The Spread Of The Conquest
The semi-civilized tribes.—With the fall of the city the first stage of the conquest had ended. Within the following decade most of the semi-civilized tribes of southern Mexico and Central America were brought under the dominion of Spain. During this period Spanish activities were directed from the Valley of Mexico to the eastward, southward and westward. From the south came rumors of gold and reports of the South Sea, while to the north, among the barbarian tribes, there was little, at this stage of the conquest, to attract the conquerors.
Factors in the conquest.—Several factors explain the marvelous rapidity with which Spanish rule was extended. The conquerors were looking for gold and accumulated treasure; not finding it in one place they hastened to another, led off by any wild tale of riches. The fame of the Spaniards preceded them and paralyzed resistance. They were everywhere aided by great armies of allies, eager to help destroy their hated enemies. Finally, Cortés, himself a genius, was assisted by an able body of lieutenants; in the spread of the conquest Cortés remained the central figure, but the actual work fell mainly to Orozco, Alvarado, Olid, Sandoval, Chico, Avalos, Montejo and other subordinates.
Vera Cruz, Oaxaca, and Tehuantepec.—In the fall of 1520 Sandoval, in search of gold and to punish rebellious Indians, invaded southern Vera Cruz with a handful of soldiers, aided by thirty thousand Indian allies. To hold the district he founded the towns of Medellin and Espíritu Santo. Before the expulsion of Cortés from the city, goldseekers had been sent to Oaxaca and Tehuantepec and were well received, but the "Noche Triste" was followed by a reaction. Orozco was sent, therefore, to subdue Oaxaca, which he reported to be rich in gold. In 1522 an attack by hostile neighbors called Alvarado to Tehuantepec. Gold was found, and as the district bordered on the South Sea, settlements were formed to hold it.
Olid in Michoacán.—The same year, 1522, marks the extension of Spanish rule into Michoacán, the territory of the hitherto independent Tarascans. The cacique Tangaxoan visited Cortés and made submission, and in return Olid was sent to found a settlement at Pátzcuaro on Lake Chápala. Before the end of the year part of the settlers moved to the seacoast and settled at Zacatula, in the modern state of Guerrero, where a post had been established.
Colima and Jalisco.—From Michoacán the conquest at once spread north into Colima and Jalisco. Gold being reported in Colima, Avalos and Chico, lieutenants of Olid entered the country, but were defeated by the natives. Thereupon Olid followed, subdued the mountain region by force, and founded the town of Colima (1524), which became a base for new advances. On his return to Mexico, Olid brought samples of pearls from Colima, and reports of an Amazon Island ten days up the coast, where there were said to be great riches. To investigate these reports, in 1524 Francisco Cortés was sent north. He reached Río de Tololotlán, and secured the allegiance of the "queen" of Jalisco, but found little gold and no Amazon Island.
Amichel and Pánuco.—In 1522 the Huasteca country, to the northeast, came under the control of Cortés. It was three years before this that Pineda, as representative of Garay, governor of Jamaica, had visited the region. Garay applied for a grant of a province called Amichel, extending from Florida to Mexico, and set about colonizing it. In 1520, before the patent was secured, a party of his men met disaster near Pánuco River. Hearing of Garay's operations, in 1522 Cortés led forty thousand allies into the country, subdued it, and founded San Estéban, on Pánuco River. In 1523 Garay led a colony to the same region, but found himself forestalled by Cortés, by whom he was sent to Mexico, where he soon died. The rivalry of the Spaniards encouraged an Indian revolt, but Sandoval, as agent of Cortés, put down the disturbance with extreme cruelty. In 1527 the Pánuco district, under the name of Victoria Garayana was separated from Mexico, Nuño de Guzmán being made governor, while the region called Florida, further north, was assigned to Pánfilo de Narváez. Guzmán's rule of six months was characterized by attempts to extend conquests northward into Narváez's territory, by wars with the Huasteca chieftains, and by constant slave-hunting raids, through which the country was nearly depopulated.
Alvarado in Guatemala and San Salvador.—By this time the conquests of Cortés and his lieutenants had extended into Central America, where they encountered, the agents of Pedrárias. In 1522 embassies from the large cities of Utatlán and Guatemala had visited Cortés and made submission. In the following year Alvarado, with four hundred Spaniards and twenty thousand allies, entered the region and conquered the Quichés and Cakchiquels. This task partially completed, he continued south and extended his conquests into San Salvador (1524).
