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Spanish Conquistadors: The Fall of the Aztec Empire

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Mikaela Ifurung

on 18 October 2013

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Transcript of Spanish Conquistadors: The Fall of the Aztec Empire

Spanish Conquistadors: The Fall of the Aztec Empire
How were a handful of Spaniards able to outbattle a society of fearsome warriors trained since birth?
Still remaining as one of the big unsolved mysteries in history, the fall of the Aztec empire continues to make even some people of today tilt their heads in question as to how a handful of European explorers were able to make the biggest empire in Central America fall in a time period of three days. Here, we will discuss what had happened, the hows and whys, as well as the people involved in this important event in history.
Here, we will investigate the possible reasons as to why the Aztec Empire was able to fall so abruptly after so many years of reigning.
What happened?
The Aztec Empire's fall had many aspects to it. From a series of unfortunate events to tactics and alliances. Taking everything into account, it is an event that could have been prevented, but like many others, was not. In modern day times it remains an interesting aspect of history, as well as a necessary event in making up how our world is today.
Possible Factors of the Fall
One of the reasons as to why the overtaking had ever occurred in the first place. The Aztec empire's thirst for blood was what had sparked hate in their neighboring groups whom had helped the Spaniards in bringing forth their fall. It also served as a motivation for these Europeans to take over what they believed was an "evil culture" and bring a stop to what they thought were twisted ways.
The Aztecs were believed to be very religious. Part of their defeat was caused by one of their prophesies which talked about the God Quetzalcoatl coming back to Tenochtitlan to reclaim his throne, and the description of that certain God also befitting Cortes
In turn, the Aztecs unwittingly welcomed their soon to be conquerors with open arms, offering them gold and various valuable items. When asked if they had more gold, they also told the truth. One of the most dangerous admittances they could have said.
Disease played a huge part regarding the fall of the Aztec empire. When the Spanish came in and fought with the Aztecs, one of their soldiers had recently contracted small pox from a previous battle. That soldier was killed and possibly, when his body was looted, an Aztec caught the disease and ended up spreading it to the rest of the population. With no resistance to the disease and no idea how to cure it, about 25% of the Aztecs lost their lives to the sickness.
While the Aztecs were only used to playing by different rules during battle, the Spanish were able to use different modern tactics to bring the mighty civilization down. Although despite eventually realizing what their enemy had been doing, in which the Aztecs had almost won because,
Cortes was still able to use witty tactics in which combined with the spreading illness in the Aztec empire and help from native allies from the other tribes, was able to bring down the powerful empire once and for all.
Who was involved?
Hernando Cortes (1485-1587)
The Spanish conquistador whom had led the expedition that had resulted to the colonization and fall of the Aztec empire. He acts as one of the main roles regarding this event, as he led his men to the ancient city in hopes of conquest. Cortes was born to a poor family in the province of Medelin, Spain. As he grew, he chose to persue a life of exploration; wherein later he went to Hespaniola and then Cuba, where he was rewarded and encomienda (also, although only temporarily, an alcalde of the second Spanish town founded on the island. He was elected into leading the expedition to the Mexicos in 1591, wherein he went and conquered the Aztec Empire. Despite this, he was only rewarded a Marqués del Valle de Oaxaca while the high-ranking Viceroy to a high ranking nobleman. Cortes died peacefully 6 years after his conquest.
La Malinche (Also known as Malinali, Malintzin or Doña Marina; 1496 or c. 1505 – c. 1529), )
A Nahua woman that was one of the twenty women servants given to the Spaniards by the Tabasco natives in 1519. She performed a major role in the Spanish conquest by acting as an interpreter between the Spanish and the Aztecs. Cortes would speak to Geronimo Aguilar in Spanish, whom would translate it to Mayan for Marina, who would later on translate it to Nahuatl, the Aztec language. This was their means of communication. Doña Marina later on learns Spanish and becomes Cortes' primary translator.
Geronimo de Aguilar (1489–1531)
A survivor of a Spanish shipwreck that had occurred in 1511, he was later on found by Cortes along with Guerrero living in Yucatan and later on served as a temporary translator between Cortes and Marina as he had come to learn the Mayan language.
Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar (1465-1524)
Montezuma II (c.1466-1520)
Montezuma II is most widely known as the last ruler of the Aztecs before the Spanish had come for conquest. He fought to keep them out when they had reached Cholula, even bribing them with gifts to keep them at bay. However, this didn't work; although when Cortes entered Tenochtitlan, Montezuma was said to have welcomed him with open arms and a shower of gifts of gold and silver in belief that he was the returning god Quetzalcoatl.

