Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire

Dafato Team | Jan 4, 2024

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The conquest of Mexico refers mainly to the dismantling of the Aztec Empire by troops from the kingdom of Castile under the leadership of Hernán Cortés, on behalf of King Charles I of Spain and in favor of the Spanish Empire between 1519 and 1521. This event marked the birth of Mestizo Mexico, although it would not be until several centuries later, with the independence of Mexico, that "Mexico" was understood as the entire territory of the United Mexican States.

On August 13, 1521 the city of Mexico-Tenochtitlan fell into the hands of the conquistadors, after two years of bitter warlike, political and conspiratorial attempts. In these they participated mainly, along with the Spaniards, the indigenous towns previously subjugated by the Mexicas, in an eagerness to refuse - taking advantage of the alliance with the newcomers - of the conditions of subjugation in which they lived; although there were also cases like the towns of the basin of Mexico, that had to decide between changing sides or being razed to the ground.

Subsequently, other expeditions and military campaigns were developed, both by Hernán Cortés and his captains, between 1521 and 1525 in the central, northern and southern areas of the territory of present-day Mexico and Central America, which established the first limits of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. From this initial base, the process continued with the incorporation of other territories by various Spanish conquistadors and Adelantados: California, the Yucatan Peninsula, the western zone known as Nueva Galicia, the northeastern zone known as Nuevo Reino de Leon, the northern zone where Nueva Vizcaya was located and other territories in North and Central America. From these events, which drastically modified world geopolitics at the dawn of the 16th century, approximately three centuries of Spanish territorial domination and indigenous resistance would follow.

The main sources of information on the campaigns of Cortés and his captains are the chronicles of the Indies written in the 16th century, including the Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España by Bernal Díaz del Castillo, who participated in the war campaigns, the letters of relation of Hernán Cortés to King Carlos I of Spain, and the work of Francisco López de Gómara, known as Historia general de las Indias, who never set foot on the American continent but invented a famous phrase, no machine invented by man will be as perfect as man himself.¤.

The expeditions that preceded the conquest

The Spaniards based their wealth on the encomiendas, but because the native population had been decimated by the conquest campaigns and disease, the colonists were eager for new opportunities for prosperity. Thus, three friends of Velázquez: Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, Lope Ochoa de Caicedo and Cristóbal de Morante organized to buy two ships with the intention of traveling west. Governor Diego Velázquez paid for a brigantine, and also obtained the necessary permits from the Hieronymite friars to carry out the expedition, since it was a requirement to have their approval. The purpose of the voyage was to find slaves, especially in the case of Governor Velázquez, but those who led the ships intended to discover new lands to populate and govern. Antón de Alaminos was hired as chief pilot, and Pedro Camacho de Triana and Juan Álvarez "el Manquillo" de Huelva as auxiliary pilots. Friar Alonso González traveled as chaplain, and Bernardo Iñíguez as overseer.

On February 8, 1517, three ships with one hundred and ten men set sail from the port of Santiago and sailed along the northern side of the island of Cuba, making several stopovers. When arriving to the point of San Anton they tried to set course towards the Bay Islands but they were surprised by a storm in the channel of Yucatan, having arrived the first days of March to the uninhabited Isla Mujeres. There they found several figurines of naked women dedicated to the Mayan fertility goddess Ixchel. Later they crossed to the north coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, sighting Ekab, a place they named "Gran Cairo". They anchored the ships and the inhabitants of the place, with joyful faces and signs of peace, approached in canoes inviting the newcomers to land, saying: "come here to my houses" (in reality, it seems that they were received with the Yucatecan Maya expression "koonex u otoch" where otoch means "small house").

The expedition continued sailing the north coast of the peninsula. On March 22 they arrived at Can Pech, christening the place as the port of Lazaro, and disembarked to stock up on water. While provisioning themselves, the expeditionaries were surrounded by a group of Mayans who questioned their presence, astonished when the natives pointed to the east saying: "castilán", "castilán". The Spaniards were guided to the nearby town where they were well received and there they could see that in a temple there were walls stained with blood from some recently performed sacrifice. Then the halach uinik warned the visitors that they should leave or else hostilities would begin, before which Hernández de Córdoba ordered his men to set sail immediately. At sea they were surprised by a north wind that caused the recently supplied water to spill, so they disembarked again a little further south in Chakán Putum. On this occasion another group of Mayans, whose leader was Moch Couoh, attacked the expeditionaries without warning, causing more than twenty casualties and wounding Hernández de Córdoba himself. At this point the expeditionaries had to flee, leaving behind one of the boats because they no longer had enough men to sail it. The thirsty Spaniards headed to La Florida where they were finally able to stock up on fresh water, but again they were attacked by the natives of this region.

The expedition returned to the port of Carenas on the island of Cuba, where Diego Velázquez was informed of what had happened. The governor made it clear that he would send a new expedition but under a new command. Upon learning of this decision, Hernández de Córdoba swore to travel to Spain to complain to the king but died ten days later as a result of wounds received in Chakán Putum. Because of the Indians that had been collected, it was believed that there was gold in the region, the existence of some survivors of the shipwreck that occurred in 1511 in the Gulf of Darién was confirmed and due to a misinterpretation it was thought that the recently discovered place was called Yucatán in Mayan language, name by which the territory was called from then on. Seeing the importance of these findings, Velázquez requested two permits to continue the explorations: the first was addressed to the Hieronymite friars in Santo Domingo and the second directly to King Charles I of Spain, requesting the appointment of an adelantado.

The following year the governor organized a second expedition recovering the ships of the first voyage, and added a caravel and a brigantine. Again Alaminos, Camacho and Álvarez were the pilots, and Pedro Arnés de Sopuerta joined them as the fourth navigator. Velázquez appointed his nephew Juan de Grijalva as captain general and Francisco de Montejo, Pedro de Alvarado and Alonso de Ávila as captains of the other ships, who were responsible for supplying the vessels with provisions and supplies. Juan Díaz participated in the voyage, who in addition to acting as chaplain, wrote the Itinerary of the armada. The overseer was Peñalosa and the general ensign Bernardino Vázquez de Tapia. Towards the end of January 1518 the ships set sail from Santiago, sailed along the north side making a stop in Matanzas, where they completed their supplies. On April 8 they left this port and arrived at the island of Cozumel on May 3. Grijalva baptized the place as Santa Cruz de la Puerta Latina.

When they landed on the island, the natives fled to the interior of the island, contacting only two elders and a woman who turned out to be Jamaican. The woman had arrived two years earlier by accident because her canoe had been swept away by the current of the Yucatan Channel and her ten companions had been sacrificed to the Mayan gods. This woman acted as interpreter since some Spaniards knew their language. In a small temple, Vázquez de Tapia raised the Tanto Monta flag and the notary Diego de Godoy in a protocol manner read the request. Soon after, the Mayas approached and initially ignoring the presence of the Spaniards, the halach uinik performed a ceremony to their gods by burning copal. Grijalva then ordered Juan Díaz to officiate a mass. In this way a friendly communication was established on both sides. The Spaniards could not rescue gold, but they received turkeys, honey and corn. They extended their stay in this place for four days.

After leaving Cozumel they sailed briefly to the south, explored Zama (Tulúm), and Ascension Bay, which they believed to be the limit of the "island of Yucatán". Grijalva ordered a change of course to the north to go around the peninsula and head for the vicinity of Chakán Putum. Just as the first expedition had done, water was supplied there. Although on this occasion they were able to obtain from the natives a pair of masks adorned with gold, they were again warned to abandon the site. Ignoring them, they spent the night listening to the war drums and the next day a terrible battle ensued. This time the result favored the Spaniards, who inflicted severe casualties on the Mayas who ended up retreating. In spite of the fact that the expeditionaries had sixty wounded -among them Captain Grijalva who received three arrows and lost two teeth- the action was considered a resounding victory. During the battle only seven Spaniards died, including Juan de Guetaria. Later the number increased, as thirteen soldiers died of wounds during the journey.

The boats headed west, reached Carmen Island in the Laguna de Términos, a point they named Puerto Deseado. The pilot Alaminos thought that this was the other limit of "the island of Yucatan". They continued their voyage reaching the region of Tabasco, where the Chontal Mayans lived. They took possession of four natives, one of them they called Francisco, who served as interpreter of the Chontal language. On June 8 they discovered the tributary they named Grijalva River and disembarked in Potonchán, where Juan de Grijalva met with the Mayan cacique Tabscoob, who gave him some gold pieces as a gift. Encouraged by this, they passed the Tonalá river and a little further west Pedro de Alvarado took the initiative to navigate the Papaloapan river. This incident annoyed Grijalva and from then on there was a distancing between them.

Along the coast they found several human settlements. They arrived in the middle of June to an island where they found a temple and four dead natives, which apparently had been sacrificed to the god Tezcatlipoca, reason why the place was named Island of Sacrifices. They disembarked in Chalchicueyecan. There Grijalva asked Francisco about the reason for those sacrifices. The Mayan Chontal interpreter answered that they had been ordered by the Colhuas, but the answer was misinterpreted and it was believed that the place was called Ulúa. Because of the date, June 24, the place was baptized as San Juan de Ulúa. In the place they rescued gold with the Totonacs. This was one of the peoples subdued by the Mexica.

Days later, the calpixques Pínotl, Yaotzin, and Teozinzócatl arrived, accompanied by Cuitlapítoc and Téntlil, who presented themselves as ambassadors of the huey tlatoani Moctezuma Xocoyotzin. In a peaceful manner, gifts were exchanged. Grijalva was thus able to realize that the Aztecs -or Mexicas- dominated the region and were feared and hated by the subjugated peoples. Pedro de Alvarado was sent back to the island of Cuba to notify and deliver the treasures obtained to Diego Velázquez.

Francisco de Montejo led a reconnaissance trip to the north. He discovered the Cazones and Nautla rivers, a place that was baptized with the name of Almería. Later the boats sailed the Pánuco River but in this place twelve canoes with Huastec natives attacked the Spanish incursion, so the captains decided to return. With a damaged ship the trip was slow, they decided not to establish any garrison.

Meanwhile in Santiago, Diego Velázquez had no news of the expeditionaries and was concerned about the delay. For this reason, he decided to send a rescue caravel under the command of Cristóbal de Olid, who managed to reach Cozumel, but as he continued his journey, the ship broke down. Olid aborted the mission and returned to Cuba.

When the governor received Pedro de Alvarado on the island, he was impressed by the report of the trip. He immediately sent Friar Benito Martin to Spain, so that he could notify Bishop Juan Rodriguez de Fonseca and King Charles I of the news of the discovered territories, and as a support, the Itinerary of the Armada and some gold objects were sent. In spite of the expedition's achievements, Velázquez was displeased with his nephew because he had not disobeyed his orders. According to official orders, Grijalva should not have established any colonies during the voyage, but unofficially the governor hoped otherwise.

Having received no response to his appointment as adelantado, Diego de Velázquez organized a third expedition. The governor considered that his nephew had failed in his mission and therefore required a new captain. After weighing his options and at the urging of his secretary, Andrés de Duero, and the accountant Amador Lares, he opted for Hernán Cortés, who was then mayor of Santiago.

Both signed capitulations and instructions on October 23, 1518. In the documents that were drafted by Andrés de Duero, the preamble is opposed to the 24 instructions. Such contradictions were, and have been through the centuries, the main reason for the controversy that arose as a result of the insurrection of Hernan Cortés. Diego de Velázquez signed as deputy to the admiral and commander-in-chief Diego Colón y Moniz Perestrello, as he had not yet received an appointment from the king of Spain. The governor of Cuba feared that from Hispaniola or Jamaica someone else would go ahead in a similar venture.

A total of eleven vessels were brought together. Three contributed by Diego de Velázquez, three by Hernán Cortés and the rest by the captains who participated in the expedition. But at the last minute the governor changed his mind and decided to dismiss Cortés, sending Amador de Lares to the interview and on the other hand blocking the supply of supplies. Cortés decided to leave Santiago evading the orders and warning the accountant Lares, who transmitted the news to governor Velázquez. On the day of the events, the latter appeared at the dock to inquire about the situation and Cortes, surrounded by his armed men, questioned him "Excuse me, but all these things were thought of before ordering them. What are your orders now?". Before the evident insubordination Velázquez did not answer and the ships sailed from Santiago on November 18, 1518 with direction to the west of the same island. They stopped in the south band of the port of La Trinidad, during almost three months soldiers were recruited, likewise they were supplied with food and supplies.

The captains appointed by Cortés were: Pedro de Alvarado, Alonso de Ávila, Alonso Hernández Portocarrero, Diego de Ordás, Francisco de Montejo, Francisco de Morla, Francisco de Saucedo, Juan de Escalante, Juan Velázquez de León, Cristóbal de Olid and Gonzalo de Sandoval. He appointed Antón de Alaminos as chief pilot, who knew the area for having participated in the expeditions of Hernández de Córdoba in 1517, of Juan de Grijalva in 1518 and of Juan Ponce de León to Florida in 1513.

Cortes was able to gather five hundred and fifty Spaniards (of whom fifty were sailors) and sixteen horses. In addition, according to the chronicle of Bartolomé de las Casas, he took two hundred auxiliaries, some natives of the island and other black slaves. Meanwhile in Spain, King Carlos I had signed on November 13, 1518, the document authorizing Velázquez to carry out the expedition. In this expedition traveled both Africans and African descendants, slaves and free, who participated in the occupation of Mexico-Tenochtitlan, "an African, possibly Juan Garrido or Juan Cortes, was one of the armed auxiliaries who accompanied the armies of exploration, colonization and conquest of Mexico", as shown in a fragment of the Codex Azcatitlan.

The governor of Cuba made a second attempt to stop him. He had sent several letters, one of them addressed to Cortés himself, in which he was ordered to wait. The others were addressed to Juan Velázquez de León, Diego de Ordás, and the mayor of La Trinidad Francisco Verdugo and in them he asked to delay the departure of the expedition and even ordered the apprehension of the caudillo. As a last attempt, the governor sent Gaspar de Garnica to apprehend Cortés in Havana, however, Cortés' ships left the coasts of Cuba on February 18, 1519. Nine ships sailed on the south side and two ships on the north. The flag of insignia was of white and blue fires with a colored cross in the middle, and around it a sign in Latin that said Amici sequamur crucem, & si nos habuerimus fidem in hoc signo vincemus, which means: "Brothers and companions: let us follow the sign of the Holy Cross with true faith, that with it we will conquer".

Background of the Mexica Empire

Since the middle of the 15th century, the Mexica state had been expanding over a large territory, subduing various peoples and making them tributaries, hence the term "empire. Towards 1517 the huey tlatoani, or ruler in turn, called Moctezuma Xocoyotzin continued the military campaigns of expansion. The tlaxcaltecas, close neighbors of the Mexica, were a community that had resisted tenaciously to the dominion and the expansion of these, being at that time to the limit of their resistance, because for all the cardinal points around them the populations that surrounded them had been conquered, being them virtually besieged.

On the other hand, after the fall of Tula, there was a legend that the god Quetzalcoatl had departed from the Mexica pantheon and that he would return one day by the eastern sea, where the sun rises and where the gods supposedly lived. This legend of Quetzalcoatl was well known by the Mexica. Some prophets and religious fanatics predicted the return of Quetzalcoatl and considered it as the end of the current lordship. The huey tlatoani Moctezuma Xocoyotzin firmly believed in these prophecies due to certain omens and events, such as the appearance of a comet, a "spontaneous fire" in the house of the god Huitzilopochtli, a lightning bolt in the temple of Xiuhtecuhtli and other events.

