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A New Perspective on the Spanish Conquest of Mexico

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One of the most well known conquests of the all time is the conquest of Mexico by the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes. This is a puzzling conquest to historians because while the Spanish had the advantage of technology, it shouldn't matter when compared to the Aztec's superior numbers and home advantage. These factors should have allowed the Aztecs to surround Cortes's small force and soundly defeat them yet we know that this isn't what happened. The Spanish were the ones that actually prevailed and ended up the conquerors instead of the seemingly secure Aztec Empire. Since then we have been able to analyze the situation that allowed one man to lead a small expeditionary force on a campaign that would eventually topple an empire. As a result of this new perspective on the situation and information that is available, both native and Spanish, historians have been able to come up with several new definitive theories and ideals as to how Cortes was able to conquer the Aztecs and Mexico so easily due in no small part to Dona Maria's help and the Aztec's own religious beliefs.

When Cortes first landed on the Mexican coast he was quick to win over the locals and get the aid of Dona Maria, a native woman that served him in the crucial role of interpreter and later on as his mistress. Through Maria's efforts he was able to persuade these locals to become his allies and it was through them that he learnt of the Aztec Empire and the fable gold and riches that would later serve as the impetus behind the Spanish conquest of Mexico. It just so happened that his allies where the Tlaxcalns who were the bitter enemies of the Aztecs and they were more than willing to wage war on the Aztecs. Cortes was able to fight his way to the capitol of Tenochtitlan by careful manipulation of old grievances that the conquered tribes of the Aztec empire had long held against their overlords.

One of the other things that gave the Spanish the edge during their march to the capitol was their armaments. They had weapons and armor made of iron versus native warriors that fought without armor of any kind and with only the most primitive of weapons. They also had an edge due to the cannon and horses that they had brought with them. The Aztecs had never before seen horses or the explosive power of gunpowder and the use of cannons in battle gave them a decided advantage in their engagements. This gave the Spanish an edge that they were quick to exploit in their skirmishes with the natives. The Aztecs were so fearful of the mounted soldiers that they were unwilling to hold their lines when charged by the cavalry and this also contributed to their eventual defeat.

Theses factors could also be one of the reasons why they were initially mistaken as Aztec gods or the servants of their prophesized god Quetzalcoatl. Montezuma himself was certain that Cortes was the servant of this god and that could go a long way towards explaining his initial reception of Cortes at the capitol and his seemingly hesitance to gather all of his troops together and crush the Spanish before they could get a foothold in Mexico. This hesitance makes sense if Montezuma thought that by challenging the Spanish he was challenging his personal gods and all of the spiritual ramifications that would entail such an action. It was this initial confusion and hesitance, helped in no small part by the stories that Cortes spun, which would be the Aztecs downfall.

Montezuma was so sure of the Spanish that he willingly walked into the trap that Cortes laid and became

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