Later on, during the Spanish conquest, Montezuma died a few days after being jeered on and thrown stones at by a crowd. This results in the Aztec nobility having to elect a new emperor.
The Spanish conquistador whom had originally set for Cortes to lead the expedition to the Mexicas. However, before Cortes could set sail, he decided to try and revoke the commission because of doubt that Cortes would be disloyal. Despite this, Hernando pleaded and then hurriedly set sail. Further onto the expedition, Velazquez de Cuellar sent more men to seize Cortes; all of which though led to failure.
Xicotencatl the Younger
The prince and leader of the tribe of Tlaxcala during the period of the Spanish conquest. He and his people, with the persuasion of his father, Xicotencatl the elder allied with the Spanish to defeat the Aztec Empire. Their involvement had proved to be highly significant and effective.
Xicotencatl the Elder
By persuading his son onto allying with the Spanish and not attacking them, it proved to be a highly important aspect to the success of the conquest.
1519 (March 4)
After defeating the natives in two battles and receiving servants as well as a valuable interpreter, Cortes and his men land on the coast of the now modern-day Veracruz and quickly persuade the natives to ally with them against the Aztecs. During this same time period, a representative of Moctezuma visits Cortes and a range of gifts were exchanged. However, due to Cortes' purpose of frightening the Aztecs, displayed the use of firepower before challenging the empire in combat. The representatives, of course, then retreat to report to Tenochtitlan.

As Cortes and his men move on they soon find the people of Tlaxcala. Unfortunately, they don't begin in friendly terms and end up fighting in a battle that truly proved itself to be difficult. On the brighter side though, as Xiconcatle the Elder was able to persuade his son, Xiconcatle the Younger to ally with the Spanish instead of just killing them off, the people of Tlaxcala had proved to be an effective aspect in winning the conquest.

Soon enough, the Spanish then move to Cholula. The Aztecs resist by offering bribes for the Spaniards to turn back as well as the emperor sending his men to go and stop them. This does not stop Cortes though, and after hearing a rumor that whilst they were staying there, the Aztecs were going to attack them in their sleep, he decided to perform a preemptive massacre.
1519 (November 8)
The Spanish then arrive to Tenochtitlan and are smothered with gifts and gold from the emperor in the belief that Cortes is the returning god Quetzalcoatl. Cortes then demands for various things, all of which were met, still in the belief that he was a deity.

However, despite this, using the deaths of several allies as a pretext, Cortes held Montezuma hostage until the end of May, 1920. In return, asking for gold, which again was another demand of his that was met.
Cortes then comes back to the coast for a while to defeat the rival Spanish army sent by Diego Velazquez de Cuellar to sieze him along with all his remaining men. Although they come out victorious in that certain battle, when they come back for the Aztecs they end up being defeated. During this time, Cuitláhuac becomes emperor.

The Aztecs then find refuge with their allies in Tlaxcala. Here, they form a formal alliance. After which they proceed on conquering most Aztec cities after finally beginning on the siege of Tenochtitlan.
Finally, the last Aztec emperor, Cuauhtémoc, surrenders to Cortes and the Aztec Empire is conquered.
Cuauhtemoc (c. 1495)
The last Aztec ruler. He surrenders to Cortes and his men, leading to the fall of the Aztec Empire.
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