Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hernan Cortes, Mayan Aztecs Civilization Downfall, Ritualistic Sacrifice, and Cannibalism

Hernan Cortes
Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro, 1st Marquis of the Valle de Oaxaca (1485 – December 2, 1547) was a Spanish conquistador who led an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire and brought large portions of mainland Mexico under the King of Castile, in the early 16th century. Cortés was part of the generation of Spanish colonizers that began the first phase of the Spanish colonization of the Americas.

Born in Medellín, Spain, to a family of lesser nobility, Cortés chose to pursue a livelihood in the New World. He went to Hispaniola and later to Cuba, where he received an encomienda and, for a short time, became alcalde (magistrate) of the second Spanish town founded on the island. In 1519, he was elected captain of the third expedition to the mainland, an expedition which he partly funded. His enmity with the Governor of Cuba, Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, resulted in the recall of the expedition at the last moment, an order which Cortés ignored. Arriving on the continent, Cortés executed a successful strategy of allying with some indigenous peoples against others. He also used a native woman, Doña Marina, as an interpreter; she would later bear Cortés a son. When the Governor of Cuba sent emissaries to arrest Cortés, he fought them and won, using the extra troops as reinforcements. Cortés wrote letters directly to the king asking to be acknowledged for his successes instead of punished for mutiny. After he overthrew the Aztec Empire, Cortés was awarded the title of Marqués del Valle de Oaxaca, while the more prestigious title of Viceroy was given to a high-ranking nobleman, Antonio de Mendoza. Cortés returned to Spain in 1541 where he died peacefully but embittered.

Because of the controversial undertakings of Cortés and the scarcity of reliable sources of information about him, it has become difficult to assert anything definitive about his personality and motivations. Early lionizing of the conquistadors did not encourage deep examination of Cortés. Later reconsideration of the conquistadors' character in the context of modern anti-colonial sentiment and greatly expanded concern for human rights, as typified by the Black Legend, also did little to expand understanding of Cortés as an individual. As a result of these historical trends, descriptions of Cortés tend to be simplistic, and either damning or idealizing.

First return to Spain (1528)
In 1528, Cortés returned to Spain to appeal to the justice of his master, Charles V. He presented himself with great splendor before the court. By this time Charles V had returned and Cortés forthrightly responded to his enemy's charges. Denying he had held back on gold due the crown, he showed that he had contributed more than the quinto (one-fifth) required. Indeed, he had spent lavishly to rebuild Tenochtitlán, damaged during the siege that brought down the Aztec empire.

He was received by Charles with every distinction, and decorated with the order of Santiago. In return for his efforts in expanding the still young Spanish Empire, Cortés was rewarded in 1529 by being named the "Marqués del Valle de Oaxaca" (Marquis of the Oaxaca Valley), a noble title and senorial estate which was passed down to his descendants until 1811. The Oaxaca Valley was one of the wealthiest region of New Spain, and Cortés had 23 000 vassals. Although confirmed in his land holdings and vassals, he was not reinstated as governor and was never again given any important office in the administration of New Spain. During his travel to Spain, his property was mismanaged by abusive colonial administrators. He sided with local natives in a lawsuit. The natives documented the abuses in the Huexotzinco Codex.

Return to Mexico
Cortés returned to Mexico in 1530 with new titles and honors, but with diminished power, a viceroy, Antonio de Mendoza, having been entrusted in 1535 with the administration of civil affairs, although Cortés still retained military authority, with permission to continue his conquests. This division of power led to continual dissension, and caused the failure of several enterprises in which Cortés was engaged.

On returning to Mexico, Cortés found the country in a state of anarchy. There was a strong suspicion in court circles of an intended rebellion by Cortés, and a charge was brought against him that cast a fatal blight upon his character and plans. He was accused of murdering his first wife. The proceedings of the investigation were kept secret. No report, either exonerating or condemning Cortés, was published. Had the Government declared him innocent, it would have greatly increased his popularity; had it declared him a criminal, a crisis would have been precipitated by the accused and his party. Silence was the only safe policy, but that silence is suggestive that grave danger was feared from his influence.

