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Cortes Conquers the Aztecs: Spanish Conquest or Indian Civil War Essay

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The Spanish conquests of Montezuma and the Aztecs were both a Spanish conquest as well as an Indian civil war. The thing that ties them both together is the Conquistador Hernan Cortes. You could argue for both sides as to which played a more significant part in the fall of the Aztecs, however, I feel they both played an equal role in the defeat of the Aztecs and the fall of Tenochititlan to the Spaniards.

When Cortes first came to Mexico, he did not know the language spoken by the Indian tribes.

He was fortunate enough to have two interpreters; Aguilar, a shipwrecked Spaniard who had learned the Maya language, and Malinche. Malinche was a young maiden “given” to Cortes as an offering. Between her and Aguilar, Cortes was able to become familiar with the way the Aztecs lived, thought, and fought. He used this tactic to aid in expedition and to guard against any attacks.

By far, one of the biggest downfalls of Montezuma and the Aztecs was the role of the God Quetzalcoatl.

The majority of the Aztecs’ lives and beliefs was centered on their Gods. One of their biggest beliefs was of the God Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent. Montezuma believed that Cortes was the human version of Quetzalcoatl. The legend of Quetzalcoatl depicted a bearded, white God who looked similar to Cortes. Quetzalcoatl was prominent during the Toltec rule and had supposedly left the valley because he was unhappy with the way things were. The Aztecs believed he was expected to return and bring back good times and good fortune. Cortes took advantage of their beliefs and immersed himself into the Aztecs lives.

Against the advice of his royal family, Montezuma welcomed Cortes and the Spaniards with open arms. They wanted Montezuma to kill the foreigners. The Aztecs tried giving the Spaniards gold and other riches to get them to leave their city. This only fueled their desire and ambitions for more, and they refused to leave. The more they gave, the more the Spaniards wanted. Cortes made Montezuma a prisoner of his own city, which led to an uprising by the Aztecs known as “La Noche Triste”, or The Sad Night. Many lives were lost on both sides.

Many other factors contributed to Cortes’ victory over the Aztecs. His soldiers had far more superior weapons and they had horses. The Aztecs were very afraid of the horses because they had never seen anything like them before. Disease also played a huge part in the defeat of the Aztecs. The Spanish brought ailments that the Aztecs had no immunities for. Three-fourths died from either violence or diseases such as small-pox and the measles in just the first century of the conquests. The Aztecs’ tactics of war were quite different from those of the Spaniards, and this was also a point in the Spaniards’ favor. The Spaniards fought to kill. The Aztecs did not. The Aztecs fought to capture and get prisoners so they could later use them as human sacrifices to their Gods. In fact, Cortes himself was captured several times but was re-captured by his men and rescued.

The most important factor by far in the defeat of the Aztecs by Cortes, according to some historians, is the help he received from the other suppressed Indian tribes in the area. This is why I believe one could view this as not only a Spanish conquest, but also as an Indian civil war. These other Indian tribes chose to help Cortes fight because they felt they would benefit greatly from the defeat of the Aztecs. They were tired of living under the Aztecs’ rule and saw Cortes as a type of hero, or liberator. They were more than happy to help wage a war against the Aztecs if it meant they could have better lives.

After many deaths on both sides, The Aztec capitol fell in August of 1521. After capturing Tenochititlan, the Spaniards destroyed the city and on top of it built was is now present day Mexico City.

I believe the preceding statements support my argument that the most important factors in the demise of Montezuma and the Aztecs were from the equal combination of having to deal with a Spanish conquest and an Indian civil war.

Sources:
Vigil, James Diego From Indians to Chicano
Internet site, Then Again Info World History Chronology Project; www.thenagaininfo Matthew, Roy T. and F. DeWitt Platt Western Humanities
Sullivan, Richard E., Dennis Sherman and John B. Harrison A Short history of Western Civilization Wood, Michael A Legacy- The Search for Ancient Cultures

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