For the Mexica it was the year 13-rabbit, when news began to arrive of the Spanish ships that were described as "mountains that moved on the water and with white-skinned bearded men on them", this fact was immediately related to the return of the god Quetzalcoatl. Moctezuma ordered the calpixque of Cuextlan, called Pínotl, to build watchtowers and set up guards on the coast at the sites of Nautla, Toztlan and Mitlanquactla, to watch for the possible return of the ships.

Since the first encounters with the Spaniards ended in commercial exchanges for the "ransom of gold", the idea spread among many peoples that the way to get rid of them, without fighting, was simply to give them gold or women and accept whatever they brought to exchange. In this way, the Europeans would return to their ships and leave. Because of this, the exchanges multiplied since the first Spanish expeditions, but the effect was the opposite of that expected by the aborigines, since the Europeans were created the idea that there were inexhaustible treasures in the area, thus awakening their ambition.

Cortés' first stopovers: from Cozumel to Centla

Cortés headed for the island of Cozumel following the route of his predecessors. On the way, the ship captained by Francisco de Morla suffered a breakdown, which delayed the other ships that had to assist it. Pedro de Alvarado's ship arrived at Cozumel two days earlier, which annoyed Cortés, who ordered the pilot to be punished.

From the expedition of Hernandez de Cordoba they took the interpreter baptized as Melchorejo and from the expedition of Grijalva the Jamaican slave. Cortes sent these interpreters in search of the Mayan chiefs of the island, telling them that the visit was peaceful. At first the supreme chief or halach uinik and the secondary chiefs or batab of the island refused to meet with the newcomers.

Three days later a person who said he was the lord of the whole island appeared before Cortés. After a long talk, Cortés spoke to him about the king of Spain and the Catholic faith, in addition to emphasizing his peaceful intentions if all the people of the island would subordinate themselves to Spain. That halach uinik accepted the conditions and sent for other batabob from the island. A few days later all the people returned to their usual life, apparently abandoning the cult of their gods and worshipping the Christian cross and an image of the Virgin that Cortes installed for them.

In this place, Cortes confirmed the presence of two other Spaniards who had been shipwrecked eight years earlier in the Gulf of Darien and after surviving in a boat had been swept by the current to the coast of the peninsula where they were taken prisoner by the Mayas. Cortés had already heard about these shipwrecked sailors in Cuba and wanted to contact them to rescue them. On the recommendation of the halach uinik, Cortes sent "green beads" as ransom payment to the captors and wrote a letter addressed to the castaways, which he entrusted to two inhabitants of the island to deliver in secret and pay the ransom. He also sent two ships to get as close as possible to those shores, and to wait for the escape of the castaways as a support.

They waited for six days on that coast without any news of the shipwrecked sailors or the messengers sent. Seeing that the situation did not change, both ships decided to return to Cozumel to meet with Cortés to notify him of the situation. Two days later Cortés decided to continue on his way to Veracruz, however, bad weather forced them to stop on the coast of the Yucatán peninsula and return to the island to repair the ship captained by Juan de Escalante, which had been damaged. The following day, a canoe arrived to the island with natives and the shipwrecked Jerónimo de Aguilar, whom by his appearance they mistook for one of the Mayans. After meeting with Andrés de Tapia, he was taken to Cortés, joined the expedition and from then on acted as a Mayan-Spanish interpreter.

Aguilar claimed to have met another fellow shipwrecked survivor named Gonzalo Guerrero, but he had adapted to life in the Mayan culture and preferred to stay in Yucatán, since in the town where he lived he had been named captain of warriors or nacom, was married and had three children. Before leaving and by advice of Jerónimo de Aguilar, the halach uinik of Cozumel asked Cortés for a letter or safe conduct that described that the population would not be attacked by future Spanish expeditions to the island, which was granted. On March 4, 1519 the Spanish conquerors sailed from Cozumel saying goodbye to the Mayans of the island in a friendly manner.

The fleet continued its journey along the coast to Tabasco. In Potonchán they decided to stock up on water and food. The Chontal Mayans, inhabitants of the place, allowed the provisioning and asked them to leave, since they did not have enough food to give to the expeditionaries. Cortés refused and ordered them to disembark, and unsuccessfully tried through Melchorejo and Jerónimo de Aguilar for more supplies of food and gold. The Mayan interpreter took advantage of the opportunity to escape and advised the Chontal Mayans to carry out the attack; before the refusal and threats of the natives who were preparing for war, Diego de Godoy read the requirement being this the first notarial action in Mexico, later and before the refusal of the natives to submit to the Spaniards, the battle of Centla began on March 14, 1519, which was the first great battle of the Spaniards in the lands of New Spain.

Foundation of Santa María de la Victoria

The Spaniards achieved the victory thanks to the superiority of weapons and especially to the fear that the natives had of horses, since it was the first occasion that the horse was used in a battle in New Spain. In the place, the chaplain Juan Díaz officiated the first Catholic mass in the mainland of the New Spain and Hernán Cortés founded on March 25, 1519, the town that he baptized with the name of Santa María de la Victoria, which later would be the capital of the province of Tabasco.

Once defeated, the Chontal Maya gave as a pledge of peace twenty women, among whom was a slave named Mallinalli or Malinche Tenépatl, so called -Tenépatl- for her facility with words, who was baptized and known by the Spaniards as Doña Marina -or Malintzin by the Indians-, who became an interpreter from then on since she knew the Mayan and Nahuatl languages. In this way, Jerónimo de Aguilar translated from Spanish to Mayan, and Doña Marina from Mayan to Nahuatl to communicate with the Mexica.

Malintzin, who later had a son by Cortés named Martín (nicknamed "el Mestizo") -just like Martín Cortés, the other son Cortés himself had with his Spanish wife Juana de Zúñiga-, was to become a central figure in the conquest, not only because she was an invaluable interpreter, but also because with her presence and performance she was a key character in the emergence of a new race. This is why she is considered the mother and symbol of the mestizaje that, almost half a millennium later, is representative of Mexican nationality.

And in relation to Cortés, his own colleagues would refer to him as Malintzine, which means "master of Malintzin". This is how Bernal Díaz del Castillo expresses himself, referring to Cortés as Malinche. Years later the appellative was confused and used to refer to Doña Marina, as <la Malinche>.

The Spaniards remained in Santa María de la Victoria until April 12, when Cortés decided to continue on his way to Ulúa, leaving a handful of Spaniards in the newly founded village to pacify and populate the region.

Foundation of Villa Rica in Veracruz

The Spaniards continued north and arrived on April 21, 1519 at Chalchicueyecan, a place previously baptized by Grijalva as San Juan de Ulua. For the Mexica it was the year 1-cane and the calpixque in turn of the site of Cuextlan was Teudile, who assisted by the priest of Yohualichan, formed a small welcoming retinue. Following the previous orders of Moctezuma Xocoyotzin, they approached the newcomers in a canoe to ask for the lord in command of the boats. Moctezuma was convinced that it was Quetzalcoatl, he had previously sent various gifts, gold objects and masks with turquoise. Cortes gave them green and yellow glass beads, a chair and a helmet, the latter, in the eyes of the Mexica, evoked the god of war Huitzilopochtli. Having disembarked, and in order to show off his military might and impress the ambassadors, Cortes organized a horse race with artillery fire on the beach. Almost immediately messengers left for Tenochtitlan with reports for the tlatoani.

As soon as he received the news of what was happening on the coast, Moctezuma Xocoyotzin was impressed, he was no longer convinced of the return of Quetzalcoatl, he thought it could be Tezcatlipoca or even Huitzilopochtli. Scared, the huey tlatoani sent evasive messages, telling the Spaniards that it would be impossible for him to receive them in Mexico-Tenochtitlan. He suggested that they leave as soon as possible and again sent rich presents. The response of the tlatoani only excited the greed of the soldiers: Cortes and his men realized that the wealth of the empire was great and that the subdued peoples resented the Mexica domination, so he decided to advance towards the interior.

According to Spanish law, if a city was founded with a town council, it was autonomous, so between July 5 and 10, 1519, the Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz was created and immediately elected a town council. It was a plan meticulously elaborated by Cortes, who had analyzed and commented among his colleagues the possibility of taking this step long before leaving Cuba; he knew of course, that the followers of Velazquez would oppose, for that reason, he sent Francisco de Montejo and Juan Velazquez de Leon in a reconnaissance mission that had the official objective of looking for a better location for the camp.

During the absence of these captains, Cortés pretended to be determined to return to Cuba, because according to Velázquez's instructions, the objectives had already been achieved. The "protests" of his friends in favor of continuing the stay in the territories and populating the place, covered up appearances in the eyes of the Velazquistas. Cortés called an assembly, begged to resign the position of captain general of the governor of Cuba that Diego Velázquez had conferred on him along with his instructions, and had the new authorities "elect" him captain general of a new expedition that would only owe obedience to the king of Spain and in this way disassociated himself from the authority of the islands. Alonso Hernández Portocarrero and Francisco de Montejo, who would later be named "adelantado" in the Conquest of Yucatán, were named mayors, so that the latter would be implicated in the conspiracy. Alonso de Avila, Pedro de Alvarado, Alonso de Alvarado and Gonzalo de Sandoval were appointed as aldermen, Juan de Escalante as constable and Francisco Alvarez Chico as attorney general. This is how the first city council in Mexico was created.

The Carta del Cabildo was drafted, dated July 10, in which "the council" communicated to Carlos I the foundation of the town, the designation as captain general and major justice of Hernán Cortés and it was repeatedly begged not to grant the appointment of adelantado to Diego Velázquez, since he was accused of not having administered the affairs of Cuba correctly. Even a residence trial was requested for the governor; in the text the discovered lands were described and the V of the king was annexed. For the shipment, the mayors Francisco de Montejo and Alonso Hernández Portocarrero were designated as procurators and representatives before the king, who were to travel directly to Spain with the pilot Antón de Alaminos, but they disobeyed the orders by stopping in Cuba, where the news and rumors quickly reached Santiago. Velázquez sent Gonzalo de Guzmán and Manuel Rojas in pursuit of Cortés' emissaries, along with a letter addressed to Bishop Fonseca to whom he requested help.

The governor of Cuba denounced the act of rebellion to Rodrigo de Figueroa, who served as the new judge of residence and mayor of the island of Hispaniola, and began to organize an army to capture Cortés. On the other hand, in Spain, when Admiral Diego Colón y Moniz Perestrello learned of the events, he wrote a letter to the king requesting that he not rule in favor of Velázquez, nor in favor of Cortés, since he claimed for himself the rights of the capitulations of Santa Fe that included these territories.

Alliance with the Totonacs and beginning of political warfare

Cortés headed for Quiahuiztlán and Cempoala, Totonac towns that were tributaries of the Mexica. The rulers or teuctlis had met Juan de Grijalva, achieving a good relationship with the Spaniards. The teuctli of Cempoala, Chicomácatl, was described as a fat man with little mobility to move around but, like the teuctli of Quiahuiztlán, he received the Spanish contingent in a friendly manner. In the interview, Cortés promised to help free them from tribute to the Mexica, in exchange for sealing a military alliance of Spaniards and Totonacs. There began the political insidiousness of Cortes that would allow him to lead a rebellion of subdued peoples that would be decisive in the conquest of the territories of the Mexica Empire.

During those days, five tax collectors from Montezuma arrived regularly to collect tribute, but Cortés advised them not to pay them and to place them under arrest. With fear, the Totonacs followed the advice. The Spanish leader played a double role: he met with the tax collectors and set two of them free, pretending not to know the attitude of the Totonacs, and sent a false message of peace to the tlatoani of Tenochtitlan, promising to help him to subdue the "rebels". The next morning, Cortés demanded from the Totonac teuctlis the "escape" of the two collectors, and feigning anger, he had the remaining three taken to the boats. The caudillo's stratagem was to obtain the unconditional support of the Totonaca people and deceive Moctezuma. Days later, a second embassy arrived from Moctezuma, this time in charge of Motelchiuh and two nephews of Cacamatzin, who arrived with gifts and thanking Cortes for the support he was offering to subdue the "rebels". The latter spoke secretly with the teuctli of Quiahuiztlán, to whom he said that he could now consider himself free of their yoke and recommended him to "free" the other three collectors. Motelchiuh returned happily to Tenochtitlan with the newly freed ones.

In Tizapancingo a group of Mexica began to organize to subdue Totonac towns that stopped paying tribute. Cortés assisted with cavalry and was able to defeat them quickly, which convinced the Tecuhtlis of Quiahuiztlán and Cempoala of the effectiveness of the Spanish forces and they did not hesitate to endorse the alliance. Thirty Totonac towns gathered in Cempoala to seal the alliance and march together to conquer Tenochtitlan, offering a large number of tamemes to transport the artillery of the Europeans.

The Totonacs contributed 1,300 warriors to Cortés' enterprise, their main commanders being Mamexi, Teuch and Tamalli. The agreement was made on the basis that, once the Mexica were defeated, the Totonaca nation would be free. The cities of Cempoala and Quiahuiztlán were baptized respectively as Nueva Sevilla and Archidona, but these names did not survive.

Destruction of ships and desertion attempt

After the departure of the emissaries, Alonso de Grado and Alonso de Ávila were appointed substitute mayors of the Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz. Shortly after this appointment, a group of friends of Diego Velázquez decided to return to Cuba, among them were Fray Juan Díaz, Juan Velázquez de León, Diego de Ordás, Alonso de Escobar, Juan Escudero, the pilot Diego Cermeño, and the sailors Gonzalo de Umbría and Alfonso Peñate. In view of the situation, a council of war was held, presided over by Cortés and organized by the regiment of the town with the support of the new mayors. As a result Juan Escudero and Diego Cermeño were sentenced to death by hanging, Gonzalo de Umbría had part of a foot cut off, and the others were placed under arrest. When the mutineers were released, they became unconditional supporters of the caudillo. In addition, as a preventive measure for future conspiracies, Cortés ordered most of the ships to be sunk. As an excuse, it was said that the ships were "unseaworthy" and this statement was supported by Cortés' followers. According to Díaz del Castillo's chronicle, those who pretended to desert were forced to continue in the enterprise. Those who were in favor of the adventure did not need artifices to make up their minds: "Well, what condition are we Spaniards in that we should not go ahead and stay in places where we have no war advantage?

The major constable of Villa Rica, Juan de Escalante, was left in charge of the garrison with a small group of soldiers, mostly old and wounded; Escalante's orders included providing the necessary support to the Totonaca people in case of possible hostilities perpetrated by the Mexica and guarding the coast.

Meanwhile, the governor of the island of Jamaica, Francisco de Garay, sent an exploration expedition with three ships and two hundred and seventy men under the command of Alonso Álvarez de Pineda to the Gulf of Mexico. After sailing from Florida to the Pánuco River, they were sighted by Escalante, who immediately alerted his captain. Cortés believed that they were vessels sent by Velázquez and decided to set a trap on the beach to capture the new expeditionaries, but the trick only worked with seven men who disembarked in a vessel and the rest of the expedition was able to return to Jamaica. On August 16, 1519 Cortés with the rest of the Spaniards and a large contingent of Totonac allies began the march towards the city of Mexico-Tenochtitlan.

