How did Cortes describe the Europeans in his July 10, 1519 letter?

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Cortes's July 1519 letter was the first of five letters he wrote to Charles V (ruler of Spain and the Holy Roman Empire). In the first letter, Cortes describes his efforts to colonize different regions in Mexico on behalf of the Spanish crown.

In his first letter, Cortes describes the...

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Cortes's July 1519 letter was the first of five letters he wrote to Charles V (ruler of Spain and the Holy Roman Empire). In the first letter, Cortes describes his efforts to colonize different regions in Mexico on behalf of the Spanish crown.

In his first letter, Cortes describes the Spanish (Europeans) as ambitious, devout Catholics. He also describes Europeans as more advanced, civilized, and powerful than the civilizations they set out to conquer.

Cortes was originally commissioned by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar (the first Spanish governor of Cuba) to explore Mexico. However, Cortes's ambitious nature put a strain on the relationship between the two men. Velázquez eventually rescinded Cortes's permission to lead a contingent through Mexico. However, Cortes ignored the orders from the governor. Instead, Cortes wrote to Charles V to make his argument for conquering Mexico for the Spanish crown.

In his July 1519 letter, Cortes maintained that he would rather work to increase the Spanish crown's influence rather than to benefit Velázquez and the Cuban coffers. Here, we can clearly see Cortes's ambitious nature at play. With single-minded purpose, he maneuvered Velázquez out of the picture and positioned himself as the Spanish king's emissary in Mexico.

Once in this enviable position, Cortes moved to solidify the Spanish king's trust in him. He flattered the king and continually emphasized his loyalty to the Spanish crown. He also denounced Velázquez's supposedly treacherous nature.

In his July 1519 letter, Cortes advised the king to let him win Mexican converts to the Catholic faith. He presented the work of evangelizing these "barbarian" peoples as a religious service and especially one for which God will bless the Spanish crown. According to Cortes, the Mexican people must be made to give up their uncivilized human sacrifices and their encompassing practice of sodomy.

Cortes wrote that it was God who permitted the Mexican regions to be discovered in the name of his Royal Highness. So, we can see Cortes' ambition at play here. Cortes hid his true purposes under a veneer of religious and patriotic zeal. So, his letter emphasizes not just the ambitious nature of the Europeans who descended upon Mexico, but also his own.

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