Spanish Conquest Of The Aztecs

Spanish Conquest Of The Aztecs

The fall of the Aztec City of Tenochtitlan to the Spanish led by Conquistador Hernan Cortes marked the end of an era as the Old and New Worlds collided with catastrophic results for the New World which would be decimated by War, famine and disease.

On his arrival, Hernan Cortes was accompanied by a force of 530 Armed Europeans and a few hundred Cuban natives and African slaves. 

The land was ruled by Aztec King Moctezuma who had been the Aztec Emperor since 1502.

Under his rule, the Aztec Empire had reached its greatest heights with its borders reaching their greatest extent since the inception of the Empire.

At first, the reports of strange encounters on the Coast with pale skinned men did not bother Moctuzema because the Aztec Empire was already advanced in Trade with many foreigners already present and conducting trade at the great market of Tlatelolco.

Over the next few days Moctezuma’s diplomats were dispatched bearing Golden gifts for Cortes and the Conquistadors, constructing sleeping quarters and providing servants. 

Moctezuma was uncertain as to how to treat the Foreigners, and the explanation for the hospitality extended to Hernan Cortes and the Conquistadors may lie in an Ancient Aztec Prophecy of the Pale Skinned Aztec God Viracocha or Quetzalcoatl of Ancient Mesoamerica who had been Prophesied to return around the same time as Cortes had arrived in Moctezuma’s lands

It was decided to treat the strange new Visitors as the returned God Viracocha until Moctezuma could be sure about their intentions. 

Meanwhile, Cortés found out that Moctezuma had huge quantities of stored Gold, and began discussions with other disgruntled local vassal Chiefs unhappily paying Tribute to Moctezuma.

An alliance was forged bewteen Hernan Cortes and these disaffected Chieftains who agreed to assist the Spanish in their march on Tenochtitlan.

The initially friendly relationships between the Aztecs and the Spaniards soon soured as the Spaniards now inside Tenochtitlan as Moctezuma’s guests, took the Emperor Moctezuma hostage and also killed many local Nobles.

As a result, the City of Tenochtitlan erupted in open rebellion and the Spanish found themselves trapped in the now hostile City with their sleeping quarters coming under attack.

In response, the Spanish attempted to use Moctezuma to calm the rebellion, but even Moctezuma was stoned by his own people.  Sources disagree here whether Moctezuma died from the wounds caused by the rocks or if he was strangled by the Conquistadors because he was no longer of any use to them.

On the 1st of July 1520, the Spaniards attempted to flee the City at night but they were spotted and attacked by a massive Aztec force on Canoes along the waterway out of Tenochtitlan.

Although the Spaniards eventually managed to cross to the mainland, they had lost a significant number of men and Gold in the worst defeat suffered by Cortes.

The Aztec regrouped under a new Emperor but they could not foresee the deadly Biological disaster that would seen wreak havoc throughout the Kingdom as Smallpox which had been brought by one of the Spaniards spread, effectively decimating 40% of Tenochtitlan’s population within a year.

The smallpox weakened the Aztec cities around Tenochtitlan which soon fell to the Spanish and made it possible for the Spaniards to lay siege to Tenochtitlan.

The siege was characterised by a series of brutal and chaotic fights along the waterways and within the City precincts of Tenochtitlan as the Spaniards sought to establish control over the City whilst the Aztecs feverishly defended it.

To make things worse for the Aztecs, the City was by now suffering from extreme starvation and the people were forced to drink the salty lake water which weakened the population even further, allowing Cortes to enter the City in a series of bitterly contested surges until the Aztec City was finally subdued in August 1512.

The Aztec Empire had now been brought to a brutal end, and the outcome of the first great meeting between the Old and New worlds would forever alter the course of History.