Hernando Cortes is a name that is familiar to many thanks to his work as an explorer. Born in 1485 in Medellin, Spain, his family came from nobility. His father was an officer in the Spanish army and family heritage led him to become one of the most cunning conquistadors of his era.
1. The Bringer of Chocolate
Cortes was not above bringing war to the native people of Central America, but he was also smart enough to know when people would join him. At one point, he even convinced the Aztecs to show him how the cacao beans were being used. He would take this skill back home with him, plant vast plantations, and this would lead to Spain’s domination of the cocoa industry for centuries.
2. A God To Some
When Cortes arrived in the Aztec kingdom with 500 men, he was believed to be the reincarnation of one of their gods. It was believed his arrival would prevent them from needing to perform ritualistic human sacrifices on a regular basis. Why did the Aztecs perform human sacrifice? They believed that if they did not, the sun would no longer rise.
3. A Difficult Childhood
The intelligence that Cortes developed came from his prolonged periods of illness as a child. By the age of 14, he was already attending the university and studying law, which is what his parents wanted. By the age of 19, he’d already given up on his studies and became an explorer. Eventually he would make his name through the work he did as an administration secretary on the island of Cuba.
4. Attacked on Sight
It was not a warm welcome that Cortes received when he landed in Mexico for the first time. His group was attacked by the local Talascan tribe. His crew would suffer two casualties, but the local tribe would see losses total more than 800.
As with many explorers and conquerors of his era, Cortes is remembered for his beliefs in a manifest destiny. Unlike others, however, Cortes did put in an effort to teach his religious views to the local tribes. His success was mixed, but his discoveries of chocolate would make him a lifelong name that the world will always remember.