ARRIVAL OF THE SPANISH
|A thing like a ball of stone
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 arms are all made of iron…. They are carried
on the backs of stags [horses] wherever they like to go.
Their skin is
white, as though made of 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, seeking adventure
and wealth. With him were over 550 men, 16 horses, 14 cannons, and a
|He was greeted by messengers of
the Aztec ruler Moctezuma. Wanting
to show the Aztec his power, Cortes had the ships' cannons fired. The
were stunned. They rushed back and reported to Moctezuma.
The Empire Weakens
The Spanish appeared on American shores in the
early 1500s. At that time civil war (fighting between parts of the
weakened both the Aztec and Inca.
|The Aztec had never seen cannons
or horses or men with white
skin before. Aztecs who had been with Moctezuma reported that
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, a number of tribes began to rebel against
their harsh Aztec rulers. Led by the Tlaxcalans, these rebel tribes put
up a bitter struggle. Infuriated, Moctezuma sent huge attacks against
Rebellion was everywhere and the Aztec were
forced to fight in many areas at once. Because their armies were spread
all over, they lost many battles. Also, war costs became very high.
were few resources left for making new conquests.
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 more
tribute from his conquered
tribes. This demand led to even more resentment and rebellion .
The Inca were also facing problems in
their empire when Spanish adventurers, led by Francisco Pizarro,
in 1532. When the Inca ruler died in 1525, his two sons, Huascar and
fought each other for the throne. The northern half supported Atahualpa
and the southern half supported Huascar. After three years of
Atahualpa became the ruler of a greatly weakened empire.
Old and New World Clash
Because of problems inside their empires, the
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 Spanish arrival,
he believed that Cortes might be Quetzalcoatl (keht sahl koh AHTL), an
ancient god who had returned to earth to control the Aztec kingdom.
welcomed the Spanish into Tenochtitlan (the Aztec capital),
appears that our Lord has returned to his country. Go and receive him
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
causing a massive Aztec rebellion. Moctezuma died
in the rebellion, but who killed him- the Spanish, or his own
Writers at the time tell different stories. After the rebellion the
forced the Spanish out of their capital. Cortes lost most of his army
Six months later, one of Cortes'
leaders massacred thousands
of Aztec people,
The remaining Spanish escaped to a Tlaxcalan
camp. The Tlaxcalan had hated the Aztec for a long time, so
had no problem persuading them to help him defeat the Aztec. Other
tribes eagerly joined the army.
They blocked boat traffic to
from the mainland, stranding the Aztec in their city without supplies.
The situation for the Aztec became worse when an epidemic of smallpox
measles occured in the city .
Finally, on August 13, 1521,after fierce fighting,
In May 1521,
the Spanish led a huge army of
angry tribes against the Aztec capital.
with most of their warriors dead
from disease, starvation, or war wounds, the Aztec gave up. Within two
years' time the Spanish had destroyed the Aztec Empire.
Pizarro Conquers the Inca
The Inca Empire ended in similar ways 11 years
later when the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro arrived in Peru
steal his share of New World riches.
Leading about 150 men, Pizarro
in Tumbes on the northern coast of the Inca Empire in early 1523. The
assured Inca messengers that they wished only to admire the empire. The
Inca ruler Atahualpa
then allowed the Spanish to come as far as his
fortress in Cajamarca, northwest of Cuzco.
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. The Spanish later tied him to a stake
|Pizarro decided that only a
attack would give his troops an advantage over the thousands of Inca
With this plan in mind, he called for a meeting with Athualpa at
on November 16, 1532. But Pizarro waited safely behind with his army
sent a Spanish monk in his place. The monk offered Athualpa a Bible and
told the chief that he should give up his Inca beliefs. Athualpa
was outraged 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 could not be
Pizarro and his troops came out of hiding , killing more than 5,000
Athualpa was taken prisoner.
Two Empires Destroyed
In February 1536, Manco Inca, the last heir to Huascar's
throne, led an army estimated at 200,000 Inca warriors to the capital
But the Inca failed because most supplies had been used
up in civil war. Manco Inca retreated with his army into the
There they continued to fight the Spanish until 1572, when the Spanish
finally defeated them.
many reasons for the quick Spanish
of the Aztec and Inca empires.
, the Spanish weapons were superior.
They fought with cannon
as well as spears and swords made
| The Aztec, with bronze and
copper shields, stone knives,
and woven-cloth armor, were no match for them.
, the Spanish and the Aztec
came from very
different cultures. They had different ways of living and
Moctezuma believed that Cortes might have been a god and allowed him 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 fought to take captives to kill in a ceremony of sacrifice to
Spanish took advantage of the weakened
and rebellious state of the Aztec and Inca empires. Many tribes
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.
The Spanish, however, fought to kill
their enemies on the
Smallpox and measles,
the Aztec and Inca had never been exposed to, spread rapidly through
empires.Disease killed off many in their armies, and
killed off many leaders too, leaving the Aztec and Inca even weaker.
, disease brought by the
Europeans had a
disastrous effect on the Aztec and Inca.
The Aztec and Inca responded differently to
invaders. The capture of Tenochtitlan (the Aztec capital) meant the end
of Aztec civilization, because the city had been the center of Aztec
When it fell, they stopped all resistance and allowed the Spanish to
over their land and people.
| In some areas
more than 90 percent of the population died
as the result of the Spanish takeover.
With no one to stop them, Spanish nobles took
over the land and
the Aztec into slavery. As slaves, they labored on farms and in
The chart on the right shows the
population decline among the Aztec and the Inca after the arrival of
An Aztec poet described the feelings of the Aztec just after the
conquest in 1512:
"There is nothing but grief and suffering in Mexico and Tlatelolco,
once we saw
beauty and valour. Have you grown weary of your servants? Are you angry
servants, O Giver of life?"
The Inca, on the other hand, did not give up after
their capital city (Cuzco) was conquered. Resistance to Spanish rule
for 40 years. Some historians believe this is because the Inca rulers
much better care of their subject tribes. They provided their subjects
with both food and land. By spreading their culture, religion, and
throughout their empire, the Inca bonded their subjects together.
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.