Conquistador Hernan Cortes Essay

Conquistador Hernan Cortes Essay

The arrival of Hernan Cortes in Mexico was the beginning of the end of the indigenous people. The legacy and impact of Hernan Cortes was a bloody trail of oppression, destruction and greed. He destroyed the Aztec capital city and their culture, so he and his men could acquire their wealth. They wouldn’t accept the native’s “savage” religious beliefs so they were persistent in trying to convert them. The also would bring the gift of smallpox as well as other foreign pestilences. His presence brought nothing but harm to the local people as well as historical knowledge.
This Ancient Empire had its own religion and culture. The Spaniards destroyed it. The Spaniards did not respect the Aztec culture. Cortes and his troops believed that their religion was evil. The act of human sacrifice (which is wrong in my eyes) kept the Spaniards from even trying to understand the religion of the Aztecs. When Montezuma shows Hernan Cortez his personal shrine for the god Huitzilopochtli he says “I cannot imagine how a prince as great and wise as your majesty can have failed to realize that these idols of yours are not gods but evil things …devils.” (Levy, Buddy, Conquistador, pg 121) The Spaniards stand on the Aztecs murdering in the name of religion was hypocritical. The “actual” reason for coming to the Americas was to spread the Christian religion. On this Christian voyage they killed a great number of the native people. In the Christian faith killing is a sin and they participate in it while telling the Aztecs that they are wrong for sacrifices.

While the Spanish forces and Cortes were in Cholula they found out about the planned ambush by the Native people. So Cortes requests all of the lords to come to the temple of Quetzalcoatl, but when they had filled the courtyard, not only with nobles but women and children, his men barred the doors and they began the annihilate the unprotected populace within the courtyard.(Levy, Buddy, Conquistador, pg 91) This event called the Cholulan Massacre was just beginning. Cortes then allowed the Tlaxcalans into the walls of Cholula. “For hours the Tlaxcalans pillaged and burned houses, looted and slaughtered everyone they could find, until Cortes determined to put a stop to them “(Levy, Buddy, Conquistador, pg 92). The Spanish forces knew where the Aztecs planned on ambushing them, so it was easily avoidable. They could have left peacefully without bloodshed. Instead they chose to mass murder, plunder and raze Cholula.

Cortés’s presence brought new disease to the land. On one of the Narvaez ships sent to capture Cortez had an African porter infected with smallpox and he lead to the outbreak in the Americas (Levy, Buddy, Conquistador, pg 213) The Aztec people were extremely susceptible to this new disease since they had never encountered it they had no immunity to it. The disease spread quickly leaving the people to die painful agonizing deaths while not understanding why it was happening to them. “Innumerable Aztec warriors died from the disease and many of those who lived only barley survived, stricken woefully disabled and paralyzed.” (Levy, Buddy, Conquistador, pg 214) Smallpox has dreadful symptoms. The effect it had on the Native people was horrible. Cortés’s presence in the Americas brought a litany of diseases that are still in effect to this very day.
The Spaniards left the one of the greatest American empires in ruins. The Spaniards used their superior weaponry, the hate of the tax paying tribes, and a lot of luck to destroy the Aztec Empire. The eventual destruction of its people is a negative force in history because it hindered a full understanding of the people. Morally it is also a negative force because the killing of these people was wrong. The destruction of an empire is never an innocent accomplishment. The legacy of Cortes is that of murder and conquest. The terrible three month siege on Tenochtitlan left little of the Aztecs alive. Cortes said himself “The people of the city had to walk upon their dead while others swam or drowned in the waters of that wide lake where they had their canoes; indeed, so great was their suffering that it was beyond our understanding how they could endure it.” (Levy, Buddy, Conquistador, pg 310-311) This was his most renowned while also being his most malevolent accomplishment.

The building of Mexico City over Tenochtitlan has had a negative impact on history. The project to construct Mexico City was also a way to deconstruct part of the Aztec culture. Cortes had himself referred to the city as “the city of dreams” and even as far to say “it was the most beautiful thing in the world.” (Levy, Buddy, Conquistador, pg 102) He could have rebuilt it in its magnificence but instead he constructed it in his own liking. He had the remaining Aztecs to rebuild their once great city. It would have been a small gift to the people he had conquered. Instead he even went on “to add insult to injury and death, placed his own palace directly on top of the former palace of Montezuma”. (Levy, Buddy, Conquistador, pg 323) The magnificent city of Tenochtitlan was lost because of Cortes and for historical purposes this is a terrible lost.

The worst part of this whole ordeal was the fact hat Cortés did not have legal rights to leave on his venture. The governor of Cuba did agree to let Cortes go to Mexico but he changed his mind. Cortes in spite of this led an illegal expedition for greed and self glory. This shows his immense greed. On plenty of occasions he tells s the Natives that he is acting for Spain. The truth is this whole expedition was done for his personal gain. The only reason he sent back anything to Spain was to justify his actions. Had he not done so he would have certainly have been punished terribly. It some instances his greed turns to horrifying torture. “Spaniards lashed the last emperor of the Aztecs to a pole, poured oil over his feet and then lit them on fire. (Levy, Buddy, Conquistador, pg 316) This was the way Cortes tried to acquire the whereabouts of the lost treasure of Montezuma (which was thrown into Lake Texaco to never be found.) On multiple occasions he commandeered other Spanish ships without the right to do so. Taking the Spanish ship’s resources and assimilating the men into his own force. He even fought a battle against his own country men to keep his chance at fame and fortune. Since his journey was illegal the Narvaez expedition had all the right to take over the act of colonization of the new land. Cortez decided to fight them. This man was self-indulgent enough to go against his own government. His avarice is a big part of his legacy. The terrible truth is the destruction of the Aztec empire was just a return on his investment.

Cortés’s expedition into the American lands only brought pain to the residents and to historical knowledge. He demolished the Aztec people, culture and their most prized city. His actions to acquire the riches of the people of Mexico were terrible. The only thing positive about what he did was the fame and fortune it gave him. His selfish acts will forever negatively affect history.

Works Cited
Levy, Buddy. Conquistador Hernan Cortes, King Montezuma, and the Last Stand of the Aztecs. 2008.