North America 1520: Captivity of Moctezuma II
Soon after arriving in Tenochtitlan, Cortés seized Moctezuma and, through him, became indirect ruler of the Aztec Empire. This situation lasted some months until April 1520, when an expedition arrived from Cuba with orders to arrest Cortés (its arrival would also unintentionally lead to millions of indigenous deaths by introducing smallpox to Mexico). Cortés raced to the coast and dealt with this new challenge, but during his absence the acting Spanish governor massacred large numbers of Aztecs while they were celebrating a religious festival, destroying Aztec–Spanish relations.
14 Nov 1519 Capture of Moctezuma II▲
Shortly after arriving in Tenochtitlan, Hernán Cortés received word of a clash between his forces and the Aztecs at Quiahuiztlan, Veracruz. Cortés immediately marched into Moctezuma II’s palace with about 30 armed men and, accusing the emperor of duplicity, escorted him back to the Spanish quarters under guard. From then on until his death, Moctezuma effectively ruled the Aztec Empire as a Spanish puppet.
1519–1533 Enriquillo’s rebellion▲
In 1519 the Taíno cacique Enriquillo—likely a descendant of the caciques of Jaragua—rebelled against Spanish rule in Hispaniola, launching numerous guerrilla raids from his base in the remote Baoruco mountains and drawing thousands of the remaining Taíno to his cause. No longer a priority area of the Spanish government, the colony of Santo Domingo was unable to stop him and reverted to granting concessions to the Taíno. Nonetheless, Enriquillo remained at large until 1533, when he apparently died of tuberculosis, as did so many of his countrymen.
19 Apr–29 May 1520 Narváez vs Cortés▲
In April 1520 a 1,400-man expedition under the command of Pánfilo de Narváez—sent by Cuban governor Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar to apprehend Hernán Cortés—arrived in Vera Cruz. Learning of the expedition’s arrival, Cortés swiftly marched from Tenochtitlan to the coast with a few hundred men, surprise-attacking Narváez’s forces on a rainy May night. Losing an eye in the battle, Narváez was quickly captured and his army incorporated into Cortés’ ranks.
Apr–Dec 1520 First Cocoliztli epidemic▲
When Pánfilo de Narváez landed in Mexico in April 1520, he had aboard his ship an African slave stricken with smallpox. Once ashore, smallpox spread quickly through the Aztec Empire—whose inhabitants had not developed an immunity to European diseases—and reached Tenochtitlan in September or October. By the time the disease had run its course in early December, between 2 and 15 million had died of an indigenous population of 5–22 million.
22 May 1520 Toxcatl Massacre▲
In May 1520, while Hernán Cortés was away intercepting Pánfilo de Narváez’s expedition, the Aztecs celebrated the annual festival of Toxcatl at the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan. Some two weeks into the celebration, deputy governor Pedro de Alvarado ordered an attack on the temple and killed almost everyone present—unarmed men, women, and children alike—allegedly in order to prevent the ritual of human sacrifice. Following this massacre, the Aztecs became openly hostile to their unwelcome Spanish guests, with only the latter’s hold over Moctezuma able to maintain even a semblance of peace.