ARRIVAL OF THE SPANISH
out of their bellies and rains fire…. If the ball hits a tree, it blows
away in splinters, as though a magician had blown it away from inside."
dress and their weapons are all made of iron…. They are carried
on the backs of large deer [horses] wherever they like to go.
"Their skin is
white, as chalk... Their dogs are great monsters with
ears and long tongues which hang out." These are the words used by
Aztec messengers who tried to describe what they saw when they met the
Spanish for the first time in Mexico.
Cortes, the Spanish conquistador (conqueror),
landed on the shores of central Mexico in April 1519, looking for adventure
and wealth. With him were over 550 men, 16 horses, 14 cannons, and a
|He was greeted by
the Aztec ruler Moctezuma. Wanting
to show the Aztec his power, Cortes had the ships' cannons fired. The
were amazed. They rushed back and reported to Moctezuma.
The Empire Weakens
The Spanish came to the coast of
modern day Mexico in the
early 1500s. At that time civil war (fighting between parts of the
had weakened both the Aztec and the Inca in Peru.
|The Aztec had never
or horses or men with white
skin before. "When
Moctezuma heard this report, he was seized with fright. His heart grew
weak to the point of faintness…. And despair overcame him."
In the Aztec Empire, tribes began to rebel against
their harsh Aztec rulers. It was a bitter fight, and Moctezuma sent huge attacks against
them but they lost many battles.
Higher war costs, less tribute (gold or food
or slaves) from new conquests,
and a famine( loss of crops) in 1505 caused Moctezuma to demand even more from his conquered
tribes leading to even more resentment and rebellion .
The Inca were also facing problems in
their empire when Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizarro
in 1532. When the Inca ruler died in 1525, his two sons, Huascar and
fought each other for the throne.
After three years of
Atahualpa became the ruler of a greatly weakened empire.
Old and New World Clash
Because of problems inside their
Aztec and Inca could not keep out the Spanish invaders. When the
saw the wealth of these two empires, they set out to conquer them.
Cortes Conquers the Aztec
When Moctezuma first learned of the
he believed that Cortes might be Quetzalcoatl , an
ancient god who had returned to earth to control the Aztec kingdom.
welcomed the Spanish into Tenochtitlan (the Aztec capital)
But soon he learned he had made a terrible mistake. Only a few
days later Cortes took Moctezuma hostage. Moctezuma ordered vast
of gold and silver brought to the palace, hoping the foreigners would
it and leave his city. But they did not. Moctezuma remained a prisoner.
Even worse, his people blamed him for the Spanish takeover of the
leaders massacred thousands
of Aztec people,
The Aztecs realized quickly these were not GODS ! They fought back. Moctezuma died
in the fighting, but it wasn't clear who killed him- the Spanish, or his own
forced the Spanish out of their capital. Cortes lost most of his army
The Spanish who survived escaped and were helped by native tribes who hated the Aztec. Cortes
had no problem persuading these tribes to help him defeat the Aztec.
Soon there were many who joined Cortes' army.
the Spanish led a huge army of
angry tribes against the Aztec capital.
They blocked boat traffic to
from the mainland, keeping the Aztec in their city without supplies. It became worse for the Aztec when an epidemic of smallpox
measles occured in the city .
Finally, in 1521,after fierce fighting,
with most of their warriors dead
from disease, starvation, or war wounds, the Aztec gave up. It had taken only two
years for the Spanish to destroy the Aztec Empire !
Pizarro Conquers the Inca
The Inca Empire ended 11 years
later when the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro arrived in Peru
steal his share of New World riches.
Leading about 150 men, Pizarro
landed on the northern coast of the Inca Empire in early 1523. The
Spanish told Inca messengers that they wished only to admire the empire.That was a lie !
Inca ruler Atahualpa then allowed the Spanish to
come to his
Pizarro decided that
attack would give his men an advantage over the thousands of Inca
So, Pizarro called for a meeting with
Pizarro waited safely inside some buildings in the town square with his
army. When Atahualpa arrived in the town square with thousands of his
sent a Spanish monk to talk to Atahualpa.
| The monk offered Athualpa a Bible and
told the chief that he should put his faith in Jesus and become a Christian. Athualpa
was angry and threw the Bible to the ground saying, "I will be no
slave. I am greater than any prince upon the earth…. As for my faith, I
will not change it."
||When the monk reported that the Inca chief would not become a Christian,
Pizarro and his men came out of hiding , killing more than 5,000
Athualpa was taken prisoner.
|The Spanish took control of the capital
.The Inca gave Pizarro 24 tons of gold and silver as a ransom for
but he was not released.
|Pizarro convinced Atahualpa to become a Christian so that he would not be burned alive.Then the Spanish tied him to a pole
In February 1536, an army of 200,000 Inca warriors went
to fight the Spanish.
But the Inca failed because most supplies had been used
up in a civil war only a short time before the Spanish arrived.
Two Empires Destroyed
The Inca retreated into the
There they continued to fight the Spanish until 1572, when the Spanish
finally defeated them.
How could these empires have been taken so quickly?
Second, the Spanish and the Aztec
came from very
Moctezuma believed that Cortes might have been a god, so he allowed Cortez to
walk freely into the capital city. But Cortes saw the
Aztec culture as something evil to be destroyed and replaced by the
faith. The two groups even fought by different rules. The
usually took captives to kill as sacrifices to
The Spanish, however, fought
their enemies on the
Spanish took advantage of the weakened
and rebellious condition of the Aztec and Inca empires.
were angry against the Aztec, so they were willing to guide the Spanish
through their territory and help
them win their battles. Tragically, the Spanish then turned and fought
tribes once the Spanish got what they wanted.
Finally, disease brought by the
Europeans killed many Aztec and Inca.
The Aztec and Inca responded
invaders. The capture of Tenochtitlan (the Aztec capital) meant the end
of the Aztecs, because it was the center of Aztec
When their capital fell, they stopped all resistance and allowed the Spanish to
over their land and people.
some areas 90 percent of the population died
as the result of the Spanish takeover.
Rich Spanish nobles took
over the land and
the Aztec into slavery on farms and in
The chart on the right shows the
population decline among the Aztec and the Inca after the arrival of
The Inca did not give up after
their capital city (Cuzco) was conquered. They fought the Spanish
for 40 more years.
This may be because the Inca rulers
much better care of their conquered tribes-giving them both food and
land, bonding with their subjects.
destroyed temples, artwork, and
the Inca held very sacred - the mummies of their previous rulers-
as anything else that represented Inca culture.
But some Inca
Today, some 20 million Inca descendants still speak Quechua,
celebrate ancient religious ceremonies, and farm in small villages.