Hernan Cortes

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Conqueror of Mexico, b. at Medellin in Spain c. 1485; d. at Castilleja de la Cuesta near Seville, 2 December, 1547. He was married first to Catalina Xuares, from which marriage there was no issue, and, after her death, to Doña Juana de Zuñiga, niece of the Duke of Bejar. From this union there sprang four children, one son (Martín) and three daughters. His parents were Martín Cortés de Monroy and Catalina Pizarro Altamirano, both of honourable extraction, belonging to the middle class of nobility, but not wealthy. They sent their son to school at Salamanca when he was fourteen years of age, but study was irksome to him, his restless and ambitious temper chafed under restraint, and he returned home much to the displeasure of his parents. As he was the only son, they looked upon him as their hope and future support, and had wished that he would adopt the profession of the law. Dissatisfied at home Cortés turned his eyes to the newly discovered Western world, and after an unsuccessful attempt to embark for the West Indies with Ovando, succeeded in reaching Española in a craft commanded by one Quintero, who signalized himself during the voyage by trying to deceive his superiors and reach the New World before them in order to secure personal advantages. It may be that the example of Quintero was a school for Cortés in his subsequent career. The life Cortés led in the Antilles was that of the military man of his time, with intervals of rest on such estates as he gradually acquired. He was a favourite of both Ovando and Velazquez, but he quarrelled with the latter, deceived him and made him a mortal enemy. The consequences were very serious, for Velazquez was Governor of Cuba and a man of influence at court. The conduct of Cortés during his stay in the Antilles (1504-1519) revealed, besides military aptitude (which he had small opportunity of displaying), shrewdness, daring (in his dealings with Velazquez), and no excess of scruples in morals. In 1517 Cordova reached the coast of Yucatan, while commanding a modest expedition despatched by Velazquez. He was mortally wounded and only a remnant of his crew reached Cuba again, bringing back news of the superior culture of the people they had met. Another expedition was determined upon, and was carried out the year following under the leadership of Grijalva. It touched the coast of Mexico, and brought home metallic ob... ... middle of paper ... ...s, for or against him, are dispersed through the voluminous collection above cited and through the "Colección de Documentos de Indias", as well as in tyhe "Documentos para la Historia de México" of Ycazbalceta. Of his letters on the conquest there are a number of reprints and translations into various languages. See articles on AZTECS and MEXICO for the bulk of literature on the conquest of Mexico and the part played by Cortés in it. PETER MARTYR and especially OVIEDO were contemporaries; their statements therefore deserve particular attention, although absolute impartiality and reliability cannot be expected. On the sinister occurrence of the death of Ponce de León and of Catalina Xuarez the Documentos de Indias contain the authentic investigations. The early life of Cortés is described at length in a fragment from the sixteenth century, De Rebus Gestiis Ferdinand Cortesii, author unknown, published by YCAZBALCETA in his Documentos, I, first series. BERNAL DIAZ DEL CASTILLO gives many very valuable data on Cortés, but he must be classed among writers on the conquest. AD. F. BANDELIER Transcribed by WGKofron With thanks to St. Mary's Church, Akron, Ohio

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