The Spanish Conquest

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The Spanish had no idea how lucky they were that the Aztecs misunderstood who they were and why they were there. The Spanish conquistadors were looking for lands to conquer, gold to capture, and people to convert to the Catholic religion.

The Spanish were amazed at what they found in the capital city of Tenochtitlan. Everything was clean. There were “eating houses” and hairdressers. You could buy medicines and herbs and all kinds of food. You could buy meat and game. There were streets that sold only pottery and mats. Painters could buy the paints they needed for their art.

In 1519, the Spanish conquistador, Hernan Cortes, sailed from Europe to land in what is now Mexico. After a difficult journey inland, Cortes and his men entered the Aztec capital city and met , the Aztec leader.

Normally, the Spanish adventurers would have been captured and sacrificed immediately, because that is what the Aztecs did to invaders.

But the Spanish were lucky. They were allowed to enter the city, and welcomed as valued guests, all because of an old legend. This legend told of the god Quetzalcoatl. The Aztecs believed that the god of night had defeated Quetzalcoatl in a game of tlachtli. As the winner, the god of night could decide what to do with Quetzalcoatl. The god of night decided to banish Quetzalcoatl to the East. Quetzalcoatl had no choice but to leave. He vowed that some day he would return, when the end of the world was near, to save his people.

The Aztecs were always worried that the end of the world was always near. That's why they sacrificed so many people. They wanted to keep their gods very happy, so they could save their people. When the Spanish arrived from the East, the Aztecs believed that Quetzalcoatl had kept his promise and had returned. They treated the Spanish as if they were gods.

Cortes mentioned in one of letters home that he believed there were more than 60,000 people in the marketplace buying and selling wares. No one used...
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