Spanish exploration and settlement of the western hemisphere lasted from 1492 until 1898, from Christopher Columbus’s first voyage to the loss of its last colonies in the Spanish-American war. As with all major seafaring European nations, they were in pursuit of the fabled Northwest Passage, a direct route to Asia. This was how Christopher Columbus stumbled upon the Americas, on his quest for this route. The Spanish were after more though, specifically gold and spread of the Christian faith. With this page we will discuss multiple historical figures, places, and ideas that emphasized what the Spanish found most important at the time, God and gold.
Born an only child in 1485, Hernan Cortes was an ambitious man, participating in conquests of Cuba and Hispaniola. Selling his ill-gotten gains from these conquests, he set sail to Tenochtitlan in 1519 (Barker, 2014). Despite issues with the Governor of Cuba, he successfully sailed. His initial meeting with the Aztecs was met with lavish displays of gold. This further convinced the Spaniards that they had made the right choice. With smallpox and the superior technological advantage of the Spaniards, the Aztecs eventually lost the war. What was important was the amount of gold, land and converts from this expedition. In a twist of fate, when most of the gold was being moved out of the Tenochtitlan, the Spaniards were attacked and large amounts of gold sank into Lake Texcoco or recovered by the Aztecs. This was referred to as La Noche Triste, or the Night of Sorrows (Movimiento Estudientil Xicano de Aztlan, 2014). This was an enormous loss for Cortes, and he never fully recovered, being cheated out of the Viceroy title on his return home. Despite this, he returned an enormous amount of gold and materials to Spain and prompted further expeditions into the Americas. (The Mariners' Museum, 2014)
Born in 1475, illegitimate son of a Spanish soldier, and eventually becoming a solder himself, Francisco got a taste for conquest at a young age, working with Vasco Nunez de Balboa and Amerigo Vespucci on many historical expeditions (The Mariners' Museum, 2014). After a mutiny and less then fruitful journeys, Pizarro convinced the Spanish government to allow an expedition with the prospect of being the future governor of the unclaimed land Peru (The Mariners' Museum, 2014). He made his way towards the city of Cajamarca in 1532, being allowed to travel inland by the Incan emperor, Atahualpa, believing they were “children of the sun” (Black, 2005). At the city, Pizarro hosted a huge feast, with many Inca nobles, including the emperor, attending. While at the feast, the Incan guests were rushed, killed, and the emperor taken hostage. After chats, Atahualpa agreed to ransom himself by agreeing to fill a room, and when that was not enough, he doubled the offer. The final offer consisting of over 3,000 cubic feet worth of gold and silver (The Mariners' Museum, 2014)....