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Aztec History-Spanish Conquest

Spanish Conquest

There were many rulers between Mocteuzma I and the accession of Mocteuzma II in 1502; they had 50 years of great success with growth and conquest, but Tenochca culture and society suffered disasters under Mocteuzma II. First, conquered peoples began to revolt all over the territories. It is very likely that Tenochca power would have been in trouble by the middle of the sixteenth century, but most importantly, the reign of Mocteuzma II was effected by the the Spaniards under Cortez in 1519-1522. When Cortes fleet landed on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico it was Good Friday in 1519, Quetzalcoatl's birthday. Aztec spies reported that these men were called Spaniards. Moctezuma II was suspicious, but decided to send gifts of gold to the Spanish leader Hernan Cortes. The Spaniards camped at what is now Veracruz.

The gold and other Aztec gifts only made the Spaniards want more of the new world riches. Cortez sent a ship back to Spain to deliver letters and Aztec treasure to the king, Carlos V, he burned their ships and set off on horses to Tenochtitlan. This extreme measure was an act of rebellion against his superior, Governor Velázquez, but he eliminated any desertion and assured the loyalty of his men. Cortes set out from the Gulf Coast with 400 Spaniards, 16 horses, and several cannons. On his way to Tenochtilan Cortes persuaded many enemies (some by defeating in battle) of the Aztec people to join him as he marched through their lands. Cortes soon reached Lake Texcoco and was greeted by Moctezuma II. Moctezuma II and Cortes met and almost became friends. The Spaniards and their native allies were invited to stay in one of the palaces by Moctezuma II.

The Spaniards kidnapped Mocteuzma and eventually killed him in 1524. When the city of Tenochtitlan fell, the remainder of Mexico fell very rapidly. The Spaniards defeated the Aztecs for several reasons. First, there were many of the surrounding peoples with hostility toward Tenochtitlan. By using 150,000 of these native peoples and 9,000 of his own troops, Cortez completely dismantled the Aztec Empire and in the process gained control of those who were fighting for their own freedom. Second, the Aztecs had nothing like formal military strategy; wars were largely fought as large-scale individual combats. The Spanish also had firearms that were superior to the Atec weapons. Third, Cortez and his men knew they had come into Mexico against orders and unless they conquered Mexico, they would be severely punished when they returned, so they were desperate. Finally, a small-pox epidemic infected the city of Tenochtitlan and half of the city was wiped out. Cortes came into the city and destroyed it. By August 13th, 1521, the Aztec empire was ruined and Spanish rule soon spread throughout the newly gained land.

The Spanish introduced horses, cattle, sheep and pigs to the American continents. They brought in sugar and other grains. The took potatoes, tomatoes, beans and maize back to Europe.

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