General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 20 Mar 2019/9 Flower
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Cortés meets Moctezuma: illustration by Keith Henderson for W H Prescott’s classic ‘The Conquest of Mexico’

Encounters* Countdown: our guide to the quincentennial of the Spanish invasion of Mexico...

From February 2019 through to August 2021 we will be uploading a month-by-month itinerary commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Spanish-Aztec War, in partnership with Professor Matthew Restall (on our Panel of Experts), closely following the timeline published in his highly recommended book When Montezuma Met Cortés: The True Story of the Meeting that Changed History (Harper Collins, 2018). We’re sincerely grateful to Professor Restall for providing this scholarly and timely running commentary... *Why ‘Encounters’? As Restall says, ‘History IS encounter... the sum of all the narratives of encounters that have brought people together.’
(Illustration by Keith Henderson, ‘The Conquest of Mexico’, W H Prescott, 1922)

Illustration by Miguel Covarrubias
Illustration by Miguel Covarrubias (Click on image to enlarge)

Feb. 10th. The invasion company under the nominal leadership of Hernando Cortés leaves Cuba for Yucatan and Mexico, following the route taken by Juan de Grijalva’s expedition the year before and by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba the year before that. They set sail with 11 ships, 450 soldiers, 14 cannon, 16 horses and a few ferocious mastiffs (large attack dogs trained to kill). Not only were the natives in awe at the ships, they had never seen before horses, guns or huge, fierce, armour-plated hounds, their saliva (a sign of anger) ‘dripping from their jaws’.

Painting ‘The Arrival of Cortés in Mexico’ by Vicente Alanís, Archivo General de Indias, Seville
Painting ‘The Arrival of Cortés in Mexico’ by Vicente Alanís, Archivo General de Indias, Seville (Click on image to enlarge)

Mar. 4th. (some sources claim it was as late as March 13th.) The Cortés-led expedition leaves the island of Cozumel, with the shipwreck survivor (and thus Mayan speaker) Gerónimo de Aguilar on board. For the next month, they will follow the Yucatec and Gulf of Mexico coast, engaging Mayas (some Spaniards are killed, dozens wounded), and acquiring indigenous slaves (including the young Nahua who became Malintzin, the interpreter).

This article was uploaded to the Mexicolore website on Feb 25th 2019

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