FREE shipping on orders of $49 or more! The discount will apply automatically at checkout.

From Colombus to Fortunato--Part 2

From Colombus to Fortunato--Part 2

Hello and good day!

When I left off yesterday, Spanish conquistadores led by Hernan Cortez had just landed on the east coast of what is now Mexico. In that part of the world, there was a powerful empire, with a powerful emperor, running the show. I’m referring to the Aztecs and the emperor Montezuma.

The Spanish had come with a single objective: conquer whoever was there in order to take possession of the land

he men under Cortez’s command were hard, fighting men. They were ready to kill and be killed. They were brave and ruthless. They were soldiers of fortune, ready to undergo the most extreme hardships in the name of staking their claim.

However, even these hard fighting men were terrified to their cores once they found out who their enemy was.

The Aztecs were a huge, sophisticated, intelligent, resourceful civilization, millions strong. They had markets and infrastructure and cities and religion and beautiful art. They were a conquering people who had subdued surrounding tribes and rolled them into their empire.

The Aztecs, like the Romans, were skilled administrators able to integrate conquered subjects into a cohesive system. Montezuma was considered to be both a king and deity. When the Spanish showed up, Montezuma was in his prime as a ruler and conqueror. He lived in gigantic, ornately decorated palace. He had royal servants and a collection of wives and concubines.

Immediately upon grasping the enormity of the challenge, most of Cortez’s men wanted to turn around and either go home or go looking for a different opportunity. How could a small group of just a few hundred men take down such a massive and sophisticated empire?

The Spanish came with several advantages.

As an aside, if you ever want to do a deeper dive on the question of why Europeans were invading the Americas instead of the other way around, why weren’t the Aztecs invading Spain, the book to read is Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond.

The first advantage the Spanish had was their strong metal swords and armor. Their weapons were much, much more efficient at killing foes.

Their second advantage was horses. There weren’t any horses in the Americas. The Aztecs didn’t have any good animals for mounting and riding.

The third advantage was immunity to a whole host of fatal diseases. Europeans spent more time in the proximity of pack animals, like cows, pigs, and chickens. They passed bacteria and diseases back and forth with the animals and over time developed immunity.

The Aztecs didn’t have the same exposure to domesticated pack animals and therefore their bodies hadn’t developed any anti-bodies.

The Spanish showed up carrying all kinds of diseases that the Aztecs were defenseless against, and this ended up decimating the population.

The issues listed above are primarily environmental factors. They are advantages that accrued to the Spanish based on where their civilization had developed.

Geography determined that the Spanish would have the tools necessary to inflict damage. But there were some non-environmental factors that benefited the Spanish as well.

In particular was Montezuma’s intellectual curiosity. Even with all the advantages the Spanish had, the Aztecs so vastly outnumbered the Spanish that they could have swarmed them and run them back into the sea.

However, when word came to Montezuma that there was a new type of people within the empire’s borders, Montezuma wanted to get a look at them. Nobody had ever heard of or seen a people with blue eyes and light hair and thick beards. Montezuma wanted to see them and study them.

 He didn’t consider them a threat because, after all, his army was so big and so strong that they could smash the Spaniards any time they chose.

 The other non-environmental issue was that the tribes conquered by the Aztecs held a grudge. They were biding their time, waiting for the right opportunity to strike back against the Aztecs.

 This would ultimately give the Spanish the extra manpower they needed to achieve their goal. Little did the vengeful tribes know that they were simply trading one violent master for another.

Montezuma welcomed the Spanish troops into his palace as honored guests. He gave them food and drink and living quarters. He set them up with courteous and hospitable women. He told them everything about Aztec history and society.

Hernan told Montezuma about Spain and the church and the one true religion. This went on for a long time. The Spanish rested and settled into life in the palace. They got out and about into the cities with tour guides provided by the king.

They couldn’t believe what they were seeing. The Aztecs were an unbelievably advanced society, in some way much more advance than the Spanish themselves.

But they never forgot their goal. They had to wait for the right opportunity. As time went on, some of the palace guards and higher ups in the Aztec army started to grow suspicious of the Spanish.

They felt the time had come to extinguish them. Hostility started coming to the surface between Spanish troops and Aztec military personnel. They traded harsh looks and words.

Montezuma hadn't given the order to attack yet, so the Aztecs couldn’t kick off the fight. Eventually though, tensions broke out into small skirmishes in the palace. One day, the fighting in the palace turned into a free for all and Cortez saw this as his opportunity.

While the Spanish troops and Aztec guards were fighting, Cortez assassinated Montezuma. With their leader and God dead, chaos broke out amongst the Aztec ranks and a slaughter ensued.

The Spanish killed without mercy. With control of the palace and Montezuma dead, the Spanish started sending out messages to the surrounding areas that Montezuma was gone, and rival tribes could march on the capital.

It took several years, but eventually the Spanish and native alliance annihilated the Aztec army. In the meantime, the Spanish continued to send over more and more reinforcements of men and weapons. Diseases continued to wreak havoc on the native population, and the Spanish became dominant.

I am running out of space now. More to come tomorrow.

Thank you so much for your time!

I hope that you have a truly blessed day!