Spanish Aztec War

The Aztec empire was one of the strongest and most expansive empires in the 15th century. They cemented their power by securing strategic alliances, but they also established enemies who would eventually aid their demise. The Aztec-Spanish War is officially described to have lasted between 1519 and 15211, but many events before this actual date added to the causes of this war that decimated this once great civilization. The Aztec-Spanish War is wrought with a litany of causes and a list of consequences and effects that affected the development of the New World.

In the Aztec-Spanish War, the Spanish were able to have native support by means of strategic alliances with the enemies of the Aztecs. One of these enemies was the Totonac Indians who welcomed Grijalva and his men in hopes of destroying Aztec rule2. Hernan Cortes followed Grijalva’s expeditions and made several key alliances along the way. In 1519, Cortes meets and joins Geronimo de Aguilar, a castaway who lived among the Indians of the Yucatan for 8 years, and Aguilar serves as a resourceful translator3.

Several months later, Cortes acquires another translator as a spoil from his victory against the Mayas. His interpreter and mistress “Malinche (later baptized ‘Dona Marina’)… [spoke] Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs4. ”

He continues to make powerful friends who are enemies of the Aztecs when he forms “an alliance with the inland tribes of Tlaxcala and Huejotzingo” who desire to help Cortes overthrow the Aztecs5. With a large company of Indians and his Spaniard army, Cortes occupies Tenochtitlan and his army lives there with the emperor, Montezuma, being his captive6. In 1520, Cortes yet again adds to his ranks by incorporating the army of Narvaez, who had been sent to kill Cortes by a Spanish governor7. In addition to contesting a trained military, the Aztecs disadvantages included their lack of “horses or beasts of burden, iron for weapons, or firearms, or immunity to European diseases8. ”

Along with all of the Spanish military power that the Aztecs had to face, they also needed to compete with an equally dangerous and deadly force of European diseases. These diseases included “smallpox, influenza, measles, and typhus,” to which the Native American populations had no immunity9.

These diseases significantly weakened the Aztec population and “aided the Spanish conquistadores in their effort to colonize the Americas10. ” After a long series of battles and assaults on Aztec militants and civilians alike, in August of 1521, the defeated emperor Cuauhtemoc surrenders marking the “end to the capital’s conquest, during which at least 100,000 people have perished11. ” By overpowering the Aztecs, Cortes “became the first significantly successful conquistador… [and] brought Mexico under Spanish Rule12.

” The conquistadores, Spanish conquerors13, forced the Aztecs to endure “wanton killings, enslavement, rape, torture, and other abuses14,” which later led to the passage of the colonial laws. These New Laws “were designed to protect the rights of Indians and to prevent the exploitation of indigenous peoples by conquistadores15. ” The Aztec urban centers “were especially hard hit with human losses” with the possibility of the native populations having decreased from 15-25 million in 1518 to only 2 million following in 1576; this is “an 87% population loss in only 60 years16.

” Another change as a result of Spanish rule was the gradual conversion to Christianity by the native people which led to a purging of “most native cultural practices17. ” The Spaniards also contributed to the Hispanicization of the general population by intermarrying with the indigenous elite18. Spain itself also enjoyed many spoils from their victory over the Aztecs. The colonies that were created in the New World, including the previous Aztec Empire, generated much wealth for the crown and served as a market to where Spain could send its manufactured goods19.

The Spanish crown also “claimed the quinto or 1/5 of the income from the mines (silver mining) in the Americas20. ” The Spanish were ultimately able to defeat the Aztecs due to a combination of factors including internal strife within the Aztec empire, strategic alliances between Cortes and other natives, and European diseases21. Overall, over the course of the Aztec-Spanish war and following it, the Aztecs were “denied their traditional religion, stripped of much of their culture, and devastated by deadly epidemics… [and] were incapable of organizing effective resistance to the Spanish22.

