Hernan Cortes Fact File: Lifespan: 1485 - 1547 *** Full Name: Hernan Cortes de Monroy y Pizarro, 1st Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca *** Occupation: Spanish Conquistador *** Date of Birth: Hernan Cortes was born in 1485, the exact date is unknown *** Place of Birth: He was born in Medellin, Castile *** Family background: His father was Martin Cortes de Monroy and his mother was Catalina Pizarro Altamirano *** Early life and childhood: He grew up in Medellin *** Education: Hernan Cortes would have been educated by his mother and when he was fourteen he was sent to an uncle-in-law in Salamanca to study Latin *** Hernan Cortes died on December 2, 1547
Hernan Cortes Fact 1: Hernan Cortes was born in 1485 during the period in history when Portugal and Spain were exploring the oceans of the world and colonizing new lands. His father was an infantry captain called Martin Cortes de Monroy and his mother was Catalina Pizarro Altamirano
Hernan Cortes Fact 2: Having spent two years away from home studying he returned and although he did not enter the profession of his parents’ choice he, a legal career, his did however learn enough about the laws that would assist him in his future.
Hernan Cortes Fact 3: As a bored and mischievous sixteen year old boy he was fascinated by the stories of Christopher Columbus and the New World.
Hernan Cortes Fact 4: A distant relative who resided in the Americas had agreed to take Hernan Cortes in while he visited. Nicolas de Ovando was the newly appointed governor of Hispaniola. The trip however would have to be postponed as Hernan Cortes suffered a minor injury preventing him from travelling straight away.
Hernan Cortes Fact 5: Eventually he made the journey on a ship commanded by Alonso Quintero although he was not an altogether honest person and unfortunately Hernan Cortes may have picked up some of his not so honest qualities.
Hernan Cortes Fact 6: When he arrived in 1504 he registered as a citizen of Santo Domingo which would entitle him to land to farm and plot to build a home on.
Hernan Cortes Fact 7: Over the next five years Hernan Cortes became quite well established in the colony with the assistance of Ovando by making him a notary in the town of Azua de Compostela. Hernan Cortes would also become involved in the conquest of Hispaniola and Cuba and for his efforts he received a large parcel of land as well as Indian slaves.
Hernan Cortes Fact 8: During 1511 he would accompany Diego Velazquez on an expedition to master Cuba and once this was accomplished Hernan Cortes settled there and made himself quite a man of substance.
Hernan Cortes Fact 9: As time passed Hernan Cortes and Governor Velazquez’s relationship began to become strained. Apparently there was some suggestion that the was trifling with the affections of the sister-in-law of Velazquez and he was not happy. Hernan Cortes would eventually marry Catalina and hoped to put to rest any suspicions Velazquez may have had about him.
Hernan Cortes Fact 10: Velazquez had instructed Hernan Cortes to put together a party for an expedition and he managed in a month to gather supplies, ships and men and at the last minute Velazquez but another in command.
Hernan Cortes Fact 11: In 1518 he was given another chance, this time with an expedition to Mexico’s interior. Again Velazquez changed his mind but Hernan Cortes ignored his orders and went anyway.
Hernan Cortes Fact 12: He began his journey in 1519 with eleven ships, five hundred men and thirteen horses and a number of small cannon. They landed on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mayan territory. They would come upon a Spanish Franciscan priest by the name of Geronimo de Aguilar who had been held captive by the Maya before he made his escape but he had managed to learn the language and was able to assist Hernan Cortes with translations.
Hernan Cortes Fact 13: By March of 1519 he had formally claimed this land for the Spanish crown and proceeded on to Tabasco. Here he met with resistance from the natives but managed to put them down. As a peace offering he was given a gift of twenty young native girls of which he converted them all to Christianity.
Hernan Cortes Fact 14: One of these women would become his mistress and mother to his son. She was also able to converse in both the Chontal Maya and Nahuatl languages thereby enabling the captain to communicate more freely.
Hernan Cortes Fact 15: He took over Veracruz and placed himself directly under the orders of King Charles.
Hernan Cortes Fact 16: Having been received by Moctezuma initially, the situation would soon change and Hernan Cortes took him as a hostage. After the death of Montezuma, by whom is not entirely clear, Hernan Cortes headed for Tlaxcala. Eventually the siege of Tenochtitlan would end in a Spanish victory together with the destruction of the city.Hernan Cortes Fact 17: In 1522 his wife Catalina joined him in New Spain but tensions were high between the couple because she was the kinswomen to Velazquez and feelings were bad between him and the explorer. Shortly after her arrival she mysterious died but the true cause of her death and the person responsible, even though Hernan Cortes was investigated, never came to light. Under these circumstances Hernan Cortes was once more free to marry.
Hernan Cortes Fact 18: Having made a brief journey back to Spain he once more returned to Mexico this time with honors and titles and with less power
Hernan Cortes Fact 19: What he found when he returned was anarchy and after a period of time he was able to stabilize and establish order once more. His last major expedition would take place in 1536 and would to explore the northwestern part of Mexico
Hernan Cortes Fact 20: By 1544 heavily in debt and, although he attempted to make a claim on the Royal treasury, he left Spain empty handed and returned to Mexico.
Hernan Cortes Fact 21: Hernan Cortes died on December 2, 1547 of pleurisy aged sixty two years. His body was buried and reburied over several years but finally put to rest in New Spain where he was buried in the San Francisco de Texcoco church.
Influence & Legacy of Hernan Cortes: He would not become important to history until many decades after his death when the accounts of when the Spanish arrived in Mexico were written about. Only then did the name of Hernan Cortes, and his activities, begin to become public knowledge and of interest.
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