In the 1500's Spanish "conquistadors" (the spanish word for conqueror) made expeditions to the New World to bring wealth back to Spain. The conquistadors main goal was to acquire the gold and silver the ancient tribes of the New World had in their possesion. The conquistadors also wanted to spread Christianity throughout these tribes, as the recent Spanish success at repelling the moors had led to a renewed religous fervor. Spain wantd to create extremely profitable colonies in the New World, and were perhaps inspired by the success of Colombus' expedition to the New World.

cortes.jpg
Hernando Cortes 1485 - 1547
Map of the Aztec Empire,circa 1519
Map of the Aztec Empire,circa 1519



The Aztecs were a tribe of people that are believed to have lived in the Northern part of Mexico, before eventually leaving and settling in what is now Mexico City. This settlement would become the Aztec epicenter, and would be known as Tenochtitlan. Most empires were based largely on trade, the Aztec empire was based on war. The Aztecs also sacrificed their own people to their god of sun and war, Huitzilopochtli. Another important god in the Aztec religon was Quetzalcoatl, who appeared in the form of a Tultec king and priest in the year 950. The Aztecs exiled him, and he vowed to return during a certain year in the Aztecs 52-year calendar. The king was described as fair-skinned and bearded, and in the year 1519, the fair-skinned and bearded Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes arrived in the year predicted as Quetzalcoatl's return. The emporer of the Aztecs, Montezuma II, decided against using force, and instead invited the supposed reincarnation of Quetzalcoatl graciously. The Spainiards enjoyed the king's welcoming for a week, but Cortes knew it was only a matter of time before the Spaniards wore out their welcome. They captured the emporer and transfered him to the building where Cortes and the other Spaniards were staying, thus making it appear as if Montezuma was still in control. A rival Spanish expedition in 1520 weakened Cortes' forces, and Cortes' control of the Aztecs was also weakened. The Aztec people revolted, mostly because of the mistreatment of the natives. Cortes urged Montezuma to go on a turret and give a speech urging peace to his people. They launch a barrage of stones in response, one of which struck Montezuma in the head and left him mortally wounded. Realizing it was no longer safe in Tenochtitlan, Cortes withdrew. He returned a year later, and with help from the Tlaxcala ( a long-time enemy of the Aztecs), recaptured Tenochtitlan permanently. The conquest of the Aztec people is complete when the city is captured.(Historyworld.net) The conquest of the Aztecs was the largest piece of land acquired by the Spanish, and Tenochtitlan would become Mexico City, a Spanish-controlled metropolis. Cortes would retire as a weathly and famous Spanish nobleman.(ucalgary.ca)

Francisco Pizarro
Francisco Pizarro


The Incan civilization was an empire thaat covered a large portion of the west coast of South America. The Incas did not keep written records of their history, as they had no form of written language. Most of what is known about the Incas comes from oral history, or accounts from the Spanish. The Incas implemented a massive highway system that connected all of the parts of their empire.(Nationalgeographic.com) The Incas used messengers to communicate, specifically by using special strings called quipu. "These strings required special “rememberers” to interpret what the strings meant. While quipu still exist today, their meaning died with the rememberers." (about-peru-history.com) The Incas were a polytheistic society, and believed their emporer was a direct descendant of their sun god. Architecture was the greatest achievement of the Incan civilization. The Incas building were made from stone that packed together extremely tight. Many Incan buildings, including famous discoveries like Machu Piccu, are still standing thanks to the brilliance of the Incan architecture. The Incan civilization was originally a small group of people, however, in 1438 Emporer Pachacutec came in to power. He ruled aggressively, and through military power, the Incan civilzation spread into the most powerful nation in South America for the next 200 years. When Pachatutec's sucessor Huanya Capac died, the Incan empire split into two factions, which were led by Capac's sons. The civil war would last until 1532. (about-peru-history.com) Atahualpa defeated his brother's army and had him executed. At that time the Incas heard word of the approaching Spaniards, but Atahualpa was not worried, because he did realise the power of the Spanish weapons and cavalry. Pizarro and his men trapped Atahualpa, who offered the Spaniards "13,420 pounds of gold, and 26,000 pounds of silver"(ucalgary.ca) in exchange for his release. Pizarro acceted, and when the gold and silver arrived, Pizarro's partners convince him to execute the Inca leader. (ucalgary.ca) Pizarro then appointed teenage prince Manco Inca Yupanqui to be the puppet
A Map of the Incan Civilization
A Map of the Incan Civilization
leader of the Incan empire, and the Inca people rejoiced. The Spanish then descended on the Incan
capital of Cuzco, raiding the palaces and taking women. In 1536, Manco tries to rebel, but his army is no match for the new weaponry of the Spanish, and he is defeated. Manco fled to the city of Vilcabamba, located deep in the jungle. Manco used guerilla warfare to great effect, but the location is eventually captured in 1572. The Inca's elaborate road system falls to ruin under Spanish control, and the bodies od former rulers are destroyed by decay.(National geographic.com) Pizarro's partner Almagro would eventually turn on him,and Pizarro would have him executed. Pizarro himself woould be executed in 1541, and King Charles I would place Cristobal Vaca de Castro as governer.