At the beginning, the path of the conquistadors was not easy. They passed through Ixcalpan (Rinconada) and then Xalapa, where they were well received, as well as Xicochimalco. They continued to Monte Grande, which took the name of Puerto de Dios, and went on to Teoizhuacán and Ayahualulco; they crossed the Sierra de Puebla through the Cofre de Perote with very limited water supply; they headed north passing through the towns of Altotonga, Xalacingo and Teziutlán until they reached Zautla, where they were received by the local ruler Olintetl. When this one was questioned to know if he was tributary of the Mexicas, his answer was: "Does anyone exist that is not vassal of Moctezuma?" During the interview Cortés tried to convince him to stop paying taxes and to accept the Spanish crown, but Olintetl refused because in the place a group of Mexica warriors was stationed; nevertheless, the Spaniards were welcomed and lodged. The tecuhtli of Ixtacamaxtitlán, who was also a vassal of Moctezuma, sent an invitation to the Spaniards and tried to convince them to follow their route to Cholula to avoid crossing through Tlaxcalan territories, but Mamexi warned Cortés of a possible trap and proposed to send messengers of peace to the Tlaxcalan leaders to form an alliance against the Mexicas. Cortes, convinced of the Totonacs' loyalty, followed the advice and continued along the pre-established itinerary.

Tlaxcala was a confederation of city-states united in a republic governed by the members of a senate. Tenochtitlan was organized similarly to an empire; since 1455 the Aztec power was formed on the basis of a triple alliance whose members were the lordships of Texcoco, Tlacopan, and Tenochtitlan, however the latter exercised the hegemony of power. In those years both confederations rivaled and began the flowery wars against Huejotzingo, Cholula and Tlaxcala. The main objective of the war was the capture of prisoners.

Under these circumstances of animosity Cortés arrived to the territory of Tlaxcala in command of the Totonaca-Spanish army, which was numerically very inferior with respect to the dense population of Tlaxcala that was conformed by the Pinomes, the Otomies and the Tlaxcaltecas, who lived settled in hundreds of small localities. The main representatives were Xicohténcatl Huehue "the Old", Maxixcatzin, Citlalpopocatzin and Hueyolotzin. like the Mexica, the Tlaxcalteca considered the Spaniards as demigods because the news about their horses and weapons had impressed them. Maxixcatzin was inclined to seal the alliance and fight against their bitter rivals, but Xicohténcatl Axayacatzin argued the possibility that the Spaniards were not demigods, believing that the ambition they had shown for gold, petty theft in the villages, destruction of temples and disregard for ancestral laws evidenced human rather than divine behavior. The resolution was to attack the newcomers: if victory was achieved, credit would be given to the Tlaxcalan nation; in case of defeat, the Otomi would be blamed for having acted in disobedience to the orders of the senate and the alliance would be signed.

On September 2, 1519, a group of fifteen Indians served as bait, allowed themselves to be pursued by the foreigners to the Tecóac gorge, where Xicohténcatl Axayacatzin had prepared an ambush with a large number of Otomí warriors. In view of the situation, Cortés himself read the request but it was not heeded. At the cry of "Santiago y cierra España!" the first battle was fought, the result of which was favorable for the Spaniards despite being at a numerical disadvantage. During the night that followed, Cortés and his men considered for the first time the possibility of their reduced army being annihilated, establishing their camp on the hill of Tzompachtepetl.

Always looking for the alliance, Cortés sent messengers of peace receiving an ironic answer from Xicohténcatl: "Peace? certainly, we will celebrate it, come to Tlaxcala where my father is. In spite of the announcement of extermination, the horses, the weapons and the Spanish military tactics were imposed on the Tlaxcalans, who attacked in an inarticulate way, without cooperating with each other, always trying to capture enemies instead of liquidating them.

However, the subsequent battles were not easy victories for the Spanish and Totonac army. Xicohténcatl sent spies with food and gifts to the Spanish garrison, but they were quickly discovered. Cortés ordered their hands and thumbs to be amputated as an example. The Tlaxcalan espionage was a failure because the spies gave away the position and plans of his army. During a new confrontation in the plains, which was again unfavorable for Tlaxcala, Xicohténcatl branded his lieutenant Chichimecatecle as incapable, resulting in the desertion of the troops of Ocotelulco and Tepetícpac.

After evaluating the new situation, and considering the repeated defeats, the senate of Tlaxcala ordered Xicohténcatl Axayacatzin to stop the war to negotiate a peace agreement. Xicohténcatl Huehue, Maxixcatzin, Citlalpopocatzin, Hueyolotzin and some other important lords received the Spaniards on September 18, 1519. In the meeting the crucial alliance to face the Mexica was established. As a token of peace the Tlaxcaltecs gave women to the Spaniards, among them a daughter of Xicohténcatl the old, who married Pedro de Alvarado and was baptized as María Luisa Tecuelhuatzin. The Tlaxcalan warriors who fought as allies from that moment on were Piltecuhtli, Aexoxécatl, Tecpanécatl, Cahuecahua, Cocomitecuhtli, Quauhtotohua, Textlípitl and Xicohténcatl Axayacatzin. The latter, however, was never convinced of the alliance.

Cholula Massacre

Before heading towards Tenochtitlan, Cortes arrived at Cholula, a tributary city and ally of the Mexica with a population of thirty thousand inhabitants, which had a deep-rooted cult of Quetzalcoatl. The Tlaxcalans were no friends of the Cholultecs and warned the Spaniards not to trust them. A retinue of Cholultecas led by captains Tlaquiach and Ttalchiac, went out to meet Cortés' army and four hundred Spaniards and four hundred Totonacs were received and lodged inside the city, but the two thousand Tlaxcaltecas, whom they considered enemies, had to camp on the outskirts. For two days the treatment for the newcomers was hospitable; soon after, the Cholulteca authorities began to evade Cortés and his captains, since they had secretly received instructions from Moctezuma to ambush and annihilate the Spaniards. An old woman who pretended to be Malintzin's mother-in-law confided to her what was being planned and soon after the interpreter in turn alerted Cortés.

The next morning the conquistador, anticipating, captured the Cholultec leaders. With a foreseen signal he sent his army to carry out a preventive attack, provoking the so-called slaughter of Cholula. More than five thousand men died in less than five hours under the steel of the Spanish swords and the uncontrollable fury of their Tlaxcalan and Totonac allies. The order was also given to set fire to houses and temples. In spite of having been a preventive action, many of the victims were Cholultec civilians who were unarmed. Few warriors offered resistance, reacting until after the first two hours of the surprise attack. It was suspected that twenty thousand Mexica warriors were camped in the vicinity of the city to reinforce the ambush; however, they never appeared. After the victory, the Spaniards seized the gold and jewels, while the indigenous allies took the salt and cotton. The Spanish, Tlaxcaltec and Totonaca contingent remained in Cholula for fourteen days. The Cholultecas, who had been tributaries of the Mexicas, were subdued and in defeat, ended up allying with Cortés' forces.

The conquistadors continued their expedition towards Huejotzingo; they crossed between the two watchtower volcanoes of the valley, Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl, through a wooded area that today bears the name of Paso de Cortés. On the other side, they caught their first glimpse of Lake Texcoco and the island of the city of Mexico-Tenochtitlan. They crossed through Amaquemecan and Chalco-Atenco, where ambassadors of Moctezuma tried to convince them to stop their march. After a brief stay in Ayotzinco they continued their march towards Mixquic, Cuitláhuac (Tláhuac), Culhuacán and Iztapalapa. Upon arriving in the city, the population looked on in amazement at the Europeans and their horses.

Entry and stay in Tenochtitlan

Moctezuma made many attempts to dissuade Cortés from advancing toward Tenochtitlan, sending gifts, ambassadors and innumerable messages to convince the Spaniards not to visit the city. The tlatoani sent gifts, ambassadors and countless messages to convince the Spaniards not to visit the city but all to no avail. After arriving in the Valley of Mexico, the army composed of four hundred Spaniards, four thousand Tlaxcalans and sixteen horses entered on November 8, 1519, corresponding to the day "8 Ehecatl" of the year "1 acatl" in the month Quecholli, the city of Mexico-Tenochtitlan, built on an island in Lake Texcoco and linked to land by three main causeways.

Cortés and his men were received by the huey tlatoani Moctezuma Xocoyotzin and a large entourage, which included the tlahtoani of Tlacopan Totoquihuatzin, the tlatoani of Tetzcuco Cacamatzin, Cuitláhuac, Tetlepanquetzaltzin, Itzcuauhtzin, Topantemoctzin, and some other servants. After a brief presentation, there was an exchange of gifts. Cortés gave Moctezuma a necklace of glass beads called margaritas and the ruler gave the caudillo a necklace with eight gold shrimp. Later the Spaniards were lodged in the palace of Axayácatl, near the sacred precinct of the city. Moctezuma was an experienced warrior, but as a superstitious man, he continued with the idea that possibly the strange visitors were demigods. He had a private interview with Cortés and, according to several chronicles, he implied his submission as a vassal of King Carlos I of Spain.

Meanwhile on the coast, following the advice of the Spanish conquerors, the Totonacs stopped paying the customary tribute to the Mexica. The calpixque Cuauhpopoca led the Mexica warriors and began the attack against the Totonacs, but they were defended by the Spanish garrison of the Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz. As a result of the battle, the Spaniards suffered seven casualties, among them, Juan de Escalante who managed to set fire to the town of Nautla before the retreat of his men but died later as a result of his wounds. The news soon reached Tenochtitlan; from the coast the Mexica sent to Moctezuma, together with the report of the battle, the decapitated head of the Spanish soldier Juan de Argüello as proof that the Europeans were mortal beings and not gods. The Tlahtoani, terrified at the sight of the head, forbade military actions and asked to keep the news secret. At the same time, Totonac messengers reported the same events to Cortés.

During the brief stay, the Spaniards had accidentally discovered treasures hidden in one of the main rooms of the sumptuous palace of Axayácatl; but they had also valued the possible risk of an ambush on the part of the Mexica and for such reasons they decided to subdue Moctezuma. On November 14 Cortes took as pretext the events of Nautla to arrest the tlahtoani, demanding also punishment for those responsible. Surprised, Moctezuma denied having ordered the attack and sent for Cuauhpopoca, the Mexica emissaries were accompanied by Francisco de Aguilar, Andrés de Tapia and Gutiérrez de Valdelomar. From that moment on, the tlatoani was guarded by a Spanish escort. When the emissaries returned, the tlahtoani granted the privilege of trial to Cortés; the process was brief and Cuauhpopoca, his son and fifteen principals of Nautla were sentenced to death at the stake. To prevent an uprising, Moctezuma was then shackled and forced to witness the execution. The Mexica people, silent and expectant, began to doubt their maximum leader for the submission shown.

Permanently guarded, Moctezuma continued his daily activities. He lived with Cortés and his captains, showed them the city and the surrounding area. During the following days the conquistador asked the tlahtoani to abandon their gods and to prohibit human sacrifices. He also found out where the gold came from. To the astonishment and disgust of the Mexica priests, the effigies of their gods were torn down, Christian images were imposed and a mass was celebrated at the top of the Templo Mayor.

Excursions were organized to inspect the mines. Gonzalo de Umbría went to Zacatula in the Mixtec region; Diego de Ordás to Tuxtepec and Coatzacoalcos; Andrés de Tapia and Diego Pizarro went to the Pánuco area. Cortés also asked Moctezuma to request gold from all the Mexica tributary towns. Again the tlahtoani agreed in the hope that in exchange for delivering these treasures, the Europeans would withdraw from Tenochtitlan. To facilitate its transportation and distribution, all the gold was melted into bars by the goldsmiths of Azcapotzalco, separating the king's fifth.

A small retinue of Spaniards was sent in search of gold to Tetzcuco. The guides were Netzahualquentzin and Tetlahuehuezquititzin, both brothers of Cacama. Due to a misunderstanding, Netzahualquentzin was suspected of possible treason and was sentenced to death by hanging. Cacama, exacerbated, tried to revolt with the lords of Coyoacán, Tlacopan, Iztapalapa, Toluca and Matalcingo, but Ixtlilxóchitl, also brother and at the same time enemy of Cacama, betrayed him. The rebels were arrested and Cortés decided to name Coanácoch as the new tlahtoani of Tetzcuco. Days later, Pedro de Alvarado tortured Cacama so that he would deliver a greater amount of gold, action that was denounced by Bernardino Vázquez de Tapia during the trial of Alvarado's residence.

Moctezuma insisted that Cortés leave the city, but the answer was negative. The stay was prolonged under the excuse of not having boats, because they had been destroyed. In spite of the social uneasiness of the Mexica by the actions of the Spanish conquerors and the abject behavior of the huey tlahtoani, this one tried by all means to avoid an uprising. At Cortés' request, he made a solemn speech in front of his people, in which, crying, he recognized himself as a vassal of Carlos I and asked to surrender obedience to the Spaniards. He believed in prophecies and superstitions, but also feared that in case of an armed confrontation his people would be massacred.

Considering to have a relative control over Tenochtitlan, Cortés sent Juan Velázquez de León to the region of Coatzacoalcos with one hundred men with the objective of founding a colony, in order to extract gold and guard the coast. Rodrigo Rangel was sent to Chinantla, and to reassure Moctezuma, Cortés sent Gonzalo de Sandoval, Martín López, Andrés Núñez, and Alfonso Yáñez to the Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz with official orders to build new ships in sight of the Mexica, but with secret instructions to carry out the work as slowly as possible.

Interview of the procurators with the King and the Council of Castile.

While this was happening in Tenochtitlan, the procurators of the Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz, Alonso Hernández Portocarrero and Francisco de Montejo, had arrived in Seville. It was October 1519 when Bishop Juan Rodríguez de Fonseca learned of the events, giving orders to the accountant of the Casa de Contratación Juan López de Recalde to seize the treasure transported by the procurators. Fray Benito Martín had already obtained in the court the title of adelantado for Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar and requested that full authority be granted to the governor of Cuba to punish Cortés' insubordination.

Rodríguez de Fonseca still had control of the Council of Castile, which attended to the affairs of the Indies, but the bishop of Badajoz Pedro Ruiz de la Mota and the king's secretary Francisco de los Cobos y Molina were impressed by the gold brought from Mexico. The bishop of Badajoz pleaded for Cortés before King Charles I. On the other hand, the procurators went to Martín Cortés, father of the caudillo, to try to obtain an interview with the king, who upon hearing this request showed interest in receiving them and in meeting the Totonacs they had brought on the trip. Cortés' emissaries arrived late in Barcelona where they would meet the king, but the king, in constant movement, had moved to Burgos. However, they were able to contact the lawyer Francisco Núñez and the king's advisor Lorenzo Galíndez de Carvajal, who decided to support them.

Charles I had been elected Holy Roman Emperor and, in addition to attending to the affairs of the Castilian War, he had to face the conflict of the Lutheran Reformation and travel to Aachen where he would be crowned, but he showed great interest in the affairs of the Indies. However, he showed great interest in the affairs of the Indies. When Cortés' emissaries arrived in Burgos, the court had moved to Valladolid. In Tordesillas the monarch held an informal meeting with the procurators, but it was not until April 30, 1520, in Santiago de Compostela, where the committee of the Council of Castile finally heard the procurators.

