Beginning with Columbus in 1492 and continuing for nearly 350 years, Spain conquered and settled most of South America, the Caribbean, and the American Southwest.
Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492 after sailing the ocean blue in a quest to find a faster trade route to Asia. They wanted riches and the eternal glory of being really cool by discovering the better water highway to Asia. They also wanted to spread their religion, Catholicism.
Maybe the explorers thought they were bringing something great (religion and Catholicism) to the local tribes, but they actually brought diseases that killed millions of Native Americans. Source: Shmoop
The Aztec Empire flourished between c. 1345 and 1521 CE and, at its greatest extent, covered most of northern Mesoamerica. Aztec warriors were able to dominate their neighbouring states and permit rulers such as Motecuhzoma II to impose Aztec ideals and religion across Mexico. Highly accomplished in agriculture and trade, the last of the great Mesoamerican civilizations was also noted for its art and architecture which ranks amongst the finest ever produced on the continent.
The Aztec state is actually the most well documented Mesoamerican civilization with sources including archaeology, native books (codices) and lengthy and detailed accounts from their Spanish conquerors - both by military men and Christian clergy. These latter sources may not always be reliable but the picture we have of the Aztecs, their institutions, religious practices, warfare and daily life is a rich one and it continues to be constantly expanded with details being added through the endeavours of 21st century CE archaeologists and scholars. more...
Oct 12, 1492: Columbus Reaches America
Columbus arrives in the Bahamas. Europeans are in the Americas to stay. Columbus eventually makes four voyages to the New World, but dies dejected and forgotten in Valladolid, Spain in 1506.
1501: Encomienda System
The encomienda system begins, granting Native Americans to Spanish encomenderos as slaves. The Spaniards are tasked with protecting the natives and teaching them Christianity. The system is rife with abuses.
1519 - 1521: Magellan Circumnavigates Globe
Ferdinand Magellan's ships are the first to circumnavigate the globe. Magellan himself is killed by natives in the Pacific.
Nov 8, 1519: Cortes Captures Tenochtitlan
Fall of Tenochtitlan: Hernán Cortés and approximately 100 Spaniards capture the capital of the Aztec Empire.
1519 - 1521: Cortes Conquers Aztecs
Cortés and his men conquer the entire Aztec Empire in what will later become Mexico. read more
Source: Shmoop Editorial Team. "Spanish Colonization Timeline of Important Dates." Shmoop University Inc. Last modified November 11, 2008. Accessed February 23, 2018. https://www.shmoop.com/spanish-colonization/timeline.html.