Francisco Vasquez de Coronado
Francisco Vasquez de Coronado

Francisco Vasquez de Coronado became friends with Antonio de Mendoza as a young man, and Mendoza took Coronado with him as an assistant when Mendoza was chosen to be the viceroy of Mexico. While with Mendoza Coronado would stop a slave rebellion and from a peace agreement with the Indians. Mendoza appoints Coronado governor of New Galicia in 1538. Mendoza had heard about the Seven Golden Cities of Cibola, from Cabeza de Vaca after he was shipwrecked off the coast of Florida. Mendoza sent Estaban, a slave who traveled with Cabeza de Vaca, and Fray Marcos de Niza. Fray Marcos talked to an Indian informant, who told him that the cities existed, so Fray Marcos told Mendoza that he personally saw the cities in the distance. (desertusa.com) Mendoza organized an expedition of "300 spainiards, 1,000 tlaxacan natives, and enormous herds of livestock"(pbs.org) to explore further, and also two ships under the command of Hernando de Alarcon. The expedition started along the west coast of Mexico, and proceeded north into what is now part of the western United States. In July 1540, Coronado arrives in Hawikuh, a pueblo belonging to the Zuni Indians. The Zunis had killed Estaban on his scouting expedition for Mendoza years earlier. when Coronado arrived, it was during the Zuni summer rituals. Coronado recited the requirimiento, the speech all conquistadors gave the native peoples they encountered, which stated the natives must convert to christianity, listen to the word of the pope, and follow the rule of
Coronado's Route
Coronado's Route
the king and queen of Spain. The requirimiento also states that if natives don't agree to this
"with the help of God we shall forcefully... make war against you... take you and your wives and children and shall make slaves of them." (pbs.org) The Zuni are enraged by this and begin to fire arrows at the Spanish, one of which comes very close to killing Coronado. The Spanish, who are much better equipped than the Zuni, invade hte pueblo and force the Zuni to flee. Coronado and the other spainiards find no gold inside of the Zuni pueblos, so they continue onwards.(pbs.org)
Coronado continued to send expeditions into much of what is now California and Arizona, Coronado's men would also explore much of present-day New Mexico, and they also explored much of the Grand Canyon. Coronado continued north into Kansas, searching for the mythical city of Quivra, but he found only a small group of Wichita Indians. Cornado returned to Mendoza with only a hundred men, the rest would return in the following months. Mendoza turne on coronad and called the expedition a failure. An official inquiry, standard post-expedition procedure, questioned Coronado's conduct, however, he was proven innocent. Coronado continued being the governer of New Galicia, until he was indicted in 1544 for "corruption, negligence, and atrocities against the Indians under his authority." (desertusa.com) He returned to Mexico City to work a small position for the local government, until his death later in the same year, a decade before a chronicle of his expedition was published, which should have been published immediately upon the return from the expedition. The chronicle of cronado's expedition can be found at http://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/resources/archives/one/corona1.htm.

