Cortés Meets the Aztecs
By Alex Ossikine
Back in 1517, Spanish exploration had a great influence on the world. Spain had already conquered and settled Cuba and was moving on to Mexico. At this time a problem began to develop in Cuba. Indian laborers were dying of disease and there became to be less and less free land. To add to that, people still continued to come to Cuba searching for wealth and success. Many began to think of finding new lands in the West. They could gain new estates and enslave more Indians to work on them. A man named Córdoba got permission from Velásquez, the governor of Cuba, to sail for the Yucatán and explore the new land to find gold and enslave the Indians, as well as convert them to Catholicism. Córdoba convinced Velásquez that he would return with gold and slaves. Little did he know that the land was inhabited by thousands of vicious Indian warriors. Soon after his arrival on the Yucatán Peninsula, his army was ambushed, all were injured, and many died. On the sad journey home, Córdoba died from his wounds.
Velásquez did not grieve long for Córdoba?s failure, for he had heard great stories of great cities and lots of gold. Velásquez soon organized a new expedition to the Yucatán, putting his nephew, Juan de Grijalva, in charge. A fleet was quickly gathered and Grijalva set sail. Unlike when Córdoba arrived, Grijalva was greeted by thousands of heavily armed, fierce warriors. Yet these warriors did not stand a chance against powerful Spanish weaponry. With gifts of glass beads, the Spaniards were able to settle the conflict. Grijalva soon met the Aztecs, and they gave him many gifts of gold, in exchange for cheap Spanish trinkets. After exploring the land a bit more, they decided to go back to Cuba. Although Grijalva returned with lots of gold, Velásquez was not pleased because Grijalva had not colonized the Yucatán.
Cortés was next in line. He persuaded Velásquez, through connections, to appoint him captain-general of a new Yucatán expedition. He took every opportunity to gain more fame and respect in Cuba. The more people supported him, the more volunteers there will be to go on the dangerous journey. Cortés invested all of his money into buying supplies for the long trip, in hopes that he will return with riches. Velásquez invested some of his own money on the expedition. Cortés soon gathered a fleet and 350 men. In 1518 Cortés? fleet left Cuba and sailed off, stopping in Trinidad to collect supplies and more men. Velásquez became nervous, though, thinking of a possible mutiny. He sent out a man named Verdugo to arrest Cortés. Cortés reassured him that it was unnecessary and dangerous to do this. Nothing happened until Corés? fleet reached Havana. Velásquez again made an order to arrest Cortés, but Cortés convinced everyone else to ignore it.
Cortés landed in Cozumel. After a short fight, he put things in order and told the local Indians he wished to make peace. Pedro de...