never encountered a disease, vulnerable to their bodies for a long period of time. Smallpox, brought by the Spanish, had a lasting outcome for many years. Finding no cure, being too sick to gulp the nourishments to their bodies, and being too weak and frail to help their fellows, it was no surprise that many Aztecs had died. It can be told by an Aztec survivor and witness, in Contact and Change Pg 227, “The sick were so utterly helpless that they could only lie on their beds like corpses, unable to move their limbs or even their heads. They could not lie face down or roll from one side to the other.
If they did move their bodies they screamed in pain. A great many died from this plague, and many others died of hunger. They could not get up to search for food, and everyone else was too sick to care for them, so they starved to death in their beds. ” This quote explains how devastating and helpless the Aztecs were to smallpox. Bringing unknown animals, weapons, and diseases to the Aztecs was just the start of the fall of the Aztec Empire. Having a spy/translator, that could speak both Nahuatl, Mayan, and Spanish, would be a huge benefit to Cortes, which is the second reason why Cortes is responsible for the fall of the Aztec Empire.
When Cortes’s forces defeated the Tabascan people, they were given gifts of food, clothing, gold, and slaves. One of the slaves was a young woman named Malinche. She was originally from a noble indigenous family, but was sold into slavery after her father passed away. Learning to speak 3 languages was a huge benefit and the key for success. When Cortes and the Spaniards first met the Aztecs, they would need a translator, a role in which Malinche would fit. After being given to the Spanish, and being baptized, Malinche was converted to Christianity and changed her name to Marina, meaning the lady.
A quote from Cortes’s letter, regarding Malinche, explains her devotion to Cortes, as his translator and advisor. “If she wished to escape she should go with her and she would shelter here. All this she told to Geronimo de Aguilar, an interpreter whom | acquired in Yucatan, of whom I have also written to Your Highness; and he informed me. ” Malinche translated every word the Aztecs said to Cortes, and soon became powerful, and well-respected. As the Spaniards marched to Tenochtitlan, they ran into many indigenous groups, that Cortes would have to decide to either befriend or conquer.
The first group, was the Totonacs, who invited Cortes to their capital city and complained about the tribute that Aztecs collected. Since the Aztecs had defeated the Totonacs in battle, the Aztecs had demanded tribute, all in which Malinche translated to Cortes. He then offered to give them protection, in exchange for warriors to help conquer the Aztecs. Next, the Tlaxcalans, came across the Spanish and fought them immediately, but were held off and offered to make peace. They agreed and added 1000 of their own soldiers to the Spanish forces, thus increasing the Spanish power to overcome the Aztecs.
Last, but not least, the Cholulans were loyal allies of the Aztecs, and so when Malinche overheard a plan to attack the Spanish, she alerted Cortes at once. As a result, the Spanish conquered the Cholula people. In summary, Malinche helped the Spanish to translate foreign languages, and was a huge gain to the Spanish conquistadors. The final reasoning, to why Cortes is responsible for the fall of the Aztec Empire, is the fact that he killed the Aztec Emperor, Moctezuma the Second and destroyed many of the religious temples.
After the Aztec had first met the Spanish, Cortes and his forces were taken to live in the palace of Moctezuma’s late father, where the Aztecs showed them the glories of their cities. After seeing the amount of gold the Aztecs owned at their markets and clothing, the Spanish placed Moctezuma under house arrest in his palace. They then captured all the gold and sent most of it back to Spain, as tax, and forced Moctezuma to convert to Christianity, including, making himself a subject of Spanish rule. Adding on to this, Cortes manipulated Moctezuma the Second, in front of his subjects, making them throw stones at their Emperor.
Shortly after this, Moctezuma died either from his wounds or being strangled by the Spanish. Even though the Aztecs drove the Spanish out of Tenochtitlan, Cortes and his army returned and attacked once more, having more success, since the Aztecs were still recovering from smallpox. The Spanish tore down their city as they captured it, including their temples for their gods, leaving the surviving Aztecs, wondering if their gods left them, or if they were false. It could be quoted as, “In the roads lie the broken spears… Without roofs are the houses, And red are their walls with blood. Maggots swarm in the streets and squares …
The waters have turned crimson, as if they were dyed … In shields was our defence, But shields could not hold back the desolation. We have eaten … lumps of adobe, Lizards and rats, Soil turned to dust, and even the worms” In summary, disease had a lasting outcome for the future of the Aztecs, making weak with every bout, to even defend Tenochtitlan. Destroying the religious temples left the Aztecs lost and scattered spiritually, without the lead of their Emperor. In conclusion, Hernan Cortes was an ambitious, powerful, and clever conquistador, but he had also destroyed a powerful empire, out of his greed for god, glory, and gold.
Their reaction when they first received the gifts from the Aztec priest was recalled by an Aztec elder: “The Spanish picked up the gold jewelry, and they seemed transported by joy, as if their hearts were illuminated and made new. They hungered for that gold. ” This wealth and the desire to lead this mighty society, finally caused Cortes to attack, and thus, the reason why Cortes is responsible for the fall of the Aztec empire. Many, may think” So what? “, and ” How does this relate to the present? “, but it affects us in impactful ways, such as our worldview.
As we think past and read to what happened to the Aztecs, we compare and contrast the different cultures, as well as understand that this is what happened in history. So many phenomenons occur these days, and some that are similar to what happened to the Aztecs. We understand that, and grasp it, just like they did a long time ago. There are no Aztecs in the world, but there are definitely descendants, who can tell the story of their ancestors and be proud that their ancestors were brave against the Spanish. Of course, we shouldn’t blame the Spanish for what happened, but we should definitely admire both sides.