After reasserting his position and reestablishing some sort of order, Cortés retired to his estates at Cuernavaca, about 30 miles (48 km) south of Mexico City. There he concentrated on the building of his palace and on Pacific exploration. Remaining in Mexico between 1530 and 1541, Cortés quarreled with Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán and disputed the right to explore the territory that is today California with Antonio de Mendoza, the first viceroy. In 1536, Cortés explored the northwestern part of Mexico and discovered the Baja California Peninsula. Cortés also spent time exploring the Pacific coast of Mexico. The Gulf of California was originally named the Sea of Cortes by its discoverer Francisco de Ulloa in 1539. This was the last major expedition by Cortés.

Hernan Cortes

If you're a lover of 16th-century history, best steer clear of this. A drama documentary is always going to flounder trying to re-create the clash-of-civilisations story of Hernan Cortes's conquest of Mexico - it's on too horrific a scale. (Maybe Hollywood should try.) But at least Brian McCardie's gutsy performance in the Heroes and Villains strand gives us a flavour of what might have driven Cortes - a mixture of piety, dread and sheer, mad-eyed folly. Watching McCardie, hedged with re-enactments and computer effects, you can just about swallow that a deranged adventurer and a handful of men, with no authority from the King of Spain and supplies pinched from the Governor of Cuba, could bring down the Aztec empire, which included a city (Tenochtitlan) bigger than anything in Europe.

Heroes and Villains Part 1 of 6

Heroes and Villains Part 2 of 6

Heroes and Villains Part 3 of 6

Heroes and Villains Part 4 of 6

Heroes and Villains Part 5 of 6

Heroes and Villains - Hernan Cortes Part 6 of 6

Aztec Temple of Blood 5/5
An Aztec sacrifice of 20,000 people over a period of four days in 1411 is examined. The sacrifice consisted of a sacrificial priest cutting the person's skin beneath the rib cage, reaching up and cutting the arteries and veins attached to their heart and pulling it out. Then the body was pushed down the stairs of the altar. After an examination, it is proven that this many people could be sacrificed in such a small amount of time.

Aztecs: Inside the hidden empire 5/5
Brutal, Sophisticated, Misunderstood, Beneath the sprawl of modern-day Mexico City lie the once-glorious remains of the Aztec Capital of Tenochtitlan. From this teeming 15th-century hub, the Aztecs ruled a realm of fabulous architecture, advanced science and intricate artwork. But they are best known for their reliance on human sacrifice and violent conquest to control their world. Why, then, did a civilization capable of such beauty and accomplishment harbor such violence at its very heart? Join leading researchers on a journey from the magnificent past of North America's greatest empire to its poignant remnants today. Visit the ghostly ruins of Teotihuacan where the Aztec myth was born and through virtual-reality, see the long-vanished Tenochtitlan rise again in all its ceremonial splendor. Then, witness the arrival of the Spanish and the grisly excesses on both sides that ultimately led to the Aztecs' downfall. Aztecs: Inside the Hidden Empire reveals all the complex and surprising sides of this world of "blood and flowers." Now, renowned experts and breakthrough techniques reveal history's most sought-after the echo of ANCIENT VOICES. See lost worlds brought to life again through state-of-the-art virtual reality reconstructions, stunning location filming and evocative reenactments. And get closer than ever before to the extraordniary human minds behind the myths, mysteries and monuments.

The Aztec Massacre 5/5
Historical documentary focusing on the Aztec Empire. Between the 14th and the 16th century, the Aztecs dominated the lands of present-day Mexico, until the arrival of the Spanish brought their world to a sudden end. This film probes the mystery behind 400 dismembered bodies unearthed in the ruins of an Aztec city. Knife cuts and teeth marks on the bones indicate that the victims' flesh was stripped off and eaten. But who were these victims and why did they meet such a terrible fate?

1 comment:

Chris said...


My name's Chris Boreham, I'm contacting you from the BBC in the hope that you can assist us with an upcoming history programme.

If you could email me at, so we can discuss the topic further, I'd be very grateful.

Thank you for your time.

Kind regards