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Discover_our_World_Yellow / Lesson 12: Cortes



Cortes & The Aztecs


  • Following Columbus's expeditions: Many explorers came to the New World to explore it

  • One famous explorer was Hernando Cortes

  • Cortes grew up in Spain, but at age 19 his family went to Cuba to live-he was given land to farm

Hernando Cortes

  • The Spanish Governor of Cuba asked Cortes to lead an expedition to Mexico to see if there was gold there

  • There were rumors that Mexico had a lot of gold-so many explorers sought after the gold

  • In 1519 Cortes left for Mexico with a large sailing crew


  • Cortes burned their boats when they reached Mexico in order to keep his men from retreating back to Cuba

  • Cortes met up with an Indian woman named Malinche by the Indians and Dona Marina by the Spanish

  • Dona Marina was the daughter of an Indian Chief so she was an Indian Princess---When her father died, she was sold as a slave and as a result of being a slave, she learned other languages-she was upset with the Indians that sold her

Dona Marina

  • She joined Cortes as an interpreter, as she had learned the Spanish, Mayan and Aztec languages, she was able to interpret Aztec and Spanish languages

  • Dona Marina later became the mother of Mexican civilization because she had a child with a Spanish conquistador (The child was the son of an Aztec and a Spaniard)

  • Cortes built up his army and they marched to Tenochitlan, the Aztec City in Mexico to get gold

  • The Emperor of the Aztecs was called Moctezuma II

  • Moctezuma II did not understand the Spaniards, as he thought they were Sun gods that had come down from the Sky to visit him because they were wearing Silver armor suits and helmets

Dona Marina

Since the Aztec emperor thought the Spanish were gods, he welcomed them to his Aztec city of Tenochititlan-he had never seen horses before or a blonde man like Cortes and Cortes's differences made him think he was a god He gave them jewels, food, cloaks, and copper and silver plates Moctezuma also gave Cortes & his men huts to stay in Moctezuma introduced a special drink to the Spanish;
it was Hot Chocolate

Aztec Rituals

  • Every year the Aztecs would sacrifice 20,000 people to the Sun gods because they believed that the gods would in return give them rain and keep their lands fertile

  • They made idol statues of their gods and the idols were placed at the top of their pyramids

  • In the rituals the Aztecs dragged the victims to the top of the pyramids and made them dance before the idols, and then they would kill the person and eat them

Some Friends of Cortes were Sacrificed

  • Cortes and most of his men were the only Spanish outsiders to watch these Aztec rituals and live-however some of Cortes's men were sacrificed in front of them, and they recorded these events in their journals.


Cortes took Moctezuma prisoner and killed him
The Aztecs then drove the Spanish out of Tenochititlan
Cortes gathered more men and in 1521 his new army attacked the city again, they starved the Aztecs inside by not letting them leave for 75 days to get food and many died


  • Cortes and his men, after getting inside the Aztec city, destroyed the Aztec temples, burned all of the Aztec books, and smashed the statues of their gods

  • Cortes then declared Mexico to be a colony of Spain and he called it New Spain

  • Many Aztecs that survived the fighting later died from diseases that they received from the Spanish

Spanish Technology

  • The Spanish had Gunpowder, horses, helmets, lances and steel weapons

  • The Aztecs had bows and arrows, stones, wooden clubs and wooden spears to fight with

  • So with the better Technology of weapons it was easier for the Spanish to beat the Aztecs

Spain becomes richer

  • Cortes and his men sent much of the gold they took from the Aztecs to Spain

  • Spain used the gold to make coins and gold chains