The committee was made up of Cardinal Adriano de Utrecht, the imperial chancellor Mercurino Arborio Gattinara, the bishop of Badajoz Pedro Ruiz de la Mota, the archbishop of Palermo Jean Carondelete, the archbishop of Granada Antonio de Rojas Manrique, the major commander of Castile Hernando de la Vega, and the bishop of Burgos Juan Rodríguez de Fonseca. Also present at the meeting were Dr. Diego Beltrán, Luis Zapata, Francisco de Aguirre, Lorenzo Galíndez de Carvajal, Pedro Mártir de Anglería, Bartolomé de las Casas, Juan de Sámano, and Francisco de los Cobos y Molina. A long session was held in which the procurators Francisco de Montejo, Alonso Hernández Portocarrero and the emissary of the governor of Cuba, Gonzalo de Guzmán, were questioned. Although the bishop of Burgos accused Cortés and his men as deserters and traitors, on May 17, 1520 the committee decided to postpone the resolution until hearing new evidence from both Velázquez and Cortés.

Narváez Expedition

Diego Velázquez, still unaware of the latest events in Spain, confiscated the goods of Cortés and some of his men on the island of Cuba. He organized an army consisting of nineteen ships, one thousand four hundred men, eighty horses, twenty pieces of artillery and one thousand Cuban auxiliaries. He appointed Panfilo de Narvaez as captain with secret orders to arrest or kill Cortes. When Rodrigo de Figueroa, judge of residence in Hispaniola, learned of Velazquez's plans, he considered that the dispute was not beneficial for the crown and for that reason he sent the oidor Lucas Vazquez de Ayllon together with the bailiff of Santo Domingo Luis de Sotelo and the notary Pedro de Ledesma to stop the expedition. Vazquez de Ayllon found Narvaez in Xaraguas and ordered him to abort the expedition. Additionally, on February 18, 1520, he directly notified Velázquez of Figueroa's orders, but the governor of Cuba continued with his plans, disregarding the official request and defying Figueroa's authority. In that circumstance, Vázquez de Ayllón decided to travel simultaneously to the Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz to try to negotiate an agreement. The ships set sail from Cuba on March 5, 1520. Shortly before leaving Cuba, a smallpox epidemic had spread on the island and the virus was carried on the excursion.

Participating in Narváez's excursion were Juan Bono de Quejo, Leonel de Cervantes, the overseer of the governor of Cuba Gerónimo Martínez de Salvatierra, an eponymous nephew of Velázquez known as "el Mozo", the mayor of Trinidad Francisco Verdugo, Gaspar de Garnica, Baltasar Bermúdez and other experienced conquistadors. Also traveling was Andrés de Duero, Velázquez's secretary but a friend of Cortés, since Amador de Lares had died in early 1520. The ships stopped in Cozumel, where they rescued the survivors of Alonso de Parada's shipwreck and founded a small garrison. They headed towards Tabasco arriving at Potonchan where the Villa de Santa María de la Victoria was located to resupply water and in the final stage of the voyage they were surprised by a storm, losing a ship and fifty men, among them Cristóbal de Morante, who had been partner and captain in the first excursion to the Yucatán peninsula. They arrived at San Juan de Ulúa on April 19, but Vázquez de Ayllón's ships had arrived a couple of days earlier, so the oidor was able to contact the men of the Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz, learning of Cortés' achievements earlier.

Upon disembarking, Pánfilo de Narváez decided to found the city of San Salvador. They made contact with the Totonacs, whom they informed that they intended to arrest Cortés and free Moctezuma. The fat tecutli of Cempoala was impressed by the news, but preferred to welcome the newcomers, supplying them with food for three weeks. The Totonacs sent the customary gifts but Pánfilo kept them for himself, provoking the antipathy of his followers. Because the area was at peace, Ayllón spoke well of Cortés and the men, unaware of the expedition's plans, became restless. Narváez blamed the oidor for the situation and decided to arrest him. Vázquez de Ayllón, Pedro de Ledesma and some of Cortés' supporters were taken prisoner and sent on a ship to Cuba. The oidor could do nothing against Narváez's men, but when they set sail, he threatened the ship's captain that if he obeyed the orders to go to Cuba, he would be condemned to be hanged; for this reason, the ship sailed to Hispaniola. There, Vázquez de Ayllón denounced the facts and sent letters to Spain detailing the affront and the violent behavior of Narváez. Finally, what happened was counterproductive to the interests of Diego Velázquez.

A retinue of Moctezuma, who was subdued, contacted Narváez, and soon messages were sent to the huey tlatoani. he harbored new hopes of being freed and kept this communication secret, but he could not hide the news of the arrival of the ships. Cortés appointed Fray Bartolomé de Olmedo and five emissaries to investigate the news of what was happening. on the coast, Narváez commissioned Fray Antonio Ruiz de Guevara and the scribe Alfonso de Vergara to notify Gonzalo de Sandoval of the new provisions of Diego Velázquez: Cortés was considered a traitor and Narváez was to receive the support of all the Spaniards. Sandoval, far from heeding the request, decided to imprison the commissioners and send them immediately to Tenochtitlan. Narváez also sent letters to Juan Velázquez de León thinking, mistakenly, that the relative of the governor of Cuba would be an ally.

Cortes received Vergara and Guevara with flattery and apologized for Sandoval's treatment. The caudillo organized a banquet and gave them gold as a gift, before which the commissioners were astonished. They soon became friends with the host and informed him of all the details of the expedition, forgot to read Velázquez's provisions and even suggested sending gifts to Narváez's men. Cortés sent them back to the coast with an escort and a letter of reply to Narváez. In contrast, Cortés' emissaries had been arrested except for the cleric Olmedo, who devoted himself to describing the riches of the land. When Vergara and Guevara arrived in San Salvador, they began secretly distributing gold to Narváez's men. Cortés' missive contained words of welcome and invitation to the members of the expedition, but of surprise at Narváez' new appointment.

Before the expectation, Cortes left Tenochtitlan marching with part of his army towards the coast, leaving a garrison of eighty men under the command of Pedro de Alvarado, he sent instructions to Velazquez de Leon and Rangel to meet him in Cholula to go jointly towards Cempoala. They were diverse comings and goings of messengers, Narváez made propositions not accepted by Cortés because he tried to dispossess him in favor of Velázquez, and Cortés made unacceptable counterpropositions on the part of Narváez, because he justified his obedience in a direct way to the king without recognizing the authority of the governor of Cuba. The interviews with messengers served as espionage, Andrés de Duero again helped his friend to bribe different officers of Narváez. Cortés' men advanced towards Mictlancuauhtla and camped on May 28 on the bank of the Chachalacas River. A few hours before the attack his spies informed the details of the opponents' positions. Narváez was in Cempoala, confident that they would not attack due to the weather conditions.

Although Cortés' army was less numerous than Narváez', the surprise attack was swift and accurate. Diego Pizarro with sixty men had orders to seize the artillery; Gonzalo de Sandoval with eighty men was to capture or kill Narváez; Juan Velázquez de León would face the forces of his cousin Diego Velázquez "el Mozo", nephew of the governor; Diego de Ordás would have to capture the forces commanded by Salvatierra; finally, Andrés de Tapia and Cortés would reinforce with help any of the other captains.

When Narváez realized the attack he tried to react, but it was too late. The bribes worked, the artillery chief Bartolomé de Usagre had put wax on the cannons, the gunpowder had gotten wet, Bermúdez's men were not at their posts and Cortés' spies had cut the saddle straps of the horses. After a brief scuffle at the top of the teocalli, the piquero Pedro Gutiérrez de Valdomar left Narváez one-eyed. Pedro Sánchez Farfán took the wounded prisoner to captains Gonzalo de Sándoval, Alonso de Ávila, and Diego de Ordás, who took away the king's supposed provisions, which turned out to be only Velázquez's instructions. When Pánfilo was brought before Cortés, he told him "Señor Captain, consider this victory and the fact that you have imprisoned me", to which Cortés replied: "I thank God and my valiant knights, but one of the least things I have done in this land is to disrupt and seize you". There were few casualties, no more than twenty, among them the fat tecutli of Cempoala Chicomácatl, Diego Velázquez "el Mozo" and Alonso Carretero. Most of the men surrendered convinced of the richness of the discovered lands and recognized Cortés as the new chief, thus increasing the military strength of the conquistador. Among the auxiliaries traveled a black slave sick with smallpox. At the end of the campaign San Salvador was dismantled, Juan Velázquez de León left for Pánuco to populate the area with a hundred men and watch for possible incursions by Francisco de Garay. A messenger from Tenochtitlan informed Cortés about a rebellion in the city, by means of which they had ambushed all the men who had remained in the protection of the city; likewise, he learned about the secret communication that Moctezuma had held with Narváez.

Slaughter of the Templo Mayor

During Cortés' absence, the ceremony in honor of the god Huitzilopochtli was to be held in Tenochtitlan. The Mexica asked permission to Captain Pedro de Alvarado, who granted the corresponding permission to carry out the Tóxcatl celebration, which was an extensive ritual where a statue of Huitzilopochtli was made; priests, captains, as well as young warriors danced and sang unarmed. Alvarado ordered to close the exits, passages and entrances to the sacred patio, the entrance of Cuauhquiyauac (Eagle) in the minor palace, that of Ácatl iyacapan (Point of cane), that of Tezcacóac (Snake of mirrors) and then the massacre began. "They slashed the one who was beating the drum, cut off both his arms and then decapitated him, far away his severed head fell, others began to kill with spears and swords; blood flowed like water when it rains, and the whole courtyard was strewn with heads, arms, guts and bodies of dead men".

It was a great loss because the assassinated were the leaders who had been educated in Calmécac, the war veterans, the calpixques, the interpreters of codices. The presence of the foreigners offended the people of Tenochtitlan, but the respect they felt for the figure of the huey tlatoani was so great that nobody had dared to contradict him. The slaughter of the Templo Mayor provoked an enormous indignation and the Mexicas threw themselves against the palace of Axayácatl. Moctezuma asked the tlacochcálcatl (chief of arms) of Tlatelolco, Itzcuauhtzin, to calm the enraged population with a speech in which he asked the Tenochcas and Tlatelolcas not to fight against the Spaniards. The rebellion could not be stopped, the population offended by the attitude of the tlatoani, shouted "We are no longer your vassals! In addition they were irritated by the treacherous attack on their captains. They besieged the palace for more than twenty days, where the Spaniards barricaded themselves, taking Moctezuma and other chiefs with them.

Expulsion of the Spaniards from Tenochtitlan

Back in the city and after a confrontation in Iztapalapa, Cortés was able to meet with his companions in the palace of Axayácatl from where they defended themselves from constant attacks. According to Díaz del Castillo, Cortés had arrived with more than one thousand three hundred soldiers, ninety-seven horses, eighty crossbowmen, eighty shotgunners, artillery and more than two thousand Tlaxcalans. Pedro de Alvarado had held Montezuma captive, along with some of his sons and several priests.

After these events occurred the death of Moctezuma Xocoyotzin. Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxóchitl affirms that it was the Spaniards who assassinated Moctezuma by sword wounds, something that the Spanish chroniclers deny. Díaz del Castillo says that Moctezuma went up to one of the palace walls to talk to his people and calm them down; however, the angry crowd began to throw stones, one of which seriously wounded Moctezuma during his speech. Moctezuma was taken inside but died three days later from the wound. His body and that of Itzcuauhtzin, lord of Tlatelolco, were carried out of the palace by two servants of the tlatoani and thrown into the ditch. The coexistence between Cortés and Moctezuma had created a bond of friendship and the tlatoani, before dying, asked Cortés to favor his son, named Chimalpopoca. When Moctezuma died, Cortés and the captains who had rooted him were saddened.

The palace was surrounded, without water or food, and the Tlahtocan (council) elected a brother of Moctezuma, Cuitláhuac, as the new tlatoani. Under these circumstances, Cortés was forced to abandon the city. He organized the escape by ordering to load as much gold as possible. To prevent the escape of the Spaniards, the Mexica had dismantled the bridges of the canals in the city, Cortés used the beams of Axaycácatl's palace to improvise portable bridges.

During the night of June 30, 1520, Cortés left Tenochtitlan. Eighty Tlaxcalan tamemes were provided to transport the gold and jewels. Ahead marched Gonzalo de Sandoval, Antonio de Quiñones, Francisco de Acevedo, Francisco Lugo, Diego de Ordás, Andrés de Tapia, two hundred peons, twenty horsemen and four hundred Tlaxcalans. In the center carrying the treasure, Hernán Cortés, Alonso de Ávila, Cristóbal de Olid, Bernardino Vázquez de Tapia, the artillery, Malintzin and other indigenous women, Chimalpopoca with her sisters, the Mexica prisoners and the bulk of the Spanish and allied forces. In the rearguard Pedro de Alvarado, Juan Velázquez de León, the cavalry and most of Narváez's soldiers.

Only the first ones managed to leave because, discovered and given the alarm, they were harassed from canoes, killing about eight hundred Spaniards and a large number of allies, in addition to losing forty horses, cannons, arquebuses, swords, bows and iron arrows, as well as most of the gold. Among the casualties were Captain Juan Velázquez de León, who had been loyal to Cortés despite being a relative of Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, Francisco de Morla, Francisco de Saucedo, Cacama, two daughters of Moctezuma and Chimalpopoca. Cortés himself was wounded in one hand. The survivors escaped by the route of Tlacopan, episode in which the chronicler Lopez de Gomara described the jump of Pedro de Alvarado in the bridge of Toltacacalopan, same that was denied by Diaz del Castillo. All the chroniclers coincide with the cry of Cortés in the Noche Triste:

Battle of Otumba

The route they took to Tlaxcala was through Tlalnepantla, Atizapán, Teocalhueycan, Cuautitlán, Tepotzotlán, Xóloc, Zacamolco. On July 7, the conquerors were fiercely attacked in the battle of Otumba, however they triumphed by killing the cihuacoatl or main captain of the Mexicas, because when he died, the pursuers dispersed and fled. The Spaniards spent the night in Apan. Because the greatest number of casualties corresponded to the allied Indians, Hernán Cortés thought that the alliance with the Tlaxcalans had ended after the defeat, but contrary to his predictions he was received with benevolence by the senate of Tlaxcala, in spite of the opposition of Xicohténcatl. The Spanish forces began to reorganize, although it took them more than a year to return to take the plaza of Tenochtitlan.

Meanwhile, a smallpox epidemic broke out in the city, a disease unknown in America, and as a result of which many people died in a short period of time. As collateral damage there was a famine, due to the disruption of the supply systems. Cuitláhuac ordered the reconstruction of the main temple, reorganized the army and sent it to the valley of Tepeaca. He tried to make alliance with the purépechas, but the cazonci Zuanga after considering the offer, refused to accept it. Emissaries were also sent with the intention of sealing peace with the Tlaxcalans, but they flatly refused. In November of that same year, Cuitláhuac died of smallpox as well as the tlatoani of Tlacopan Totoquihuatzin. Considering that Cacama had died during the events of June 30, the Triple Alliance had new successors, Coanácoch in Tetzcuco, Tetlepanquetzaltzin in Tlacopan and Cuauhtémoc (Descending Eagle), nephew of Moctezuma Xocoyotzin, in Tenochtitlan.

Cuauhtémoc had participated in the episode of the sad night as tlacochcálcatl (chief of arms) and had spoken out against Moctezuma's passive attitude. Because his mother was Tiacapantzin, heir to the throne of Tlatelolco, he was able to gather the support of the whole city. When he was elected new tlatoani he continued with the works of reconstruction and fortification of the city, since he supposed the return of the Spaniards, he sent ambassadors to all the towns requesting allies by means of the diminution or elimination of tributes. It looked for the second time for the alliance with the new cazonci purépecha Tangáxoan Tzíntzicha, whose father Zuanga also had died for the smallpox; the refusal of the heir was more violent, the emissaries of Cuauhtémoc were assassinated in Tzintzuntzan.

