Moctezuma and the Aztecs of Tenochtitlan were expecting a god. Instead, they got Hernán Cortés and his merciless conquistadors, who brought them ruin.
Preparations for Invasion of the Aztec Empire
Mexico had been discovered in the year 1518 by the explorer Juan de Grijalva, who then returned from his launch point of Cuba baring gold and silver.
The governor and conqueror of Cuba was Diego Velázquez (1465-1524) — not to be confused with the great Spanish Baroque-era painter Diego Velázquez
(1599-1660)– and it was his decision as to who would lead a campaign against Mexico.
Gaining the Ear of Velázquez in Order to Gain the Position of Campaign Leader
Sniffing an opportunity for gold and glory, Cortés had cleverly curried the favor of Velázquez’ secretary and accountant, who both recommended Cortés to Velázquez as the man for the conquering job, results guaranteed.
Cortés was given the commission, and quickly set to work gathering troops for the expedition. His heart was certainly in it, as he even sold his own estate in order to finance additional troops and weapons. For Cortés, this was not to be a mere reconnaissance mission, but an expedition of conquest and pillage in the best Spanish conquistador tradition.
Cortés Waves Goodbye to Velázquez. Next Stop: The Aztec Dominion
After it came to the attention of Velázquez that Cortés was about to embark on a mission that would exceed the scope of his commission, he began to have second thoughts as to whether Cortés was the right one for the job. Velázquez would likely have pulled the plug on Cortés and allowed his overly ambitious plans to run down the drain. Cortés, realizing this, acted quickly. Though only three-quarters’ prepared, Cortés set sail at the first convenient break of dawn. A furious Velázquez, perhaps still in his night clothes, was just in time to see Cortés sailing la-dee-da out of the port of Santiago, Cuba. He was powerless to stop Cortés. If Cortés had looked back, he probably would have noticed Velázquez motioning angrily for him to turn back, to which Cortés would probably have pretended that his boss was simply waving goodbye to him and done the same in return.
The Sun-God of the Aztecs
Quetzalcoatl was his name, and creation was his business. As one of the most revered gods of the Aztecs and other ancient Meso-Americans, Quetzalcoatl was credited with the creation of the world as we know it and of man and all his good points as well as his well-documented flaws.
Hernán Cortés and his companions were among history’s luckiest conquistadors who happened along at the right time. It was like hitting the big jackpot the first time the lever of the slot machine is pulled. Unknown to the conquistadors it so happened that Quetzalcoati, or the plumed serpent, was prophesized to one day return.
Moctezuma Xocoyotzin II, who ruled over the Aztecs from 1502 to 1520 and who was devoutly steeped in the prophesy that foretold of the coming of Quetzalcoatl, immediately mistook Cortés for Quetzalcoatl.
With this advantage as well as others such as guns and horses — the like of which had never been seen or dreamt of by the Aztecs– Cortés and the conquistadors were able to subdue the Aztecs.