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The Spanish Conquest of the Americas: Conquistadors

Conquistador, (Spanish: “conqueror”), plural conquistadores or conquistadors - any of the leaders in the Spanish conquest of America, especially of Mexico and Peru, in the 16th century.

Columbus’s discovery opened a floodgate of Spanish exploration. Inspired by tales of rivers of gold and timid, malleable native peoples, later Spanish explorers were relentless in their quest for land and gold. Spanish explorers with hopes of conquest in the New World were known as conquistadores.

Hernán Cortés

Hernando Cortés (1485-1547)

Cortés was a Spanish conquistador (soldier and explorer) who conquered the vast Aztec empire in central America.

Hernán (or Hernando) Cortés was born in 1485 in Medellín, western Spain. He initially studied law but left university to make his fortune in the Americas.

In 1504 he sailed for Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic), moving to Cuba in 1511 where he assisted Diego Velázquez in his conquest of the island and made his reputation for courage and daring.  more...

Francisco Pizarro

Francisco Pizarro took a page from Cortes' book, capturing Atahualpa, Emperor of the Inca, in 1532. Atahualpa agreed to a ransom and soon all the gold and silver of the mighty Empire was flowing into Pizarro's possession. Playing off Inca factions against one another, Pizarro made himself master of Peru by 1533. The natives rebelled on several occasions, but Pizarro and his brothers always managed to put these insurrections down. Pizarro was killed by the son of a former rival in 1541. Read more


Key Figures

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