Defeating the Aztec Empire

Topics: Aztec, Hernán Cortés, Mexico Pages: 7 (2644 words) Published: July 16, 2013
Hernan Cortes, a fierce Spanish conquistador, landed at San Juan de Ulua, in April 1519. With him, Cortes had 508 soldiers, one hundred sailors, artillery cannons, eleven ships and sixteen horses. Cortes and his small army, marched through Mexico, forming alliances with Aztec rivals, until reaching the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. Tenochtitlan was the capital city of the massive Mexican empire known as the Aztecs or Mexica. It had a population of 200,000 people; almost three times that of the largest city of Spain, Seyville (Windschuttle, 43). Within the next two years, Cortes and his men had triumphantly defeated the Aztecs and taken control of Tenochtitlan against all odds. (Daniel, 1992) So how, despite be hopelessly outnumbered, without the possibility of new supplies or reinforcements, fighting other native tribes and Spaniards, and the Aztecs on their own turf, did this tiny Spanish force defeat such a formidable army. Today, there are a number of reasons why the Spanish have believed to been able to overcome such odds. A combination of poor Aztec military tactics against advance Spanish weaponry and strategy, a weak Aztec ruler, the spread of disease, Tenochtitlan’s poor governing over its populace, and the interconnectedness of Aztec military and religion ultimately led to the demise of its empire. The first phase of the Spanish invasion of Mexico took place in April 1519. In defiance of the Governor of Cuba and his expedition sponsor, Cortes took control over his forces and moved them inland. On the way, Cortes met resistance from other locals, who he eventually conquered and absolved into his army as allies. After reaching Tenochtitlan, capital of the Aztec Capital, the Spaniards were initially greeted as foreign ambassadors. Other claims state that the Aztecs viewed Cortes as the god, Quetzalcoatl (Windschuttle, 50). The Spanish did not return the favor, eventually kidnapping Emperor Montezuma and, using him as a puppet, ran the country. The Governor of Cuba, angry with the defiant Cortes, sent a force under Panfilo Narvaez to end his exploration. As the natives before him, Cortes defeated this force and had them join him in his conquest. In Cortes’ absence, the Spanish troops left behind had massacred Aztec nobles during a religious festival, a confrontation that also left emperor Moctezuma dead. The Spanish were forced to leave Tenochtitlan, ending the first phase of the conquest. For a year, the Spanish forces recuperated, gathering eight thousand native allies and new supplies, including three naval vessels. “To lay siege to a lake-girt city requiring the prefabrication of thirteen brigantines on the far side of the mountains, eight thousand carriers to transport the pieces, their reassembly in Texcoco, the digging of a canal and the deepening of the lake for their successful launching (Clendinenn, 72)” For a year, Cortes and his native allies lay siege to the city of Tenochtitlan. Using experience military tactics, against an Aztec force unprepared for them, Cortes and his troops captured the capital city, killing almost all inside. This would be the end of the Aztec empire. Moctezuma II was the ninth ruler of Tenochtitlan and the first Aztec emperor to make contact with Europeans. Moctezuma’s poor leadership and unwillingness to deal with the invading Spaniards are regarded as large factors of the Aztec’s demise. He immediately assumed the foreigners to be foreign ambassadors and was blindly unable to see their true intent. At their first meeting, the two leaders exchanged gifts. Clendinnen stated that “Cortes interpreted Moctezoma’s first gifts as gestures of submission of naïve attempts of bribery.” To the Aztecs, Moctezuma gifts were most likely “statements of dominancy, superb gestures of wealth and liberality made the more glorious by the arrogant humility of their giving (Windshuttle, 40).” After living months in Tenochtitlan, the Spaniards launched a coup, taking Moctezuma as a hostage. When he...
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