Hernan (also Hernando or Fernando) Cortes was born in Medellin, Estramadura, in Spain in 1485 to a family of minor nobility.
Cortes was sent to study law at the University of Salamanca. In 1501 He left school to fight in a military expedition but became
ill and was forced to stay behind. In 1504 he left to seek fortune in the West Indies, eventually joining Diego Velazquez in the
conquest of Cuba. Velazquez was a Spanish soldier and administrator who would later become governor of Cuba. Cortes
persuaded Velazquez to give him the command of an expedition to Mexico. And this is the beginning of Cortes’ legacy.
Cortes set out to Mexico on February 19, 1519, with about 600 men and 20 horses; despite the fact that Velazquez revoked
his permission for the expedition in fear Cortes would not recognize his authority once in position. One month later in March,
Cortes and his entourage landed in Mexico conquering the town of Tabasco. Cortes learned of the Aztec Empire from the
natives of Tabasco who were at awe with the Spaniards.
Meanwhile, the Cubans heard that Cortes was wanted back in Spain so they told him to return but Cortes would not obey.
Cortes organized an independent government, and renounced the authority of Velazquez, acknowledging only the supreme
authority of the Spanish crown. Two of his men were caught trying to take the boat back to Spain and were killed. After
negotiations with Montezuma who was trying to persuade Cortes otherwise, Cortes started his famous march inland. Upon
entrance of Tenochtitlan Cortes and his army overcame the Tlascalans and then formed an alliance with them against the
Aztecs, their enemies.
Cortes and his army at this time entered the Aztec capital city where Cortes was greeted and welcomed with honor.
Apparently there was a prophecy about the return of Quetzalcoatl, a legendary god-king who was light skinned and bearded.
Despite the welcomed reception Cortes believed that attempts would be made to drive him out and in return he imprisoned
Montezuma and forced him to swear allegiance to Charles I, king of Spain.