- Cortés, Hernán
later marqués del Valle de Oaxacaborn 1485, Medellín, near Mérida, Extremadura, Castiledied Dec. 2, 1547, Castilleja de la Cuesta, near SevillaSpanish conquistador who won Mexico for Spain.Cortés left Spain for the New World at age 19, joining Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar (b. 1465d. 1524) in the conquest of Cuba (1511). In 1519, with 508 men and 16 horses, he burned his ships on Mexico's southeastern coast, thus committing himself to conquest. After accumulating thousands of Indian allies who resented Aztec domination, he forged ahead to Tenochtitlán, the Aztec capital (today Mexico City). The emperor Montezuma II, believing Cortés to be the god Quetzalcóatl, welcomed him but was taken prisoner. Hearing that a Spanish force from Cuba was coming to relieve him of command, Cortés left Tenochtitlán under the command of a captain and set out to defeat his Spanish opponents. Returning with the opposition forces now under his command, he discovered that the city had revolted; he led his troops away by night in a costly retreat, but he returned in 1521 to conquer the city and with it the empire. The absolute ruler of a huge territory, he was forced to retire after a disastrous expedition in 1524 to the Honduran jungles. His final years were beset by misfortune.
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