North America 1519: March to Tenochtitlan
Persuading the people of Cempoala (Veracruz) and Tlaxcala to align with him, Cortés expanded his army and marched inland toward the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. Passing through the city of Cholula—which the Spaniards sacked when they suspected an ambush—Cortés reached Tenochtitlan in November, to be reluctantly greeted as a guest by Emperor Moctezuma II.
1 May–16 Jul 1519 Cortés’ conquest of Cempoala▲
In May 1519 Aztec emissaries arrived at Villa Rica de la Cruz and greeted Cortés with rich gifts, but this only excited Spanish greed. Cortés advanced north by the coast to capture the harbor of Quiahuiztlan, inciting Chief Tlacochcalcatl of Cempoala to end his tribute to the Aztecs. After defeating an Aztec force arriving to suppress the revolt, Cortés committed his men to his planned invasion by beaching nine of his ships and dispatching the remaining three to Spain with treasure and letters.
8 Aug–8 Nov 1519 Cortés’ march to Tenochtitlan▲
In August 1519 Cortés marched inland from Quiahuiztlan at the head of over 350 Spanish soldiers, 15 horses, and several hundred Cempoalan warriors. Recruiting the Tlaxcalans into his army in September, they sacked the wealthy Aztec city of Cholula in the next month, before marching into the Valley of Mexico via a mountain pass—thereafter called the Paso de Cortés. In November the conquistadors crossed Lake Texcoco by a long causeway to reach Tenochtitlan, where they were greeted by the Aztec emperor Moctezuma and given noble lodgings.
15 Aug 1519 Founding of Panama▲
In August 1519 Pedrarias Dávila, the Spanish governor of Castilla de Oro, founded the town of Panama—the first permanent European settlement on the Pacific Ocean. Favorably situated, Panama soon displaced Santa María la Antigua del Darién as the capital of Castilla de Oro and in September 1521 Charles I of Spain gave it the title of city.
18 Sep 1519 Spanish–Tlaxcalan Alliance▲
In early September 1519 Cortés’ Spanish forces marched into the confederacy of Tlaxcala, facing the Tlaxcalans in a number of battles. Eventually Cortés persuaded the Tlaxcalans that the Aztecs were the focus of his campaign and that an alliance with the Spanish would suit Tlaxcalan interests. The senior Tlaxcalan leaders Maxixcatzin and Xicotencatl the Elder pledged friendship to Cortés while the war leader Xicotencatl the Younger asked his forgiveness for the attacks.
20 Sep 1519–6 Sep 1522 Magellan’s circumnavigation▲
In September 1519 the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan departed Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Castile, with 270 men and five ships to find a profitable western route to the Moluccas for the Spanish crown. Exploring the coast of South America, Magellan passed through what he named All Saints’ Channel (Strait of Magellan) to reach the Pacific Ocean (which he also named). Successfully crossing the Pacific in 1521, Magellan was killed in the Philippines, leaving Juan Sebastián Elcano to complete the first circumnavigation of the world by returning westward to Spain with a much-depleted crew (only 18 men and one ship completed the voyage).
18–20 Oct 1519 Cholula Massacre▲
In October 1519 Cortés and his army was welcomed in to the sacred city of Cholula, the richest and second largest city in the Aztec Empire after Tenochtitlan. Believing, with some justification, that the Cholulans were plotting with Moctezuma to ambush him, Cortés summoned several hundred city noblemen to assemble in the central plaza, where he massacred them. The Spaniards then pillaged Cholula, slaughtering 3,000 people in just the first few hours, and set the city alight.