Regrouping of the Spaniards and supplying of Cortés

The Spanish survivors spent three days in Hueyotlipan where they were helped by the Tlaxcalans. Shortly after, Cortés and Maxixcatzin met in Tlaxcala to renew their alliance. For twenty days the conquistadors rested, tended to the wounded and reorganized.

Shortly before the last raid on Tenochtitlan, two Spanish retinues had been attacked. The first attack caused a little more than twenty casualties, some of Narváez's men had been arrested by Cortés' forces and were taken to the Valley of Mexico. The prisoners never reached their destination because they were surprised by Mexica warriors in Quecholac. The second attack caused forty-five Spanish casualties and two hundred Tlaxcalan casualties when an excursion under the command of Juan de Alcántara was annihilated at Calpulalpan.

Cortés then decided to undertake a military campaign to punish the region, not only to recover the honor and morale of his men, but also to cut off the supply route to the city of Tenochtitlan from the eastern coast. Based on Moctezuma's speech, the Spanish leader considered that all the Mexica and tributaries were officially vassals of Charles I and that any adverse action, for that reason, should be considered as an act of rebellion. The reading of the injunction was a common procedure to legally justify the punitive acts of the new campaign.

The Tlaxcalans contributed two thousand warriors under the command of Tianquizlatoatzin, who led Cortés to the areas of Zacatepec, Acatzingo and Tepeaca. The local teuctli surrendered on September 4, 1520. The prisoners were enslaved and a "G" for "war" was branded on their cheeks with a hot iron. Many Tepeaca warriors were slaughtered by the Tlaxcalans without any complaint from Cortés, who repeatedly tolerated the actions of his allies even though these were the same actions he criticized so much of his enemies.

The Spanish leader founded the town of Segura de la Frontera on September 9, 1520 and from the new location he directed attacks on the towns of Quecholac, Huaquechula, Itzocan, Tecamachalco, Zapotitlán, Izúcar and Chiautla. Several towns in the area, among them Huejotzingo and Cuetlaxtlan, preferred not to resist and accepted the alliance with the Spanish forces, but others like Tecamachalco and Acaptelahuacan were almost exterminated. On October 30, in Segura de la Frontera, Cortés wrote the second letter of relation, in which he described the last events without giving great importance to the setback of Tenochtitlan. Alonso de Mendoza and Diego de Ordás were responsible for carrying the missive, but they sailed for the Iberian Peninsula only in March 1521:

The chief carpenter, Martín López, was sent by Cortés to Tlaxcala. His mission was to cut and prepare wood to build thirteen brigantines, which would be used in the amphibious assault on Tenochtitlan. When López arrived in Tlaxcala, he learned that Maxixcatzin had died of smallpox, but he was able to obtain the help of Xicohténcatl Huehue without any problem.

Alonso de Avila and Francisco Alvarez Chico traveled to Santo Domingo in search of horses, crossbows, gunpowder, arquebuses and cannons. On the other hand, Francisco de Solís traveled to Jamaica on a similar mission. The expenses were financed with the little gold rescued from Tenochtitlan and the gold previously stored in Tlaxcala.

In those days different ships arrived: one of them from Cuba commanded by Pedro Barba, who carried a letter from Velázquez addressed to Narváez. The captain of the ship and the crew decided to join Cortes. The same happened with a ship captained by Rodrigo Morejon. From Castile, Juan de Burgos arrived in command of a ship that stopped in the Canary Islands; at the same time, Juan de Salamanca arrived from Seville, who stopped in Santo Domingo.

In the area of the Pánuco River, an expedition led by Diego de Camargo under orders of the governor of Jamaica, Francisco de Garay, had been defeated by the Huastec natives. To make matters worse, during the escape, one of the boats was shipwrecked. The sixty survivors and Camargo joined Cortés. The governor of Jamaica sent support boats, fifty men under the command of Miguel Diez de Aux and forty men under the command of Francisco Ramirez "el Viejo". These captains, upon assessing the situation, also decided to join Cortés' forces.

With the objective of controlling the entire route to the eastern coast, Gonzalo de Sandoval was appointed to carry out a new campaign in Zautla and Xalacingo. With only eight Spanish casualties, the towns were subdued and as in Tepeaca, the prisoners were enslaved and blacksmithed.

Advance towards Tenochtitlan through the east

Because the treasures were used to obtain supplies and the king's fifth was respected, there was no distribution of gold for the soldiers. Some were dissatisfied, among them was Andrés de Duero, which caused the breakup of the long friendship with Cortés. Cortés decided to let the non-conformists return to Cuba to avoid possible uprisings and wrote military and civilian ordinances to control those who remained.

The Spanish forces began the advance toward Texmelucan accompanied by a large contingent of Tlaxcalans, who totaled ten thousand men under the command of Chichimecatecle. Cortés' objective was to blockade the city of Tenochtitlan. The towns of Huexotla, Coatlinchan, Chalco, Amecameca, Tlalmanalco, Ozumba, and Mixquic, decided to support the Spaniards by providing them with food.

When the Spanish forces reached Tetzcuco, the tlatoani Coanácoch fled to Tenochtitlan to meet with Cuauhtémoc. The population also evacuated the city, leaving in part to Tenochtitlan in thousands of boats without Cortés being able to prevent it. The Tlaxcaltecas for their part set fire to the palace of Nezahualpilli, in which the Texcocan codices were found. Ixtlilxóchitl, enemy and brother of the tlatoani, became an unconditional ally of the Spaniards, was designated lord of the city, and on the basis of this Cortés managed to get part of the population to return. There he received delegates from various towns in the region communicating their support for the Spaniards.

After eight days fortifying his precinct in Texcoco, and without receiving attacks, Cortes advanced southward on Iztapalapa with 15 horsemen, 200 infantrymen and 5000 Indian allies, including an undetermined number of Texcocanos under Ixtlilxóchitl. This implied placing himself almost on the access roads to Tenochtitlán. Itzapalapa was taken, but a great part of the defenders could be evacuated in boats. At night the Mexica opened containment works causing the city to flood, so Cortés had to evacuate the plaza that same night, losing the provisions he had taken. The next day the Mexica sent an army by land, and troops attacked from rafts and retreated when the Spaniards tried to charge. Unable to avoid the harassment from the boats, not daring to attack the land army, which was very numerous, and without food, Cortés opted to retreat to Texcoco. In spite of his fear that having been rejected would prevent new cities from continuing to pass to the Spanish side, he later received delegates from Otumba and other towns that communicated their support.

Not having direct communication with the coast, Cortés sent Gonzalo de Sandoval with troops to escort part of the Tlaxcalan forces to their lands, with the clothes obtained by these as booty, to arrive to Veracruz to send correspondence from Cortés and to expel to his return to the Mexica garrison of Chalco, from where the population offered to pass to the Spanish side. For his part, Cuauhtémoc had ordered to cut the Spanish supply lines in Chalco and Huexotla, since corn in the area was of vital importance. After reaching Veracruz, Sandoval defeated the Mexica at Chalco and returned to Texcoco.

On February 15, 1521 Cortés considered that the construction of the brigantines should be completed near the lake. A large number of Tamemes and Tlaxcalan allies transported the planks from Tlaxcala to the shores of Lake Texcoco and ditches were dug to put the boats in the water.

Military campaigns to the north and west of Tenochtitlan

Once the ships were ready, Cortés set out again to reach the accesses to Tenochtitlán from the west, going around the lagoon on the north side. He took 25 horsemen and 300 infantrymen, plus the Tlaxcalan allies. A larger force than the one used in the departure to Iztacpalapan. A few kilometers down the road they encountered and disrupted a Mexica army, in what was the only pitched battle of the outing. Next they attacked Xaltocan and managed to enter the city, but at the fall of the day they withdrew from it and camped a league away. In the following days they passed through Huatullan, which they found abandoned, and then through Tenayuca, Cuautitlán and Azcapotzalco without encountering resistance. Finally they attacked Tlacopan, main city of the tepanecas, where the Mexica resistance was concentrated, since this city was the head of the accesses to Tenochtitlan from the west. Tetlepanquetzaltzin and his men were forced to retreat to Tenochtitlán and the following day the Spaniards burned Tlacopan, in revenge for those who had died there in the "Sad Night". For six days the Spaniards kept the city occupied, fighting daily skirmishes with troops coming from Tenochtitlán and advancing on the beginning of the causeway that crossed the lagoon. The Mexica urged them to try to cross it, but Cortes did not want to repeat the situation of being enclosed inside Tenochtitlan and limited himself to harass the headwaters of the causeway, asking to parley with envoys of Cuauhtemoc, hoping to obtain a surrender. The Mexica refused to parley, and in an occasion in which he threatened them that they would die of hunger in the place, from the tower of defense of the causeway they threw him a bread of corn, telling him that if he wanted already they had stockpile of surplus for them. Seeing that he could not parley, and could not hold on to Tlacopán, because the cities and fields in the area had been evacuated, Cortés left the road and returned to the Spanish base in Texcoco. Seeing his retreat, a Mexica army followed, but the cavalry ambushed him and put him to flight at Acolman.

The victories won by the Spaniards and the strengthening of the alliance with the Tlaxcalans were already news throughout the Mexica Empire. Tributaries and enemies were slowly but inexorably increasing Cortés' forces. Entire populations of the neighboring regions sent peace ambassadors to pay tribute to the Spanish crown and to ally themselves in the attack on Tenochtitlan. The overwhelming inertia of the irruption had been generated.

The new allies not only increased the conquistador's military strength throughout this stage, but also fulfilled the strategic task of spying and informing the high command about the concentrations and movements of the enemy forces. Seeing his defeats in direct combat with the Spaniards in front of Tenochtitlán, Cuauhtémoc counterattacked with troops sent to Chalco and Tlalmanalco, in the south of the lake system, to secure possession of the area, thus hindering the besiegers' communications and supply routes to Tlaxacala. Cortes sent Sandoval who attacked the Mexica garrisons in Huastepec and Acapichtlan, taking both towns. After Sandoval retreated to Texcoco, the Mexica made yet another attempt to reoccupy Chalco. The army sent there marched so fast that it arrived before Sandoval could return with Spanish troops, but at Chalco it was repulsed by a local army and Sandoval on his arrival found the situation already resolved in favor of his allies. With this the most direct road from Tlaxcala to the Spanish base at Texcoco was definitely open, and the Spaniards dominated both the east and south of the lake region.

Military campaigns south of Tenochtitlan

In response to the efforts of Francisco Álvarez Chico and Alonso de Ávila, in February 1521 a new ship, coming from Santo Domingo, anchored in front of the Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz. In it, armament, gunpowder, sixty horses and two hundred men were transported. Among them were the treasurer Julian de Alderete, the friar Pedro Melgarejo de Urrea and the lawyer Alonso Perez, who were to join the military campaigns.

While in Tetzcuco, during the last days of March of that year, Gonzalo de Sandoval gathered two hundred Spanish soldiers, twenty horsemen and a large contingent of Chalca and Tlaxcalan allies. He set out for Cuauhnáhuac (Cuernavaca) to confront a Mexica army that was defending that position. The place was important for Tenochtitlan, because it was the communication route to Xochicalco. Sandoval and his men rested in Tlalmanalco, and as they continued their advance they had confrontations in Huaxtépec (Oaxtepec) and Chimalhuacán. A second Mexica army had reinforced the area and had positioned itself in Yecapixtla. Sandoval decided to return to Texcoco.

Cortés increased the contingent with Texcocanos and Huejotzingas; Olid, Tapia and Pedro de Alvarado relieved Sandoval. The next encounter was at the rock of Tlayacapan. The captains Pedro de Ircio, Andrés de Monjaraz, Rodríguez de Villafuerte and Francisco Verdugo led the assault. There, the Mexica repelled the first attempt, but days later they were defeated when the Spanish forces surrounded them and left them without water.

The advance of the conquistadors continued towards Yautepec. The second Mexica army that was in the locality fled to Juchitepec, where it was reached and subdued. On April 13, from Tetzcuco, Cortés left with reinforcements, raided Tepoztlán and Cuauhtlan (Cuautla). Once the towns were overpowered, he rejoined the first expedition to make the final and definitive attack on Cuauhnáhuac.

The next stage of the campaign took place in Xochimilco. The local tlatoani Yaomahuitzin offered resistance, almost on the verge of being defeated, he deceived the Spaniards pretending to have intentions of making a pact but only with the objective of gaining time and receiving help from Tenochtitlan. Cuauhtémoc sent a combined attack by land and by the lagoon. Due to the surprise factor, Mexica and Xochimilca achieved a temporary victory. Cortés was almost taken prisoner when he fell from his horse. Cristobal de Olea was able to save him in exchange for being wounded and a couple of Spanish soldiers were captured and later sacrificed. The battle went on for three more days and finally, Cuauhtemoc's men retreated to Tenochtitlan.

After breaking the defensive barrier, the conquistadors advanced to Coyoacán where the teuctli Coapopocatizin preferred to flee and the town was taken by Cortés' forces. From this place, the attacking forces were divided with the objectives of taking Churubusco, controlling the rearguard in Tláhuac and Mixquic, and surrounding the lake to the west as far as Tlacopan. In this way, the siege of Tenochtitlan was completely closed.

Some Mexica forces attacked in isolated skirmishes, managing to capture a few more soldiers. Cortes climbed to the top of a teocalli to show the treasurer Julian de Alderete the city of Tenochtitlan, which was thirteen kilometers away. Alonso Perez noticed a certain melancholy in the conqueror's expression and said to him:

The Spanish caudillo responded:

On repeated occasions Cortés had asked the Mexica to surrender and they always refused. It was the eve of the final attack.

Site of Tenochtitlan

Having controlled the east, northeast and south, Cortés did not hesitate to reaffirm his positions in Tlacopan (Tacuba), Azcapotzalco, Tenayuca and Cuautitlán. The objective of isolating the city had been achieved and now it was necessary to coordinate a simultaneous attack on the city from all access points, as well as the assault supported by the brigantines he had been building.

Shortly before beginning the siege of the city, Antonio de Villafaña, still loyal to Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, made a plan to assassinate Cortés and the captains Sandoval, Alvarado and Tapia. Villafaña was soon discovered and sentenced to be hanged, so the deed had no further repercussions.

After the incident, Cortés began to regroup forces; brigantines were ready in Texcoco; he requested men from Chalco, Tlalmanalco; he sent messengers to Xicohténcatl Huehue and asked for reinforcements from Tlaxcala, Cholula and Huejotzingo. Among the Tlaxcalan captains traveled Xīcohténcatl Āxāyacatzin (the son), who had never wanted to be allied with Cortés.

Pedro de Alvarado was assigned to lead Tlacopan. Cristóbal de Olid with the support of Andrés de Tapia, Francisco Verdugo and Francisco Lugo for Coyoacán. Gonzalo de Sandoval, supported by Luis Marín and Pedro de Ircio, for Iztapalapa. Hernán Cortés was in command of the brigantines from Texcoco.

Before the attack began, it was known that Xicohténcatl was not in his position, probably because he was coordinating his forces or carrying out stockpiling tasks. Cortés took advantage of the occasion to accuse him of treason and sentenced him to death by hanging on May 12, 1521.

