Hernando Cortes (also spelled Hernan Cortes) was a famous Spanish explorer and Conquistador. He is most famous for causing the fall of the Aztec Empire and conquering large areas of Mexico
for Spain in the 16th century. On this page is a list of interesting facts about Hernando Cortes including how he conquered Mexico, where he fought the indigenous tribes of Mexico, and when
he died. This information is written for both kids and adults.
Hernando Cortes Early Years Facts
Hernando Cortes was born in Medellin, Spain in 1485.
As a boy he became bored with life in a small town and became fascinated with the news of Christopher Columbus's journey across the Atlantic and the discoveries he made on his
At eighteen years of age Cortes sailed for the New World and in 1504 landed in Santo Domingo, the capital of Hispaniola where he settled as a colonist.
As a young man he was rewarded with a huge portion of land and native slaves for his participation in the Spanish conquest of Hispaniola and Cuba.
In 1511 Hernando Cortes traveled to Cuba where the Governor of Cuba, Diego Velazquez, appointed him to several high political positions. Cortes quickly became an influential and powerful
figure in Cuba.
In October of 1518 Diego Velazquez, the Governor of Cuba, appointed Cortes to lead an expedition to explore Mexico where there had been reports of Indians with incredible amounts of gold
Before Cortes departed for Mexico Diego Velazquez, the Governor of Cuba, ordered Cortes not to go. The governor feared Cortes would gain too much fame and become too powerful. Cortes
order and in February of 1519 sailed for Mexico with a force of approximately 500 hundred soldiers, 11 ships, and several cannons.
Facts about Hernando Cortes's Conquest of Mexico
In 1519 Hernando Cortes's expedition consisting of 11 ships sailed to Mexico first stopping at the island of Cozumel and then on to the Yucatan Peninsula.
The expedition landed at Potonchan, the capital of the kingdom of Tabasco; situated on the bank of the Tabasco River.
In Mexico Cortes met Geronimo de Aguilar; a Spanish priest who had escaped imprisonment by the Mayans after being shipwrecked. He served as Cortes's translator with the Mayans.
The Spanish force defeated natives in two battles near Potonchan.
In April of 1519 the defeated Maya of Potonchan gave Cortes several women as slaves. Among these slaves was a woman by the name of Dona Marina (also called La Malinche) who spoke the
language which the Aztecs spoke. She would serve as an interpreter for Cortes. They would become romantically involved and would have a son together.
With Dona Marina, Cortes had a means by which to communicate with the Aztecs. Cortes spoke to Geronimo de Aguilar in Spanish who would then translate into Mayan for Dona Marina who could
translate into Nahuatl, which the Aztecs understood. Dona Marina eventually learned Spanish eliminating the need for Geronimo de Aguilar as an interpreter.
After hearing about the wealth of the Aztec Empire Cortes became determined to steal that wealth for Spain. After several unsuccessful attempts to meet with the Aztec ruler Montezuma II
out for the capital of the Aztecs, Tenochtitlan, in August of 1519.
The Spanish, led by Cortes, fought several battles on the way to the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. They also made alliances with several indigenous tribes who joined forces with
When the Spanish expedition reached Cholula, the religious center of the Aztecs, they slaughtered thousands of unarmed Aztecs. Cortes later claimed he did so due to the discovery of a
the Aztecs to kill him.
On November 8th of 1519 Cortes reached the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan where they were met by the ruler Moctezuma II who invited them to his palace, offered them gifts of gold, and let
stay as guest for several months.
Although Moctezuma II remained ruler of the Aztecs, Cortes kept him as a prisoner in his own palace.
Cortes left Tenochtitlan to fight off a Spanish army sent to stop his invasion of Mexico. While he was gone the part of his army left in the Aztec capital murdered numerous unarmed Aztecs
the "Massacre in the Great Temple". This incident caused hostilities between the Spanish and Aztecs prompting the Spanish to take Moctezuma II as a hostage.
At some point Cortes returned to the chaos in Tenochtitlan and at some point Moctezuma II was killed either by the Spanish or by the Aztecs who had grown angry at his inability to fight
The Spanish were forced to retreat from the Aztec capital but would return to conquer the city and cause the fall of the Aztec Empire.
Facts about Hernando Cortes's Final Years and Death
Although Cortes had disobeyed orders in invading Mexico he was honored by the Spanish royalty with a coat of arms and appointed governor of the land he conquered which was renamed New
Eventually he fell out of favor with the Spanish royalty and was removed as governor. He spent his final years with little power or influence.
He died on December 2nd of 1547 in Spain from pleurisy; a painful condition that causes the tissues around the lungs and chest to become infected.