Olid and Casas in Honduras.—Cortés believed that Honduras was rich, and that a strait lay between it and Guatemala. Moreover, Gil González and the agents of Pedrárias had begun to operate there. Consequently, at the same time that Alvarado went to Guatemala, Olid was despatched to Honduras. Reaching there in 1524 he tried to imitate his master's example by making a conquest for himself. He succeeded in defeating González, as has been seen, but was in turn beheaded by Francisco de las Casas, who was sent by Cortés to overthrow him. During this struggle the city of Trujillo was founded.
The march of Cortés to Honduras.—In doubt as to the wisdom of sending Las Casas after Olid, in October, 1524, Cortés set out for Honduras in person, with about one hundred and forty Spaniards and three hundred Indians in his train, the latter led by three famous Aztec chiefs. In his rear was driven a herd of swine. The route lay through southern Vera Cruz, Tabasco, and Chiapas, to Golfo Dulce, his way being obstructed by vast morasses, swollen streams, and flint-strewn mountains. In a single province fifty bridges had to be constructed in a journey of as many miles. In Chiapas it became necessary to bridge with trees a channel five hundred paces wide. On the way the Aztec chieftains, including the noble Cuauhtemoc, being charged with conspiracy, were hanged, an act which is variously characterized as a "necessary punishment" and a "foul murder." Leaving his cousin, Hernando Saavedra, in command as captain-general in Trujillo, Cortés sent his men home by way of Guatemala and returned by sea to Mexico in May, 1526. After attempting for two years to explore on the South Sea, in 1528 he went to Spain to refute his enemies, chief of whom was Nuño de Guzmán, now president of the recently established Audiencia of Mexico. He returned two years later.
Yucatán.—The conquest of Yucatán was begun in 1527 by Francisco de Montejo, an agent of Cortés. Initial success was followed by native revolts, and it was 1541 before the conquest was made secure. There were frequent rebellions thereafter, but never again united resistance.
Las Casas in Guatemala.—Thus far the conquest had been one of force. But now an example of the power of gentleness was furnished by Father Las Casas, the Dominican friar who had opposed encomiendas so vigorously in Española. About 1532 he entered Nicaragua as a missionary, where he attacked the ill-treatment of the Indians. Being opposed by the governor, in 1536 he went to Guatemala. Shortly before this he had written a treatise to prove that conversion by force was wrong, and that only persuasion should be used. To test his views he was granted sole control for five years of a hostile region known as "the Land of War," and by mild means he and his companions soon converted the district into a land of True Peace (Vera Paz), as it is still called.
Guzmán in Sinaloa.—While Cortés was in Spain Guzmán, fearing his own downfall, and hoping to save himself by offering new provinces to the king, undertook the conquest of northern Jalisco and of Sinaloa. Leaving Mexico in December, 1529, with ten thousand allies, he marched through Michoacán and Jalisco, leaving behind a trail of fire and blood, for which he has ever since been execrated. Part of Sinaloa was explored, and Culiacán was founded as an outpost in 1531. The region subdued by Guzmán was named Nueva Galicia, of which the conqueror became governor and Compostela the capital.
Buffer province of Querétaro.—At the coming of the Spaniards the country north of the valley of Mexico had never been conquered by the Aztecs. The Spaniards, in turn, adopted the policy of entrusting its subjugation to native caciques, treating the region as a buffer Indian state. The leading figure in the conquest was a Christianized Otomi chief, named Nicolás de San Luis. By Charles V he was made a knight of the Order of Santiago and a captain-general in the army. Another Otomi cacique who played a similar though less conspicuous part was Fernando de Tapia. The most notable event in the conquest was the reduction of Querétaro in 1531. For thirty years San Luis served the Spaniards in the control of the Querétaro border.
The Mixton War.—The first half century of expansion toward the north was closed by a widespread native uprising in Nueva Galicia which for a time checked advance in that direction and even caused a contraction of the frontier. Guzmán had left Nueva Galicia in a deplorable condition. After several minor uprisings, the rebellious natives broke forth in 1541, during the absence of Governor Coronado and his army in New Mexico. The Indians refused to pay tribute, killed their encomenderos and the missionaries, destroyed the crops, and took refuge in the peñoles or cliffs of Mixton, Nochistlán, Acatic, and other places near Guadalajara. The defence fell to Cristóbal de Oñate, lieutenant governor of Nueva Galicia. Pedro de Alvarado, who chanced to arrive from Guatemala at Navidad with a force of men, led them against Nochistlán and lost his life in the encounter. Viceroy Mendoza at last took the field with four hundred and fifty Spaniards and thirty thousand allies, and crushed the revolt.
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