Hernan Cortes Facts

Here are some facts about Hernan Cortes.

  • Hernan Cortes was a Spanish explorer and soldier who was born in 1485. He became an important ‘Conquistador’, one of the men who conquered a vast American empire for the King of Spain in the 16th century.

  • Cortes was born in the town of Medillin, in Spain. He was originally a lawyer, but felt he could make his fortune in the Americas.
  • Although he sailed to Santo Domingo (now the Dominican Republic) in 1504, his first key achievement came in 1511, when he helped to conquer what is now Cuba with Diego Velázquez.
  • Cortes gained a reputation for daring and courage, which saw him sent to Mexico. Velázquez tried to cancel the trip, being suspicious of Cortes’s motives.
  • Cortes, ignoring the views of Velázquez, founded an outpost at what is now Veracruz in Mexico. From here, he built up a network of local allies.
  • The Aztecs were the major power in Mexico at the time. Their leader, Montezuma (also known as Moctezuma II), initially welcomed Cortes, and showered him with gifts. This is believed to be due to an Aztec prophecy which predicted the arrival of a ‘white god’ from the east.
  • Relations soon soured though, and Cortes took Montezuma hostage. When Velázquez sent an expedition in 1520 to capture Cortes, he was forced to leave the city of Tenochtitlán (now Mexico City) in order to meet it. He soon had to return though, after a revolt broke out in the city. Montezuma lost control of his people and the Spaniards were expelled from the city by the Aztecs.
  • In 1521, Cortes recaptured the city. This became the focus for a new Spanish colony, as more settlers arrived. Cortes conquered the rest of Mexico, inflicting great destruction on the native population.
  • Named as governor of ‘New Spain’ in 1523, Cortes was feared in his European homeland, as people began to suspect he was growing too powerful.
  • In 1528 he returned to Spain, and had his powers limited, before he went back to Mexico.
  • He returned to Spain for good in 1541, after exploring other regions of Central America. He died six years later, near Seville.
  • Many texts spell his name with a z – Hernan Cortez.
  • Very little is known about the early life of Hernan Cortes.