” The aftershock of the Aztec-Spanish War was felt for centuries after the actual war itself until the independence movement of many of Spain’s New World colonies in the early 19th century23. Notes 1. Rebecca Seaman. “Aztec-Spanish War (Causes). ” In World at War: Understanding Conflict and Society. ABC-CLIO, 2010-. Accessed May 26, 2013. http://worldatwar2. abc-clio. com. ezproxy1. apus. edu/, 1. 2. World at War: Understanding Conflict and Society, s. v. “Aztec-Spanish War Timeline,” accessed May 23, 2013. http://worldatwar2. abc-clio. com. ezproxy1. apus.

edu/, 2. 3. Ibid. 4. Ibid. 5. Ibid. 6. Ibid. 7. Ibid. 8. Gavin Lewis, WCIV, 2011, quoted in Fiona Mani, The Aztecs, Quill and Musket Lecturer Series, slide 6 of 15. 9. Anna Rulska. “Conquistadores. ” In World at War: Understanding Conflict and Society. ABC-CLIO, 2010-. Accessed May 23, 2013. http://worldatwar2. abc-clio. com. ezproxy1. apus. edu/, 1. 10. Ibid. 11. World at War: Understanding Conflict and Society, s. v. “Aztec-Spanish War Timeline,” accessed May 23, 2013. http://worldatwar2. abc-clio. com. ezproxy1. apus. edu/, 9. 12. Anna Rulska. “Conquistadores.

” In World at War: Understanding Conflict and Society. ABC-CLIO, 2010-. Accessed May 23, 2013. http://worldatwar2. abc-clio. com. ezproxy1. apus. edu/, 1. 13. Ibid. 14. Gavin Lewis, WCIV, 2011, quoted in Fiona Mani, The Aztecs, Quill and Musket Lecturer Series, slide 7 of 15. 15. Anna Rulska. “Conquistadores. ” In World at War: Understanding Conflict and Society. ABC-CLIO, 2010-. Accessed May 23, 2013. http://worldatwar2. abc-clio. com. ezproxy1. apus. edu/, 1. 16. Rebecca Seaman. “Aztec-Spanish War (Consequences). ” In World at War: Understanding Conflict and Society.

ABC-CLIO, 2010-. Accessed May 23, 2013. http://worldatwar2. abc-clio. com. ezproxy1. apus. edu/, 1. 17. Ibid. , 2. 18. Ibid. 19. Gavin Lewis, WCIV, 2011, quoted in Fiona Mani, The Aztecs, Quill and Musket Lecturer Series, slide 11 of 15. 20. Ibid. , slide 13 of 15. 21. Ibid. 22. Rebecca Seaman. “Aztec-Spanish War (Consequences). ” In World at War: Understanding Conflict and Society. ABC-CLIO, 2010-. Accessed May 23, 2013. http://worldatwar2. abc-clio. com. ezproxy1. apus. edu/, 2. 23. Anna Rulska. “Conquistadores. ” In World at War: Understanding Conflict and Society.

ABC-CLIO, 2010-. Accessed May 23, 2013. http://worldatwar2. abc-clio. com. ezproxy1. apus. edu/, 2. Bibliography Daniel, Douglas A. 1992. “TACTICAL FACTORS IN THE SPANISH CONQUEST OF THE AZTECS. ” Anthropological Quarterly 65, no. 4: 187-192. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed May 24, 2013). Lewis, Gavin. WCIV, 2011, quoted in Fiona Mani, The Aztecs, Quill and Musket Lecturer Series. Rulska, Anna. “Conquistadores. ” In World at War: Understanding Conflict and Society. ABC-CLIO, 2010-. Accessed May 23, 2013. http://worldatwar2. abc-clio. com. ezproxy1. apus.

edu/ Seaman, Rebecca. “Aztec-Spanish War (Causes). ” In World at War: Understanding Conflict and Society. ABC-CLIO, 2010-. Accessed May 26, 2013. http://worldatwar2. abc-clio. com. ezproxy1. apus. edu/. Seaman, Rebecca. “Aztec-Spanish War (Consequences). ” In World at War: Understanding Conflict and Society. ABC-CLIO, 2010-. Accessed May 23, 2013. http://worldatwar2. abc-clio. com. ezproxy1. apus. edu/. World at War: Understanding Conflict and Society, s. v. “Aztec-Spanish War Timeline,” accessed May 23, 2013. http://worldatwar2. abc-clio. com. ezproxy1. apus. edu/.