Conquest of Latin America

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1)Compare and Contrast the conquest of the Inca and Aztec Empire.

The Spanish due to their inferior weapons, the bold war tactics of the Spanish and the eventual capture of both empires’ emperors defeated the Incas and Aztecs. However, in both societies the single greatest factor that led to their ultimate demise was the smallpox epidemic. This epidemic swept through Latin America and took a hold of both of these empires and affected them with catastrophic results.

At roughly the same time as the influx of smallpox in Mexico, Hernán Cortés and his Spanish Conquistadors had commenced in hostilities with the native Aztec Empire. Cortés and his men, despite an alliance with native warriors hostile to the Aztec Empire, were hugely outnumbered. However, Cortés had another ally, a biological weapon that even he was unaware of, smallpox. Smallpox was a European disease that the natives in Latin America had never been exposed to. It took a hold of several lives in Aztec population and weaken it’s army making it much easier for Cortés and his men to solidly put a grip on their conquest of the Aztecs. It has been argued that without the smallpox epidemic in Mexico, Cortés may not have succeeded against the Aztecs. Smallpox claimed an estimated one third of the Aztec population. The Aztec Emperor Cuitláhuac died from smallpox, further creating the Aztecs to fall into a shambles of a society they once were. The Aztec Empire collapsed and Cortés took control of Mexico. Without this advantage the Aztec Empire may have lived on for many more centuries, Cortés was incredibly lucky to have caught the empire at a rather bad time.

Smallpox spread south at an incredible rate. Even before Francisco Pizarro arrived in Peru to confront the Inca Empire, smallpox was decimating the native population in South America. Pizarro first arrived in the Inca realm in the mid 1520s. By the time he returned in 1532, intent on conquering the Inca Empire, the smallpox...
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