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The MuralThe 360 Degree View

Conquistador on horseback

The Europeans first came to the “new world” of what we call the Americas in the 1500’s. The early explorers, called the Conquistadors, came from Spain. Led by Hernando Cortez, their goal was to claim the land for Spain and the Holy Church. In 1519, Cortez led his party into the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, and took the power of the Aztec empire from its ruler, Moctezuma (called Montezuma in some history books).

Other famous conquistadors include Cabeza de Vaca, who was the first European to describe America from Florida thru Arizona. His writings are the oldest written history we have of Native Americans. Francisco Vázquez de Coronado was another conquistador who led a royal expedition of about 300 Spanish soldiers, over 1,000 Tlaxcalan Indians, and enormous herds of livestock north into what is now the American West.

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critical thinking
What are some of Conquistadors motives for coming to the New World? What kinds of risks did they take?

Related Links:

Spanish Exploration and Conquest of Native America

Francisco Vázquez de Coronado (from The West Film Project)

Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca (from The West Film Project)

Read More, Learn More:

Milord, Susan. 1999. Mexico! 40 Activities to Experience Mexico Past and Present. Williamson Publishing: Charlotte, Vermont. Thomas, Hugh. 1993.

Conquest, Montezuma, Cortes, and the Fall of Old Mexico. Simon and Schuster: New York.