Cortés had always distrusted the Tlaxcalan captain, who had put up strong resistance in the wars they had fought before becoming allies, and with this preventive action he wanted to eliminate the possibility that his strongest allies would turn against him.

The order was given to cut off the fresh water supplies that reached Mexico-Tenochtitlan from Chapultepec, the Mexica tried to prevent it in a fierce combat that they lost. The battles began, by the waters of Lake Texcoco, by the causeways and bridges in a coordinated manner. Sandoval also covered the area of Tepeyac. At the beginning the casualties on both sides were similar, both attackers and defenders had organized their actions. The strategy of the conquerors was to destroy the bridges and barricades of communication to the island of Mexico-Tenochtitlan and with the brigantines to provoke fires in the populations, in such a way that there was no way of supplying food and water to the besieged. The strategy of the Mexica was to rebuild and defend the passage of bridges and barricades, from time to time they sent squads to counterattack the conquistadors' barracks. Contrary to the Mexica customs, who usually did not fight at night, the confrontations took place at all hours.

Díaz del Castillo recounted in his chronicle that "every day there were so many battles (not always victories) that if I had recounted them all it would seem like a book of Amadís or Caballerías. There were ninety-three days of siege..." The lack of water and food had an effect... "I say that in three days and nights, in all three roads, full of men and women and children, they did not stop coming out and so skinny and yellow and dirty and stinking, that it was a pity to see them...".

On the other hand, López de Gómara related in his chronicle that at the end of the siege "the Mexica only fed on roots, drank brackish water from the lagoon, slept among the dead and were in perpetual hedentine, they never wanted peace".

Fall of Tenochtitlan

The last external offensive of the forces loyal to the Mexica came from the Malinalcas, Matlatzincas and Cohuixcas. Cortés sent forces under Andrés de Tapia and Gonzalo de Sandoval to stop their advance.

The Spanish conquistadors thought that the Mexica were totally weakened and made a general incursion into the city. In a skirmish Cortés was captured, but was bravely rescued by Cristóbal de Guzmán, who in order to save Cortés' life fell prisoner in the hands of the Mexica. In frank retreat, some other Spaniards were taken prisoner.

In accordance with Mexica war customs, the prisoners were sacrificed to their gods on top of their temples. Powerless, their comrades were able to observe the events from afar, recognizing them by the whiteness of their skin. However, the fact gave courage to Pedro de Alvarado, who, in his eagerness for revenge, placed himself in the vanguard for the final assault.

At the end of the siege, which lasted three months, Pedro de Alvarado took the plaza of Tlatelolco. The remaining Tenochcas faced the last battles and it was then when the conquistadors could observe, horrified, that the Mexica had not only sacrificed the prisoners: besides extirpating their hearts, they had torn the skin of the fallen Spaniards to decorate their temples or offer it to their god Xipe Tótec.

Some of the last Mexica lords and chiefs died in the scuffle. The most outstanding captains in the defense of the siege on the part of the Tlatelolcas were Coyohuehuetzin and Temilotzin, and on the part of the Tenochcas, Tlacutzin and Motelchiuhtzin. Cuauhtémoc met in Tolmayecan with his captains, intendants and principals to deliberate the imminent surrender.

On August 13, 1521, corresponding to the day "1 coatl" of the year "3 calli" Cuauhtémoc left Tenochtitlan in a canoe, probably with the intention of negotiating the surrender, but he was sighted and captured by Captain García Holguín, while the city fell into the hands of the Spaniards and their allies. When Cuauhtémoc was in the presence of Cortés, he pointed to the dagger that the conquistador carried on his belt and asked him to kill him, since he was unable to defend his city and his vassals, he preferred to die at the hands of the invader. This fact was described by Hernán Cortés himself in his third letter to Carlos I of Spain:

According to Hernán Cortés' estimates, the Spanish conquistadors, together with their Tlaxcalan, Texcocan, Huejotzinca, Chalca, Cholulteca and other allies, killed more than forty thousand Mexica during the last days of the siege. López de Gómara described in his work that "the siege lasted three months, had in it two hundred thousand men, nine hundred Spaniards, eighty horses, seventeen artillery shots, thirteen brigantines and six thousand boats. Fifty Spaniards and six horses died and not many Indians. Of the enemy, one hundred thousand died, without counting those killed by hunger and pestilence".

To celebrate the event, the Castilians gathered in the palace of the lord of Coyoacán Coapopocatizin, because in Tenochtitlan the stench was unbearable. They organized a banquet with wine, pork, turkey meat and corn tortillas in abundance. The next day they celebrated mass and sang a tedeum.

Texcocanos in the conquest

Tetzcoco (Texcoco) was an important city, the second in the Valley of Mexico, with the antecedent of an alliance with Tenochtitlan and Tacuba [90 years before the irruption of the Spaniards]. After the death of Nezahualcoyotl (1472) and later of his successor Nezahualpilli (1515), its power diminished while that of the Mexica increased.

Cacamatzin (nephew of Motecuhzoma Xocóyotl) assumed the position of new tlatoani, he had been part of the group that received Hernán Cortés in the Calzada de Iztapalapa (November 8, 1519) together with the lords of Coyoacán, Iztapalapa and Tacuba. According to Bernal Díaz del Castillo, the Spaniards assumed that Motecuhzoma was the emperor.

There is not enough information to know what happened inside the royal house of Texcoco during the invasion of the Spaniards, although they are:

-The historical works of Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxóchilt, the Compendio histórico del Reino de Texcoco and the Historia de la nación chichimeca that narrate the Spanish irruption from the perspective of the "Texcoco royal family".

-Relación de Tezcoco by Juan Bautista Pomar.

-Fragment 2 of the Codex Ramirez about the Texcocan princes.

Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxóchitl (1568-1648) was a descendant of the last lord of Texcoco, his great-grandmother Ana Cortés came from the royal house Acolhua, daughter of Hernando Ixtlilxóxhitl, son of Nezahualpilli. He is considered the "original chronicler" of the Texcocanos, studied at the Colegio de Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco, served as interpreter of the Court of Indians, died at the age of 80 years. He interpreted the ancient paintings and later developed the chronicles.

Regarding the Entrada de los Españoles en Texcuco (written in 1608), Fernando de Alva narrates that after the death of Cacamatzin during the battle of the Noche triste (Victorious Night), on December 31, 1520 Coanacochtzin was the new tlatoani. The reason for his designation is unknown because, when Cuitláhuac asked the Texcocans to whom the right to the kingdom corresponded, Yoyontzin (Coanacochtzin.

The tlatoani of Texcoco was in favor of Tenochtitlan where he moved, which took advantage of the princes Tecocoltzin, Yoyontzin and Ixtlilxóchitl who sought to be allies of Cortés. Before the vacuum of power in the Texcocan city Tecocoltzin assumed the position, to his premature death Ahuaxpictzatzin succeeded him who reigned a few days until Ixtlilxóchitl was named and was baptized with the name of Hernando Ixtlilxóchitl, "the only chief of the conquerors that was equal to Hernán Cortés" so that the fall of Tenochtitlan was "feat of Cortés and Ixtlilxóchitl".

After the attack on Chalco (April 5, 1521), the Spaniards began the journey to Texcoco to finish the 12 brigantines they would use in the battle for Tenochtitlan, on their way they faced the Mexica and their allies who carried out attacks "combined between the infantry and the navy", they survived due to the help of the Indians who showed them the wells to drink water, they arrived at Texcoco wounded and exhausted.

In Texcoco, the Spaniards assembled and armed the 12 brigantines that were carved in Tlaxcala. Although the cannons were a novel weapon of war, the Texcocanos had ample knowledge of the water system, that is to say; an advantage for the attack on Tenochtitlan. The chronicles state that Cortés "destroyed parts of the Coyoacán and Chapultepec aqueducts" with the intention of impeding the flow of drinking water to Mexico, an interpretation that corresponds to Cortés' version and not to the knowledge of the original inhabitants.

Eight thousand natives participated in the launching of the brigantines, who for 50 days "prepared the ditch". Would Cortés "have been able to do it without the native help? And without the brigantines, would he have been able to obtain the outcome we all know?

Most of the army that attacked Tenochtitlan was made up of Texcocanos, Tlaxcaltecas and Chalcas, which is why some historians say that it was "a war between Indians, between enemy peoples of Mesoamerica".

The Texcocanos, accustomed to forming alliances and maintaining power, to living with a system of laws, and where the tlatoani "ceased wars in case of famine", were allies of the Mexica, and because of the arrival of the Spaniards and their differences within the royal house, they chose to break the Triple Alliance and join the Europeans in order to continue as "a powerful city". Because of the arrival of the Spaniards and their differences within the royal house, they chose to break the Triple Alliance and join the Europeans in order to continue as "a powerful city". Therefore, betrayal corresponded to the type of power relations among Mesoamericans.

Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxóchitl's position implies considering his ancestor "victorious-winner together with Cortés against the true conquered-Mexicas".

As for Pomar's Relación de Tezcoco, it is an incomplete chronicle due to torn pages and missing illustrations, referred to as "one of the most amputated in the Latin American colonial archive". Juan Bautista Pomar highlighted the character of the lords of Texcoco prior to the irruption of the Spaniards, especially Nezahualpiltzintli and Nezahualcóyotl whom he described as "upright, courageous, peaceful tlatoque, unjustly forgotten", and Texcoco a place with laws, peaceful in spite of the wars with the other towns, where the natives "did not fear death if they did not do something 'infamous or affronting'", a 'just' society until the arrival of the Spaniards and the destruction of the memory they carried out by burning paintings, among other losses.

"The interpretation" of the Spanish irruption "resulted in a society that was not entirely fair, very different from the Texcocan society that was already extinct".

Although Texcocanos and Tlaxcaltecas defeated the Mexicas, with time their situation before the Spaniards was similar to the rest of the indigenous people. The Europeans destroyed the temples and palaces of the royal house of Texcoco, as well as the amoxcalli (library) that included data of the Mexica era, some poems of the tlatoanis managed to survive.

Restoration of the city and torment of Cuauhtémoc

Cortés was not interested in Cuauhtémoc's death at that moment. He preferred to use his recognition as tlatoani before the Mexica, although in reality he was already a subject of Emperor Carlos V and Cortés himself. He did so successfully, taking advantage of the initiative and power of Cuauhtémoc, to whom he restored the status of Mexica nobleman, respected and well treated but captive, to use his prestige and authority to govern the defeated, ensuring the collaboration of the Mexica in the work of cleaning and restoring the city. The first thing he ordered was to reestablish the supply of drinking water to the city. The reconstruction of Tenochtitlan was carried out in the European Renaissance style to later turn it into the capital of New Spain, which was the first viceroyalty of the Indies, under the name of Mexico.

The greed for the gold was not long in coming and not satisfied with three hundred and eighty thousand pesos of gold already melted into bars according to the chronicle of Díaz del Castillo, or one hundred and thirty thousand castellanos according to the chronicle of López de Gómara; the treasurer Julián de Alderete demanded the torment of Cuauhtémoc, so that he would confess where the rest of the treasure of Moctezuma Xocoyotzin was hidden. It was then that Tetlepanquetzaltzin and Cuauhtémoc's feet were rubbed with oil and placed near the fire. The former complained to Cuauhtémoc about the martyrdom and Cuauhtémoc replied: "Am I in some kind of delight or bath? Years later in Spain, Hernán Cortés was blamed for allowing the martyrdom.

The treasures were then counted and the fifth royal was separated, which included gold, pearls, silver, jars, plates, golden idols as well as figures of fish and birds, luxurious clothes of priests, exotic feathers, live animals such as birds, jaguars, and slaves. Alonso de Ávila and Antonio de Quiñónez were the ones who carried this cargo in three caravels, but they were assaulted by French corsairs commanded by Jean Fleury near the Azores Islands. The king's entire fifth was stolen and the Spaniards were taken prisoner. Ávila was released two years later.

The gold was distributed among the conquistadors. Discounting the payment to the crown, Cortés' percentage, the expedition expenses and the high payments of some captains, the sum to be distributed among the troops only reached seventy pesos, a ridiculous amount, since at that time a sword cost fifty pesos. The amount was ridiculous, since at that time a sword cost fifty pesos. In order to obtain new treasures and raise the spirits of the men, Cortés immediately organized new expeditions. In this way he avoided a rebellion.

The Spanish leader requested that friars or evangelizing priests be sent to Coyoacán, where his wife, Catalina Juárez "Marcaida" arrived. In the meantime, he settled in Coyoacán where his wife, Catalina Juárez "la Marcaida", who died shortly thereafter, arrived. When in 1522 the corresponding authorization was received in New Spain from the king, Hernán Cortés began assigning land to the soldiers and captains participating in the campaigns, using the encomienda system.

Michoacán Surrender

The Purepecha were enemies of the Mexica, however Cuitláhuac had sent messengers asking for help to the cazonci Zuanga, who, indifferent to the situation in Tenochtitlan, decided not to support them. Some of the Mexica messengers had arrived sick with smallpox, which caused an epidemic in the area. The successor of the Purepecha ruler was his eldest son Tangáxoan Tzíntzicha, to whom Cuauhtémoc also asked for help, but the refusal was more violent; the new cazonci ordered to kill the messengers.

Shortly after the news of the fall of Tenochtitlan at the hands of the Spaniards reached Tzintzuntzan, capital of the Purepecha people. reached Tzintzuntzan, capital of the Purepecha people. Tangáxoan Tzíntzicha assessed the situation and sent peace ambassadors to Coyoacán, who were well received by the Spanish conquistadors. Cortes showed off his military forces, horses, artillery and brigantines, the ambassadors were impressed and returned with the news to the Purepecha plateau.

The new cazonci and his advisors, in spite of the doubts they had, finally preferred to receive peacefully on June 25, 1522 Cristóbal de Olid, who led a force of forty horses, one hundred infantrymen and allied Indians. Tangáxoan Tzíntzicha delivered a large tribute in gold and silver, swearing obedience to the Spanish crown. This peace was later broken in late 1529 and early 1530 by Nuño de Guzmán, when in a cruel and greedy act he assassinated Tangáxoan Tzíntzicha, provoking the uprising of the Purepecha people.

Campaigns in Tuxtepec and Coatzacoalcos

In the area of Tuxtepec (Oaxaca) a garrison had been installed with soldiers from the Narváez expedition and some women. In the place inhabited by chinantecas and mazatecos, who had attacked the garrison killing a little more than sixty soldiers and the women. Cortés sent Gonzalo de Sandoval to the area and in a brief military campaign captured the leader of the natives, whom he tried and sentenced to death at the stake.

Through Captain Brionesa, Cortés summoned the Zapotec peoples to submit, but was unsuccessful in that first instance. It would be necessary a more reinforced campaign to achieve the dominion of the Mixtec-Zapotec zone.

Then, traveling through the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Gonzalo de Sandoval advanced towards Coatzacoalcos and Orizaba (Veracruz) and founded in June 1522 the towns of Espiritu Santo (Coatzacoalcos) and Medellin near present-day Huatusco, beginning to colonize the southern coast of what is now the state of Veracruz.

Campaign in Zacatula and Colima

Juan Alvarez Chico was in charge of taking Zacatula (Guerrero), however after establishing a village, an uprising took place and the Spaniards were defeated.

In turn, Juan Rodríguez de Villafuerte tried to conquer the Kingdom of Colliman, located in the area of the current Mexican state of Colima and headed for Caxitlán, the ancient capital located in Tecomán, but was repelled by Colímotl, chief of the Colimas.

