Assess the significance of the leadership of Cortes for the conquest of Mexico and its immediate consequences
The leadership of Cortes was for sure one of the key aspects that helped lead to the capture of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec kingdom and then later to the capture of Mexico itself. To properly assess the significance of Cortes in the conquest of Mexico, then we must look at his role as a leader. Many sources show us that he was inspiring, lucky, ambitious and resourceful but these qualities must be compared to others factors such as hatred of the Aztecs by local people, spread of European disease, the Spanish military resources, attitude to the conflict from the Spanish and the Aztecs, and finally the more ruthless nature of the Spanish. Cortes played a large role for the Spanish victory over Aztecs. This can be seen in one example by the fact that he was able to make allies with the local Mexican people, as a result it made his conquest stronger, and likely to be more successful as it meant he could use local knowledge and local resources, “He [Cortés] … left them a large wooden cross set up on an elevation, and they remained very satisfied … thus these Indians became our friends”. Although this source is from a group that supported Cortes, and therefore likely to promote his achievements, as they were at the event they are likely to correctly reflect the relationship created between Cortes and the local people. Cortes’ ability to seize an opportunity, and the relative luck he had, benefitted the conquistadors expedition. Cortes was given Malinche, an Aztec slave girl who knew Spanish. If he had not received this amazing gift then, as an Aztec account implies, Cortes would have struggled in his dealings with Montezuma, “La Malinche translated this speech and the Spaniards grasped Montezuma 's hands and patted his back to show their affection for him” . Had Cortes not had Malinche to translate Montezuma’s message for him, then Cortes may have misinterpreted the message, and provoked rebellion from the Aztecs, rather than initial support which helped them to defeat the Aztecs. Michael Wood also shows the importance Malinche had on the Spanish ability to conquer Tenochtitlan. He reveals that the Aztecs refer to her as “traitor”, and “whore”, showing the extent to which they believe she contributed to Cortes’ capture of the Aztec kingdom. Cortes’ ability to have Malinche support him, and work with him, highlights the importance that his luck had, but also his leadership had in influencing the conquest of Mexico. The resourcefulness of Cortes was crucial to the Spanish victory over the Aztecs. Cortes’ initiatives were necessary for the defeat of the Aztecs, with one such initiative being the building of ships from the Mexican woodland, in which to siege Tenochtitlan, immediately after the Spanish were forced out of the city through an armed uprising against them, “the brigantines (a type of ship) suddenly entered that part of the lake, and broke through the midst of the fleet of canoes, the warriors who were in them not daring to make any resistance …Thus the cacique (Aztec leader) being taken a prisoner, the war ceased at this point”. The resourcefulness shown through Cortes deciding to build the boats, was crucial to defeating Tenochtitlan, as it allowed the Spanish to capture the Aztec leader, but also force the city into submission as resources to the city were prevented, proving useful in the Spanish conquest. Michael Wood gives the impression that through Cortes’ ability to not feel remorse and be upset for those of his troops lost following the uprising against the Spanish by the Aztecs, and simply move on only ensuring that Martin Lopez the ship builder was still with the conquistadors, he was able to devise new plans (such as constructing of the ships) and defeat the Aztecs. This view further shows how the character of Cortes, through his resourcefulness and character was important for the...
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