Hernando Cortés (Medellin, Spain, 1485 - Castilla de la Cuesta, Spain, 1547) was a Spanish Conquistador. He is famous for his brutal conquest of the Aztecs. In February of 1519, Cortés departed for the new world. His mission: to bring Catholicism to the 'uncivilized' nations of the new world, his banners read "Brothers and companions, let us follow the Sign of the Cross with true faith and in it we shall conquer." All the equipment he had was 11 ships, 508 Spanish soldiers, 100 sailors, 16 horses (unknown to the New World), and 4 small cannons.
On Good Friday, April 22, 1519, the small band landed. To the Aztecs it was the year 1- Reed, the day 9-Wind. On this day their chief god, Quetzalcoatl, had predicted his return. So upon this date the Spaniards landed. In all respects the Spaniards looked like the returning god to the Aztecs. Quetzalcoatl was supposed to come wearing black, the Spanish, because it was Good Friday, where dressed in black, and they arrived on the correct date.
After building a fort, Cortés left about a third of his men to garrison it and marched inland with 300 men. First they reached the city of Zoctitlan, were no defense was put up. So Cortés marched on unhindered, and his next stop was the city of Tlaxcala. However, here staunch defense was put up. Outnumbered 10 to 1, the Spaniards won a miraculous victory. But almost all of the troops were injured. The conservative commander would have retreated to the coast, but Cortés pushed on, saying the greater the obstacles, the greater the glory. Cortés's next move was to make a treaty with the Tlaxcalans. Marching forward, Cortés pushed on to Cholula. The Cholulans were prepared, and set a trap for Cortes. However, the chief's wife warned him and the Spaniards won another stunning victory. Finally on November 13, they entered the Aztec's capitol, Tenochtitlan. Originally, the Aztecs gave Cortés and his men a grand tour of the city, including the temple were all of the human sacrifices were made.
As 1519 came to a close, Cortés took a small band of men to address another Spanish commander threatening to attack him. He won an easy victory, but the garrison he had left at Tenochtitlan was besieged by the Aztecs. Cortés returned to the Aztec capitol, and took charge of his small force. On June 25, 1520, Cortés led an assault on the Aztec temple. His men fought their way up the 114 steps to the top and victory was his. During the fight Montezuma was killed. The Aztecs selected Cuauhtemoc as the new Emperor. However, Cortés' men were too weary to continue fighting, and could not follow up the win. Their food was short so he retreated. But they were attacked again at the plains of Otumba, a small plain outside Tlaxcala. Outnumbered once more, the weary Spanish managed one more miraculous victory. They spent the remainder of the year in Tlaxcala recovering.
The following May Cortes began to march on Tenochtitlan. On May 13, 1521, the siege of the city began. This began 93 days of constant warfare; during the day the Spanish would gain ground, during the night they would lose it. Finally, in August, the Spaniards began to hold the ground they were capturing. The Aztec defenders started to run low on food and water. Then on August 13, 1521, Cortes led an assault on the temple of the Aztec gods. The Spaniards fought their way to the top. At the peak, they erected the Cross. Once more they fought their way down, but this time victory was theirs for good. During the battle the Spanish had captured Cuauhtemoc, and the war was over. The Spaniards had won.
While some people regard Cortes as a man on a mission to bring Christianity to the Americas, history generally records him as a gold-hungry bandit who used military might in search of wealth.