Cortés sent Cristóbal de Olid to help Villafuerte, but this second attempt was also repelled. He changed his strategy and in 1523 sent Gonzalo de Sandoval with a larger number of fighters to subdue Colímotl. Finally the Spanish forces achieved victory.

On July 25, 1523, the Spanish conquistador Gonzalo de Sandoval founded in Caxitlán (Municipality of Tecomán) the primitive Villa de Colima and the first City Hall of western New Spain.

On the other hand, Olid and Villafuerte were sent to support the position of Zacatula, managing to subdue the region, and found a village in the current region of Acapulco. Years later the place became the main port of communication to the Asian continent and was a strategic point for trade.

In 1524 Hernán Cortés named Francisco Cortés de San Buenaventura as lieutenant and mayor of the town of Colima. Campaigns were carried out towards Cihuatlán (Jalisco), Autlán and Etzatlán, razing the towns that did not submit and assigning encomiendas among his companions. The area was inhabited by Caxcanes. The incursions reached the Santiago River in April 1525, but upon discovering that it was not an exploitable area, Francisco Cortés returned without leaving any Spanish establishments.

Campaign in Oaxaca, Tehuantepec and Tututepec

On November 25, 1521 Francisco de Orozco y Tovar concentrated his forces in Huaxyácac (Oaxaca) and established a village where the chaplain Juan Díaz officiated a mass. At first, they resisted and ambushed the Spanish forces; however, soon after, the Zapotecs allied with the Spaniards by paying tribute in exchange for an alliance against the Mixtec people, which favored the conquest of Oaxaca. From that region, the Zapotecs had sent an embassy to Cortés offering their friendship in exchange for being allies against the Mixtecs, who inhabited the region of Tututepec. They also reported the existence of gold in the area. By that time Cortés already knew about the incident of the French corsair where the king's fifth had been lost, so he appointed Pedro de Alvarado to go to the area with orders to rescue as much gold as possible. Alvarado met with Orozco's forces and advanced towards Tututepec to fulfill the mission, where he confronted the Mixtecs who were defeated after presenting strong resistance. On March 16, 1522 Orozco founded the town of Tututepec.

Panuco River Campaign

Francisco de Garay, governor of Jamaica, had sent two expeditions to the Pánuco River region under the command of Alonso Álvarez de Pineda and Diego de Camargo, which had failed in their attempt to colonize the area because they were attacked and repelled by the Huastecans. The survivors joined the forces of Cortés, to whom they also reported their defeat in the area. Cortés carried out a campaign in the huasteca zone entering through Coxcatlán, Chila, Tamuín, Tancuayalab, Tampamolón, finally defeating the Huastecans. Once the town of Oxitipa was subdued, he founded the town of Santiesteban del Puerto (Pánuco). Cortés appointed Pedro Vallejo as lieutenant general of the garrison.

Meanwhile, Garay obtained the title of adelantado granted by the Spanish crown to colonize the region and set out again on a third expedition. Surprised to find no trace of Camargo and encountering Cortés' soldiers, his expedition settled in Santiesteban del Puerto (Pánuco) with Vallejo. Gonzalo de Sandoval and Pedro de Alvarado took Garay to Mexico City where he met with Cortés, establishing a good relationship and the agreement that Garay's son would marry a daughter of Cortés. However, shortly after Christmas 1523 Garay died suddenly of flank pain (pneumonia).

When Garay died, the captains Juan de Grijalva, Gonzalo de Figueroa, Alonso de Mendoza, Lorenzo de Ulloa, Juan de Medina, Antonio de la Cerda, and Taborda did not want to obey Garay's son and the soldiers mutinied, stealing women, chickens and food from the natives in the area. The angry natives attacked the garrison and caused many casualties to the Spanish conquistadors. According to Díaz del Castillo's chronicle, at least six hundred Spaniards died, among them Pedro Vallejo. Cortes, who had a wounded arm, sent Gonzalo de Sandoval with cavalry, arquebusiers, Tlaxcalan and Mexica allies to control the uprising. The reprisals against the natives were forceful and the mutinous Spaniards were reprimanded and sent back to Cuba.

Guatemala Campaign

Cortés, always in search of gold, sent Pedro de Alvarado in December 1523 in command of a detachment of Spanish soldiers, allied with Cholultecas, Tlaxcaltecas and Mexicas to the region of Quauhtlemallan (Guatemala). His expedition passed through Tehuantepec and the Soconusco region peacefully, but had confrontations with the Quichés in Zapotitlán, Quetzaltenango and Utatlán. He soon realized that the area was divided into different peoples, the Quichés, the Cakchiqueles, Mames, Pocomames, and Zutuhiles. In his eagerness to conquer the area he allied with the Cakchiquel rulers Cahi Imox and Beleheb Qat and was finally able to defeat the Quichés, who were led by Tecún Umán. He settled in Iximché, from where he left to confront the Zutuhiles at Lake Atitlán, whom he also defeated. In this way he founded the town of Santiago de Guatemala, in the vicinity of Iximché on July 25, 1524. Gonzalo de Alvarado confronted the Mames in Malacatán, Huehuetenango and Zaculeu without completely subduing them but achieving a certain stability in the region.

Cristóbal de Olid's Campaign to the Hibueras

In 1523 King Charles I of Spain ordered Cortes to find the route, strait, passage or port to travel eastward to the Moluccas Islands in search of spices that would allow him to compete with the Kingdom of Portugal. For this reason or because of the eager search for gold, Cortes appointed Cristobal de Olid and sent him to the port of the Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz with orders to set sail with five ships and a brigantine to the south. Olid, influenced by soldiers dissatisfied with Cortés or blinded by ambition, met with Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar in Cuba, reaching an agreement to betray his captain. In Hibueras, Olid founded Puerto de Caballos and the Villa de Triunfo de la Cruz. Olid captured Gil González Dávila and Francisco de las Casas, however conditions became unfavorable when both prisoners wounded Olid. Soldiers loyal to Cortés overturned the situation and in 1524 Olid was sentenced to death. Cortés learned of the betrayal eight months later.

Campaign in Chiapas

Also in 1523 Cortés sent captains Luis Marín and Diego de Godoy to the regions of Centla, Chamula, Coatzacoalcos and Chontalpa because the tributaries of the encomiendas were in open rebellion. The Zoques and Toztziles were the ones who offered the greatest resistance to the Spaniards, but little by little they took the Chamula plazas, making a great advance in the region and reaffirming positions in Coatzacoalcos, Chontalpa, Acayucan, Huimanguillo, Cupilco and Xicalango. Five years later, in 1528, Diego de Mazariegos founded Ciudad Real de Chiapa near Chiapa de Corzo.

Campaign against the Zapotecs

Cortes had assigned Rodrigo Rangel and Pedro de Ircio to be responsible for the garrison of the Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz. Rangel asked Cortés for the assignment of some campaign and to be able to gain for himself some personal title. It was then that he assigned him to go to Cimatlán and Talatupán. Rangel was not considered a good captain by Cortés, so he supported him with the best soldiers to carry out this campaign. After failing in the first attempt, on February 5, 1524 Rangel began the second campaign in which the result was favorable to him. Hernán Cortés reported to Carlos I of Spain in his fourth letter of relation that the Mixtecs and Zapotecs had spears of 25 to 30 palms very thick and well made with which some Spaniards had died and that the work of conquest was not easy for being very rough lands.

Campaign in Tabasco

On March 25, 1519, Hernán Cortés founded the town of Santa María de la Victoria. When he continued his expedition to Veracruz, he left few soldiers with scarce supplies in defense of the garrison and soon they were defeated by the Chontal Mayans who set fire to the town. In 1523, Luis Marin left from the town of Espiritu Santo and engaged in combat with the indigenous Tabascans in the region of the Chontalpa and Cimatlan, but was unable to pacify the area or reconquer the town of Santa Maria de la Victoria. In a second attempt, Captain Rodrigo Rangel with one hundred soldiers, twenty-six crossbowmen, shotgunners and allied Indians held several battles in Copilco, Zacualco and Cimatlán, without being able to reestablish control in the town of Santa María de la Victoria. During this military campaign, in the area of Cimatán, the chronicler Bernal Díaz del Castillo was seriously wounded by an arrow in the throat. Finally in 1525, Captain Juan de Vallecillo carried out Cortés' order, restoring the garrison of Santa María de la Victoria, but Vallecillo fell ill and died without achieving total control of the area. Cortés then appointed Baltazar de Osorio, who arrived in 1527, but failed in his attempt to pacify the province.

In 1528 Francisco de Montejo arrived at Santa María de la Victoria with the title of Mayor of Tabasco to establish his royalty and exercise his position, initiating an intense campaign to subdue the Indians of the province of Tabasco, managing to pacify the Grijalva area and open a safe road to Chiapas. In 1530, Montejo sent Alonso de Avila towards the zone of the Usumacinta, who crossed the jungle and managed to found the village of Salamanca de Acalan, but due to the fact that it was a hostile zone and of difficult access, a few months later he abandoned the garrison to continue his campaign in the Yucatan peninsula. It was until 1535 when Francisco de Montejo y Leon "el Mozo" could finally achieve the partial control of the zone of Santa Maria de la Victoria, being named by his father lieutenant governor of Tabasco. In 1536 Franciso Gil, Pedro de Alvarado's lieutenant, raided from Guatemala to the east of Tabasco towards Pochutla, following the Usumacinta River and founded the town of San Pedro Tanoche. When "el Mozo" found out about this event, he advanced towards the area to defend his father's rights. Due to the fact that the population was in the middle of the jungle, incommunicado, and very far from the supply centers, "el Mozo" gave instructions to Lorenzo de Godoy to transfer the garrison to Salamanca de Champotón and thus continue with the Conquest of Yucatán. The total pacification of the territory of Tabasco would be achieved after numerous military campaigns, until 1564 when the Cimateco Indians were defeated, who were the last Tabascans to surrender to the Spaniards.

Cortés' voyage to the Hibueras and Cuauhtémoc's death

When Cortés learned of Cristóbal de Olid's rebellion, he decided to travel to the Hibueras despite having few Spaniards in Tenochtitlan. He decided to take Cuauhtémoc and other Mexica nobles with him on the journey, as a preventive measure against a possible uprising.

When crossing the Amazon River (a tributary of the Grijalva River), Cortés' troops had to build a series of bridges to cross the area of the current municipality of Candelaria, in the current state of Campeche. According to the chronicles of the Indies, the task was not an easy one. In the place he was received by the batab or halach uinik of Acalán, called Apoxpalón, who traded cocoa, cotton, salt and slaves. The meeting was peaceful and the local ruler helped the expedition to continue on its way. For his part, Cortés gave him a letter or safe-conduct to show to possible future Spanish expeditions, in which he stated the peace agreement reached.

Shortly after Cortés suspected a possible simultaneous uprising on the part of the Mexica both on the journey and in the city. For this reason, to the southeast of Xicalango, still within the jurisdiction of Acalán of the Chontal Maya, in a point called "Itzamkanac" the sentence and execution by hanging of the last huey tlatoani Cuauhtémoc was carried out. The lord of Tlacopan Tetlepanquetzal and most probably the lord of Tetzcuco Coanácoch were also executed. This event took place on February 28, 1525.

This preventive action was used in Spain as an argument against Hernán Cortés by the followers of Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar and has been criticized throughout the centuries by historians.

The journey continued and the expedition had contact with the Itza Maya in the vicinity of Tayasal. They were well received and Cortes met with the Halach Uinik Ah Can Ek (Canek). Cortés explained what had happened with the Mexica power, and the halach uinik did not yet have the news of Tenochtitlan but he told him about the news of wars that had happened with the Chontal Mayas of Centla with the dzules (white men). Cortés explained that he was the captain of those wars and tried to convince them to convert to Christianity. Given the safety of the city and the number of Mayan inhabitants, Cortés preferred not to carry out any military action and said goodbye to the Itzáes, leaving a wounded and dying horse that Ah Can Ek promised to take care of. In 1618 the Franciscan missionaries found the Mayan descendants worshipping a horse made of wood.

The expedition continued on the road for more than thirty days on a rough and winding route to Nito (Guatemala), where they were not well received by the natives. After a small skirmish they settled on the site for a few days. Cortés sent a small group to request a boat so they could continue their journey by sea to Naco (Las Hibueras). When the boat reached Nito he was informed that Cristóbal de Olid had already been executed.

Arriving at Naco, Cortés met with his captains and assessed the news coming from México-Tenochtitlan, where the Spaniards had mutinied. He immediately sent Gonzalo de Sandoval back.

In the area, the neighboring towns of Papayca and Chiapaxina had received the Spaniards in a friendly manner, but soon after, conditions changed and confrontations began. Cortés managed to capture the main lords called Chicuéytl, Póchotl and Mendexeto to negotiate peace in exchange for the life and freedom of the prisoners. Those of Chiapaxina surrendered, but the natives of Papayca continued the hostilities. The leader named Mátzal was captured and hanged. Another leader named Pizacura was also captured, whom Cortés kept in captivity, but hostilities continued. In the vicinity Cortés founded the town of Trujillo on May 18, 1525 and appointed Juan de Medina as mayor. However, in the vicinity of the area the Lenca, allied with the Caras and led by the Lenca leader Lempira, resisted the conquest for twelve years. In 1537 during the conquest campaigns of Francisco de Montejo, Captain Alonso de Cáceres arranged a meeting to negotiate peace, however the meeting was a trap and an arquebusier assassinated the indigenous leader.

Spanish forces led by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, founder of Nicaragua and namesake of the discoverer of Yucatán, who was under the orders of Pedro Arias Dávila (Pedrarias), arrived in the town of Trujillo. Hearing that the area was rich in precious metals, Cortés became interested in mining and conquest actions. He was preparing his expedition to Nicaragua when Fray Diego de Altamirano arrived with news about the situation in Mexico City, so he preferred to cancel his expedition and return by sea to San Juan de Ulua. He sent his soldiers to Guatemala to populate the area and give support to Pedro de Alvarado, and departed from the town of Trujillo, on April 25, 1526.

The dispute between Cortés and Velázquez to obtain the right to govern the conquered territories had been studied in May 1520, before the fall of Tenochtitlan, by the Council of Castile. On that occasion it was determined to postpone the verdict so that the parties involved could present more evidence and arguments.

Fray Benito Martín continued to transmit complaints about Cortés to Bishop Juan Rodríguez de Fonseca so that he would support Velázquez, but the War of the Communities of Castile had attracted the attention of the entire kingdom. It was not until April 1521 that Fonseca arrested the procurator Alonso Hernández Portocarrero under the trumped-up excuse of having seduced a woman named María Rodríguez eight years earlier. Portocarrero was never released and died in prison. The next step of the bishop of Burgos was to appoint the veedor of Santo Domingo, Cristóbal de Tapia, as governor, replacing Cortés' captaincy. Although Cardinal Adriano de Utrecht distrusted Fonseca, he authorized the appointment, as he was concerned about the events related to the speech of Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms.

In May 1521 Diego de Ordás and Alonso de Mendoza arrived in Seville with a shipment of gold and carrying the second letter of relation from Cortés. The gold was confiscated by the Casa de Contratación, but the emissaries managed to flee and contacted Francisco de Montejo. Together they managed to meet with Cardinal Utrecht and showed him the letter addressed to Carlos I. In the document, Cortes used the name New Spain for the first time. He had thought it was a convenient name to baptize the recently conquered territory, due, among other arguments, to the similarity of climates with Spain.

