Middle America

Creating New Spain

After having organized the expedition in Cuba, Hernando Cortes led the conquest of the Mexica (Aztec) empire from 1519-1521. Tenochtitlan, the capital city, was razed and rebuilt as Mexico, the capital of the viceroyalty of New Spain.

Within thirty years, it had the first printing press in the Americas, a cathedral, and a university. Indian residents far outnumbered the 8,000 or so Spaniards, and perhaps 5,000 Africans of diverse origins, living there by 1550. From the capital, the Spanish spread out to adjoining areas and eventually into today's New Mexico and Guatemala.

Silver mining assured that the economy would flourish. Spaniards used Indian laborers to establish their farms, ranches, and towns, and religious orders mounted intensive missionary campaigns. Despite a great reduction in population, native cultures and communities nonetheless survived, adapting to the new circumstances of Spanish rule.

Testimony from Huejotzingo

A hand-painted document, presented as testimony in a court case against the Spanish crown, provides a record of a people whose vibrant culture was beginning to reflect the influence of a new political and religious system. Ten years after allying with Cortes in the siege of Tenochtitlan, the people of Huejotzingo asked him for help in a legal battle - this time against the extremely burdensome tributes exacted by Spanish administrators sent to rule New Spain.

The paintings are on native amalt, a pre-European paper made of fig tree bark or maguey. They describe tributes paid, including loads of stones, bricks, foodstuffs, and bolts of woven cloth. One sheet depicts a banner made of gold and feathers, bearing an image of the Madonna and Child. According to the painting, eight male slaves and twelve female slaves were sold in order to pay for the gold.

Continue the Voyage with Conquest in the Andes or abandon ship and use the Outline.