Cortés: The Great Adventurer and the Fate of Aztec Mexico

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 1993 - History - 347 pages
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Hernan Cortes - the quintessential conquistador, who in his conquest of Mexico set the pattern for Spanish expansion in the New World - is richly portrayed in this fresh retelling of one of history's greatest adventures. This is the first recounting in decades, and the first to draw on modern scholarship. It is a full-fleshed view of Cortes and a perception of the epic clash of Christian and Aztec cultures that is deeply sympathetic to both sides. Born of good blood and small means in 1485, Cortes grew up in that heady time when Spain was celebrating its liberation from the Moors and its discovery of America. First studying law at Salamanca, then lustily pursuing the pleasures of youth on the islands of Hispaniola and Cuba, he at last finagled for himself the captaincy of an expedition sent to colonize the newly discovered mainland of Mexico. The Aztec civilization he encountered there was the product of millennia of human evolution in utter isolation, and to the Europeans it seemed both glorious in its flamboyance and shocking in its rites of human sacrifice and cannibalism. But both Cortes and the Aztec emperor, Montezuma, saw potential benefits in peaceful accommodation. A six-month period of peace-seeking ended when the greed of other Spaniards pursued Cortes and when the frustration of the proud Aztecs erupted. Caught between these two forces, Cortes and his men were nearly annihilated, yet a year later they won a more drastic and tragic victory than they desired. But powerful men in Spain and Cuba - hungry for Mexico's gold and silver and envious of the conquistador's fame - tried to topple Cortes. Intrigues surrounded and frustrated him, a man torn between the New World and theOld, and at the end of his life, he remained unconsoled for the glory he and Montezuma had lost. Here is Cortes - a man of explosive vitality, of passion, of principle, of piety, of treachery, of humor in the face of death; Cortes the converter of the heathen; Cortes the conniver; Cortes the warrior whose profound empathy for the Indians did not prevent him from terrorizing and exploiting them.

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Cortés: the great adventurer and the fate of Aztec Mexico

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Marks ( Three Men of the "Beagle , '' Knopf, 1991) studied old chronicles, legal records, and letters and visited the places mentioned in order to write this tale of deceit and violence. Cortes's ... Read full review

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