In addition to notifying the progress of the conquest, the emissaries informed the cardinal of the confiscation of the treasure that had taken place in Seville and of the orders that Fonseca had issued to close the way to Ordás and Mendoza. Utrecht's distrust increased, because he had also heard rumors of the Bishop of Burgos' pretension to marry his niece to Velázquez. Following the accusations, the cardinal investigated the facts and ordered Fonseca to abstain from intervening in the affairs of Cortés and Velázquez. The orders issued by the bishop were revoked, and the embargoes of Seville were also released.

In any case, the instructions sent to Cristóbal de Tapia arrived in Santo Domingo at the end of the summer of 1521. Tapia was ordered to take over the governorship of the territory, replacing Cortés. In spite of the fact that the Audiencia of Hispaniola was not in agreement with the determination, Tapia traveled to the Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz and was received by the mayor Rodrigo Rangel and the alderman Bernardino Vázquez de Tapia in December 1521. Messengers were sent with the news to Coyoacán, where Cortés was already residing.

With his usual diplomacy in these situations, Cortés sent a letter of welcome to the veedor. The missive was carried by Fray Melgarejo and in it he explained that the works of conquest had not been concluded, and therefore, he excused himself for not being able to attend the interview personally. The procurators of the towns of Vera Cruz and Segura de la Frontera, colluded with the plan, echoed the assertions of their captain. They attentively recognized Tapia's authority, as well as the royal instructions, but asked him to withdraw for the good of the conquest works. Tapia had no choice but to agree, and sailed back to Hispaniola. Almost immediately Juan Bono de Quejo arrived from Cuba. Velázquez had sent him with letters in which the name of the addressee was a blank space to be filled in. The documents were signed by Bishop Fonseca and offered benefits to those who agreed to recognize Cristobal de Tapia as the new governor. To Velázquez's misfortune, the veedor had left for Hispaniola, where he had determined not to interfere any longer, for the good of the conquest.

In January 1522, Cardinal Utrecht was appointed successor to Pope Leo X. From then on, the affairs of the Indies were attended to by the treasurer of Castile, Francisco Pérez de Vargas. The new pope, Adrian VI, ratified to Emperor Charles V, the bull Exponi nobis fecisti and the intention to send friars of the mendicant order and friars minor of the regular order to the territories recently conquered by Hernán Cortés.

In March 1522, news of the subjugation of the city of Mexico-Tenochtitlan had already arrived. Charles I organized a new committee that was the antecedent of the Council of the Indies. It confirmed the decision of Adrian VI to exclude Bishop Fonseca from the affairs of New Spain. Among the members who participated on this occasion were Doctor Diego Beltrán, Licentiate Francisco de Vargas, Chancellor Mercurino Gattinara, Commander of the Order of Santiago Hernando de la Vega, Royal Councilor Lorenzo Galíndez de Carvajal and the Flemish councilors Charles de Poupet, Lord de la Chaulx, and De La Roche.

In order to reach conclusions, the committee analyzed the letters of Diego Velázquez, the complaints of Vázquez de Ayllón, the report of Cristóbal de Tapia, the letters of Hernán Cortés and the letters signed by the procurators of the Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz. Likewise, several witnesses were interviewed, among the most important were Andrés de Duero, Benito Martín, Diego de Ordás, Alonso de Mendoza and Francisco de Montejo.

It was determined that there was no reason for Diego Velázquez to treat the conquest as his own, since he had only spent part of the money to finance the enterprise and that could be reimbursed by Cortés, as long as the governor demonstrated that it was his own money and not that of the crown. It was also concluded that the document with which he had named Cortés as captain was invalid because it lacked authority.

On October 11, 1522, Hernán Cortés was officially named "adelantado, repartidor de indios, captain general and governor of New Spain". Cortés was obliged to reimburse the expenses incurred by Diego Velázquez. The latter was instructed not to interfere in Cortés' affairs again and was ordered to present a proof of his conduct. Four days later, on October 15, 1522, a royal decree was signed in which Alonso de Estrada was appointed as royal treasurer of New Spain, Gonzalo de Salazar as factor, Rodrigo de Albornoz as accountant and Pedro Almíndez Chirino as overseer to assist Hernán Cortés in his government.

The first friars who traveled to New Spain in 1523 were Juan de Aora, Juan de Tecto, and Pedro de Gante. In May 1524 the Franciscans Martín de Valencia, Toribio de Benavente "Motolinía", Francisco de Soto, Martín de Jesús, Juan Suárez, Antonio de Ciudad Rodrigo, García de Cisneros, Luis de Fuensalida, Juan de Ribas, Francisco Ximénez, Andrés de Córdoba and Juan de Palos, known as the twelve apostles, arrived at San Juan de Ulúa. In 1528 Juan de Zumárraga was named the first bishop of New Spain.

Due in part to Cortés' frequent absences and also to permanent intrigues, Alfonso de Aragón y de Estrada, Rodrigo de Albornoz and Alonso de Zuazo substituted Cortés on several occasions between 1526 and 1528. Due to the same intrigues and in order to take power away from Hernán Cortés, on December 13, 1527, the government was entrusted to the first Royal Court of Mexico, presided over by Beltrán Nuño de Guzmán and four judges, which took office in the first days of 1528. That same year, Charles I of Spain also appointed Nuño de Guzmán as governor of the province of Pánuco and as captain general of New Spain in 1529. The new governor behaved as a staunch enemy of Cortés, going so far as to arrest Pedro de Alvarado just because he spoke well of the conquistador.

In 1529 Charles I ordered Cortés to return to Spain and received him in Toledo. The king no longer returned him the position of governor of New Spain, but named him "marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca", with twenty-two villas and twenty-three thousand vassals. After this Cortés married again, this time to Juana de Zúñiga, daughter of the Count of Aguilar and niece of the Duke of Béjar, and in 1530 he returned to Mexico with the task of organizing expeditions to the South Pacific.

Nuño de Guzmán began a bloody campaign, besieging villages, razing crops, torturing and executing the chiefs of the towns. He broke the peace with the Purepecha cazonci Tangáxoan Tzíntzicha, whom he assassinated. His people revolted and were subdued. Nuño de Guzmán continued his campaign through the current territories of the states of Nayarit, Jalisco, Colima, Aguascalientes and parts of Sinaloa, Zacatecas and San Luis Potosí, founding the kingdom of Nueva Galicia. It was seven years until complaints caused the Spanish Crown to prosecute him and send him back to Spain as a prisoner in shackles.

On April 17, 1535, the Viceroyalty of New Spain was created and Antonio de Mendoza was appointed viceroy, governor, captain general and president of the Royal Audience of Mexico. During his period, exploratory voyages were supported. Hernán Cortés carried out expeditions to the Baja California peninsula; in 1540, Francisco Vázquez de Coronado led an expedition to the current territories of northwestern Mexico and southwestern United States; in 1542 Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo carried out an expedition to the coasts of the current cities of Los Angeles and San Diego in California. The conquest was over. The colonial era proper had begun.

Thus, with what has been called the Conquest of Mexico, the territory of what would become New Spain was forged from the expedition of Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, discoverer of Yucatán in 1517, the expedition of Juan de Grijalva in 1518 and the military campaigns of Hernán Cortés and his captains from 1519 to 1525. There were still some territories to be added to the growing Spanish dominion in North America and what is known today as Mexico:

Baja California

Between 1532 and 1539, expeditions organized by Hernán Cortés began to travel to the Gulf of California without achieving any success in the colonization of the Baja California peninsula. Around 150 years passed before the Jesuit Missions on the Baja California peninsula began to establish themselves and to evangelize the Pericúes, Guaycuras and Cochimíes towards the end of the 17th century. However, even at the beginning of the 18th century, the missions were the target of attack by the natives who had been harassed by the soldiers and colonizers in the episode known as the "rebellion of the Pericúes".

Nueva Galicia

In the west Nuño de Guzmán conducted bloody campaigns against the Purépechas, Pames, Guamares, Zacatecos and Guachichiles, managing to establish the kingdom of Nueva Galicia in 1531. The position was of great strategic importance to continue the conquest towards the northwest, but the indigenous peoples rebelled in 1541 in the episode known as the "War of the Mixtón". The Caxcanes, Nayeríes (Coras) revolted and defeated Cristóbal de Oñate in a convincing manner. The viceroy requested help from the experienced conquistador and captain Pedro de Alvarado, who at that time was governor, captain general and adelantado of Guatemala. Alvarado (who was nicknamed "Tonatiuh" or Sun God by the natives because of his blond hair) went to the area to confront 15,000 Caxcans led by Tenamaxtle, but died on June 12, 1541 when he was accidentally run over by a horse of an inexperienced Spanish rider in Nochistlán. The rebellion was subdued until 1542.


The Conquest of Yucatán carried out by Francisco de Montejo with the help of Alonso de Ávila, both experienced former captains of Cortés, began in 1527. This was also a very difficult task. The first campaign carried out in the east of the peninsula between 1527 and 1529, as well as the second campaign, carried out in the west of the peninsula between 1530 and 1535, were repelled by the Mayan tribes, who in organized form attacked the Spanish positions in the royal city of Chichén Itzá.

Francisco de Montejo, who had achieved the title of "adelantado" for the Yucatán peninsula, was also interested in the governorships of Guatemala, Chiapas and Tabasco, which distracted his attention for five years, so he suspended conquest activities between 1535 and 1540.

It was Francisco de Montejo y León "el Mozo" and Francisco de Montejo, "el Sobrino" who managed to gradually subdue each of the Maya tribes in each jurisdiction (Kuchkabal) of the ah Canul, tutul xiúes, cocomes, cheles, cupules, and others in a third campaign that began in 1540 and ended in 1546.

Francisco de Montejo joined his son and nephew in San Francisco de Campeche in 1546 to exercise his governorship, but a new rebellion of the Mayan tribes broke out in the region, so the Montejos had to reconquer the entire eastern part of the peninsula for another year, achieving their goal in 1547.

It was not until 1697, when Martín de Ursúa was able to subdue the Mayan tribes of the Itzáes and the Ko'woj (Couohes) in Lake Petén Itzá to which they had retreated.

New Biscay and New Mexico

The excursions of Hernando de Soto and Francisco Vázquez de Coronado north of the Rio Bravo between 1539 and 1542 were a great advance in the exploration of the present southern territory of the United States, but they did not achieve the desired success in colonizing it.

It was until the expeditions of Francisco de Ibarra, between 1562 and 1565, when the cáhitas, acaxees, totorames, pacaxes and xiximes, who were the inhabitants of the current state of Sinaloa, were subdued. With this, the towns of San Juan Bautista de Carapoa and San Sebastián (Concordia) were founded to exploit the silver mines of Copala, Pánuco, Maloya and San Marcial, establishing the first territorial limits of Nueva Vizcaya.

In 1595 King Philip II authorized the colonization of the territories located north of the Rio Grande River. In 1598, Juan de Oñate crossed the northern pass, where the cities of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez are located today, to go to the territories of the current states of New Mexico and Texas, thus beginning the colonization and subjugation of some native peoples such as the Zuñi, Hopi, Wichita and Acoma.

When he did not find the riches he was looking for, he advanced to the current territories of Arizona, Kansas, Oklahoma and the Gulf of California, managing to find some silver mines. He was accused of punishing the Acoma with excessive force, so in 1613 he was banished in perpetuity from the territory of New Mexico. The silver mines discovered were not as attractive as expected and the first settlers gradually abandoned the area, but with the founding of Santa Fe, "the royal road inland" was extended.

New Kingdom of Leon

Towards the northeastern part of the current territories of Tamaulipas, Coahuila and Nuevo Leon, different nomadic hunter-gatherer tribes inhabited the region. Among them were the Azalapas, Guachichiles, Coahuiltecas and Borrados, but the colonizers identified them according to different physical characteristics, tattoos and mode of behavior in up to 250 tribes. Some of the names assigned were: the amapoalas, ayancuaras, bozalos or negritos, cuanaales, catujanes or catujanos, gualagüises, gualeguas and gualiches.

Alberto del Canto explored the region and founded the Villa de Santiago de Saltillo in 1577. Shortly after he found a valley where he established the village of Santa Lucia, which was considered the first foundation of the present city of Monterrey. In 1579 King Philip II authorized Luis de Carvajal y de la Cueva to carry out the conquest, pacification and colonization of what would be called the New Kingdom of Leon. In 1582, in the vicinity of Santa Lucia, he founded the village of San Luis Rey de Francia, which was considered the second foundation of Monterrey. His lieutenants were Felipe Núñez for the Pánuco area, Gaspar Castaño de Sosa for the northeast, and Diego de Montemayor in the center.

Carvajal founded the town of León, the town of San Luis and the town of La Cueva, but in 1588 the towns were attacked by the natives. In 1588 Diego de Montemayor was named lieutenant and governor of Coahuila and in 1596 he founded the city of Nuestra Señora de Monterrey. At the end of the XVII century a group of Tlaxcaltecas was taken to pacify the natives of the region as well as to teach them agriculture; nevertheless, the attacks to the cities were constant and caused problems to the colonizers until the beginning of the XVIII century, to the extent that the mining production and some of the cities were abandoned.

Later in the viceregal period of New Spain, the New Kingdom of León was divided into three regions: the colony of Nuevo Santander, which corresponds to a large extent to the current state of Tamaulipas; the Nuevo Reino de León itself, which corresponds practically to the current state of Nuevo León; and Nueva Extremadura, which is the current state of Coahuila.


  1. Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire
  2. Conquista de México
  3. López de Gómara, op.cit. cap. CXXXVII, p.217«Como Cortés tuvo 200 000 hombres sobre México»
  4. a b Diego Muñoz Camargo. Historia de Tlaxcala
  5. Clodfelter, 2017, p. 32.
  6. ^ Teoría de la bandera.Guido Villa.1974 "The companies portentous discovery and conquest of the New World, met under the banners of Castile incarnate". Las portentosas empresas del descubrimiento y la conquista del Nuevo Mundo, se cumplieron bajo los encarnados pendones de Castilla.
  7. ^ "Indigeniso e hispanismo". Arqueología mexicana. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 20 October 2015. (Spanish)
  8. ^ a b Thomas, Hugh. Conquest: Montezuma, Cortes, and the Fall of Old Mexico, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993), 528–529.
  9. ^ a b c Clodfelter 2017, p. 32. sfn error: no target: CITEREFClodfelter2017 (help)
  10. ^ Diaz, B., 1963, The Conquest of New Spain, London: Penguin Books, ISBN 0140441239: states that Cortes's men lost all the artillery they had initially arrived with during La Noche Triste.
  11. (en) Hugh Thomas, Conquest : Montezuma, Cortés, and the fall of Old Mexico, New York, Simon & Schuster, 1993 (ISBN 978-0-671-70518-3), p. 528–529
  12. Gruzinski 1988, p. 76.
  13. Graulich 1994, p. 255.
  14. Thomas 1993, p. 89.
  15. Grunberg 1995, p. 16.
  16. Hugh Thomas: Die Eroberung Mexikos. Cortés und Montezuma. 1998, S. 106.
  17. a b Hugh Thomas: Die Eroberung Mexikos. Cortés und Montezuma. 1998, S. 127.
  18. Ross Hassig: Mexico and the Spanish Conquest. 2006, S. 16.

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