Hernando de Soto
Hernando de Soto

Hernando de Soto spent his childhood in Jerez de los Caballeros, living with his family in their manor house. Hernando de Soto's parents wanted him to become a lawyer, but when Hernando de Soto was a teenager, he decided that he wanted to explore the Indies. In 1514, while only about fourteen years old, Hernando de Soto gained a spot in Pedro Arias Devila's expedition to the West Indies. Hernando de Soto quickly proved himself an execellent explorer, and made a large profit in Panama. He gained large sums of money through the slave trade, and through "successful partnerships with Hernán Ponce de León and Francisco Campañón."(britannica.com) De Soto gained control of Nicaragua in 1527, after defeating his archrival, Gil González de Ávila. This allowed to further expand his Indian slave trade, netting him even more profits.In 1530, de Soto lent Francisco Pizarro two ships for Pizarro's expedition into Peru. Devila would die 1531, and Pizarro would confirm the reports of gold, so De Soto decided it was time to enter the fray. De Soto was the leader of Pizarro's cavalry, an was a vital piece in the defeat of the Incas. The first european to make contact with the Incan emperor Atahuallpa was Hernando de Soto. Hernando de Soto befriended and protected Athuallpa, and was angered when Pizarro decided to execute, in spite of the ransom being paid. Hernando de
Soto grew dissatisfied with Pizarro, and returned to Spain, and even though he would return with only half of what Pizarro had, he would be one of Spain's wealthiest conquistadors. Upon return Hernando de Soto realised he wanted to expedition again, so he was commisioned to explore Florida, and he was also made governor of Cuba.(britannica.com)

Previous expeditions to Florida had failed because the leaders of these expeditions could not get the naties on their side, or wrestle the locations of their gold from them. In 1538 Hernando de Soto embarked with "10 ships and 700 men."(britannica.com) They landed in Florida in May of 1539. De Soto spent the winter in a small Indian village, before going north into Georgia. He continued westward through the Carolinas and Tennessee, he was being led by native guides he had captured. De Soto never did find the gold he had set out to find, but he found a large amount of pearls. De Soto would eventually reach a fortified Indian town called Mauvila. A battle between the Indians located there and the better armed Spanish resulted in severe losses for both sides. The Spainiards became the first europeans to see the Mississippi river, and Soto would shortly become severly ill with a fever. He would die in Louisiana, and Luis de Moscoso, De Soto's named successor, would lead the remainder of the expedition down the Mississippi River until they reached Mexico in 1543.
Hernando de Soto's Expedition
Hernando de Soto's Expedition










The Asiento System was "an agreement between the Spanish crown and a private person or another sovereign power by which the latter was granted a monopoly in supplying African slaves for the Spanish colonies in the Americas. The contractor (asentista) agreed to pay a certain amount of money to the crown for the monopoly and to deliver a stipulated number of male and female slaves for sale in the American markets." (britannica.com) The asiento system allowed the colonies to get large numbers of slaves for work require in the colonies. The asiento sytem was not limited to just the Spanish, as the spanish crown would enter into contracts with German, British, and Portuguese individuals during the period the asiento sysytem was in effect. The individuals involved were taxed heavily as a result of being under the system, but it could still be a very profitable endeavor to undertake, because of the booming market for the slaves and because it gave them a chance to acquire gold and silver that the slave trade was producing. The asiento system stayed in place until the 18th century.

Until the arrival of Euorpeans, the native peoples, such as the Incas and the Aztecs, had never come into contact with any european diseases. The natives had not built up an immunity to these diseases, whereas the Europeans had. This led to disease ravaging the native peoples. After the Spanish conquest of the Incan people, "95% of the native population"(pbs.org) would die off. Those numbers were too high to be the result of the Spanish trying to kill them, and it was discovered that it was due to european diseases, in particular smallpox. Europeans lived close to their livestock, so for years their bodies had adjusted and had become better protected against the animal-related diseases. The Incas used only llamas as livestock, and the llamas were not kept near people, so the Incas never were exposed to diseases from livestock. Just one slave brought near the Incan people, if the slave was infected with smallpox, could result in a masssie smallpox epidemic that could spread throughout the native peoples and kill them. The Spanish wouldn't expierience these losses, because of their immunity to these relatively common diseases.(pbs.org) The Aztec civilization befell a similar fate. Before the arrival of Cortes, there were an estimated 25 milliion people in Mexico, after the conclusion of the conquest, there were about 3 million. Cortes had fought with a group of spainiards sent to make sure he followed orders, during the battle one of Cortes' soldiers came into contact with a slave who had smallpox, now Cortes had an epidemic waitng to happen amongst his men. When the Aztecs fought the Spanish, this soldier was killed, and an Aztec caught the disease. Smallpox then spread like wildfire throughout the Aztec population. The Aztecs had never come into contact with smallpox, so they were not immune, and they knew no methods to treat it. The Aztecs would be decimated, losing a large portion of the population, as well as the emperor who replaced Montezuma. Ultimately, the largest cause of death to the native peoples during the conquests would be disease brought from the conquistadors. (aztec-history.com)


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Team of Killian K, Zack B.M.