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Conquest of CubaDuring Columbus’s first voyage, they left Hispaniola and sailed west to find a large island that they mistook for the mainland of Asia. On his second voyage, they built their first settlement in Cuba, working with the Taino and teaching them their Christian faith. Two years after Columbus’s death, in 1508, the entire island was mapped, proving it was not mainland Asia. In 1511, Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar was ordered by Spain to conquer the island. Hatuey, a Chieftain from Hispaniola, who escaped with 400 Taino in canoes, came and warned the locals about the attack. He then took up arms and conducted guerrilla warfare tactics against Velázquez, taking out 8 Conquistadors before being taken. He was tried and quickly put to death.

Bartolomé de las Casas took part in this assault and later, after giving up slavery, described it as a massacre. In one such battle, he detailed a thousand villagers greeting the Spaniards with loaves and fishes before Velázquez attacked, killing many and sending the rest scattering into the surrounding islands. Most Taino were captured and placed on a reservation. In 1513, Ferdinand II sent out a decree, the Encomienda, granting land and slaves to Spaniards who participated. Velázquez was made governor over Cuba and told to divide the land and the Taino among the Conquistadors, and to govern their use of the land for farming and the search for gold. The Taino resisted and escaped, whenever possible. Hernan Cortez, a young Conquistador, took part in the massacre and was granted land, but saw bigger things for his future.

Activity: Map Making - You just took over Cuba, and now need to divide the island into 10 sections. You are not taking over Taino land but working around them. Find a map of Cuba, and draw it in the space below. Map out five imaginary villages of Taino, drawing small circling to show their land, and then divide the rest into 10 equal parts. Each plot of land must have access to a coast in order to ship the gold they find and crops they grow. How would you divide this island to satisfy both Taino and Spaniards?

Hérnan Cortés (1485-1547) (W5:D2)– Born into a middle-class military family, he was related to two very influential people in the Americas: maternal cousins with Francisco Pizzaro, and through his dad, Nicolás de Ovando, third governor of Hispaniola. By age 16, he had already returned from university, and with news of Columbus’s journey, Cortés was ready to set sail, but was too young.

At 19, he was sent immediately into Cuba to help Cuéllar conquer the island. For his service, he was given an encomienda, land, and Taino servants, to serve in farming and gold exploration. This did not last long, as he became bored with farming, and found no gold. He heard other explorers finding new lands west of Cuba, and desired to do the same, finding his own fortune.

It was not until his thirties that he was given his chance. He was commissioned to sail to the mainland, but his superiors changed their minds and tried to take it away from him. Hearing this, he defied them, and set sail anyway. He had heard of the great city of Tenochtitlan and sought an audience with the Aztec Emperor, Moctezuma. Arriving, he automatically won the favor of local tribes. Those who would not join his expedition willingly, he would fight, and then add them to his army, involuntarily. He came upon the Tlaxcala, archrivals to the Aztec, and went to war; neither side defeated the other, so they decided to talk. Cortés was invited to the city of Tlaxcala by their elder, Xicontenga. There was so much animosity towards the Aztecs that Cortés and Xicontenga became allies.

Cortés traveled next to Tenochtitlan and was invited in, as a guest, by their leader, Moctezuma. He was buying time, because his army was away harvesting. Since the city was in the middle of a lake and Cortés and his men were surrounded by hundreds of thousands of Aztec, Moctezuma thought it was best to keep them close. Cortés, though, had a plan, and he began taking notes of the layout of the city and how to attack. Before he could dispatch his plan, he learned that his superiors had sent an army with Alonso Álvarez de Piñeda, from Cuba, to capture him. He rushed back to the coast to defeat the army. Piñeda sent soldiers to land to scope out the area, but before they could attack Cortés, they were surrounded and taken. Piñeda was sent away empty handed. The men Cortés took, joined his army.

When Cortés returned to Tenochtitlan, it was chaos, as the Conquistadors Cortés left had begun a massacre among the Aztec,

killing Moctezuma. The Aztec forced the Spanish out.

Cortés did not stop though, he joined forces with Tlaxcala and attacked Tenochtitlan again, until they submitted. He renamed the land “New Spain,” and was made Governor over the entire region. He rebuilt Tenochtitlan and called it Mexico-Tenochtitlan. He continued forward to Honduras and Guatemala, launching him into great debt. He later returned to Spain to live out the rest of his life as a disgruntled old man.

Among Cortes’s Conquistadors was Juan Garrido, originally from Kongo, Africa. He traveled to Spain as a young man and converted to Christianity, choosing a Spanish name. He became a Spanish soldier to sail with Cortez, and eventually took over Tenochtitlan. His reward was a large plot of land near the city, and he became the first to plant wheat in America.

Activity: Hard Decisions - When arriving in the mainland, Cortés had to rally his men to action, so he destroyed his ships so there was no return. In life, each of us must make hard decisions. Ask you parents what their hardest decision has ever been. Ask them for the entire story and in the space below, give a summary.




Activity #2: Map Making - In the space below, draw a map of your house, and give small descriptions of things around the house - like the picture of Tenochtitlan from a few pages back. If you have a second floor, draw that separately. Add details that you may want to highlight:


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