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Hernan Cortes (1485-1547), Spanish explorer and conquistador. Cortes crossed the Atlantic to seek his fortune in Hispaniola and later Cuba. In 1519, he led an expedition of several hundred soldiers to the mainland. There, along with an army of thousands hostile to their Aztec rulers, he began the conquest of Mexico. Moctezuma II, ruler of the Aztec Empire, welcomed Cortes as a guest, but some months later was taken hostage in his own city and died in unclear circumstances. Cortes and his army fought their way out of the city, regrouped and completed their conquest. Artwork from 'History of the Conquest of Mexico' (1847).
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