Cortes & Pizarro: The great Conquerors

This post is also available in: Español (Spanish)

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The Spanish conquerors have been really mistreated. They have been turned into a politically incorrect issue. The nations which they helped out to form, do not recognize them as their own, and in the case of Pizarro it is even more painful. Pizarro began his legend 20 years after Cortes conquered Tenochtitlan. At that particular time, Cortes was considered already a great hero by his fellow countrymen in Castile. He was so charming that even the Emperor Moctezuma had for him a kind of Stockholm´ syndrome. The hero´s image was admired by an entire generation; he was long seen abroad as the stereotype of the European hero.

Francisco Pizarro was a different kind. Born in Trujillo (Extremadura, Spain), Pizarro was the bastard son of a nobleman related to Hernan Cortes. It has been believed that both were cousins, although in reality they were uncle and nephew. Pizarro was 50 years old when he joined to Diego de Almagro to travel South America in order to search for the another great American empire of the time: The Incas. The Europeans had brought the smallpox illness in 1525, which had already killed to half of the Inca population; the arrival in Peru of Francisco Pizarro was the final push to conquer an empire tottered because of diseases, famines and the war of their two main leaders, Atahualpa and Huascar.

Cortes was charming and he went to the royal court of Charles V to tell his exploits. Pizarro did not seem to be made as the heroes are made. As a result, the world reminded him in the wrong way:  greedy, cruel and seeking for his personal interest. Because of several historical researches over the years, a new legend arose about the humble Pizarro, the unprivileged one who left aside poverty and swelled the ranks of the traditional nobility. Pizarro´s reputation was cleaned up by Hispanics’ historian W. H. Prescott, who in his “History of the Conquest of Peru” noted that Spain had neglected one of its most famous heroes, “No Spaniard has ever tried to write about the history of Peru´s conquests based on original documents.”

 After the US triggered Cuba´s war in 1898, the US joined the conquerors´ portrait as genocide for having destroyed the native cultures upon their arrival, despite of being these cultures rather bloody by the way. Neither Mexico nor Peru have ever considered Cortes or Pizarro as founding fathers of their countries. The documents discovered by the Hispanic’ historian G. Lohmann showed that the real Francisco Pizarro was not alike he is portrayed by the Black Legend at all. He was not a despicable person and he died completely broke. He claimed insistently to respect the Incas´ properties and he promoted laws to protect the Indians. He did not mean to destroy the Inca´ empire, as it can be proven when reading his letters.

In Mexico there is an anti Hispanic stream although Cortes has aroused more interest due to his own attractive personality and because he instructed to the chroniclers to extolling his exploits in the very first place. Pizarro´s deeds were also written, but no one bothered to highlight his figure. Pizarro never wanted to take away the Incas´ land. The Spanish Crown seized the temples and palaces of the Incas, scrupulously respecting the lands of the population. The New Laws of the Indies of 1542 were the first Habeas Corpus of the history with the purpose of defence the local population´ rights.

From the Latin American left-wing´ politicians, the conquerors have been portrayed as genocides, although there is no historical basis for stating such a theory. On the other hand, since some years ago the conquest of America is not studied in schools anymore for being considered ´politically incorrect´, shame of Spain! The genocide was committed by the English men. They colonized the United States with the idea that ´the best Indian is the dead Indian´ and they stole after the Indians´ land. No wonder that they created the Black Legend against Spain. We can not label Cortes & Pizarro as genocides. The point is that in certain political sectors, genocide is a word used too easily.

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2 thoughts on “Cortes & Pizarro: The great Conquerors”

  1. Una mentira dicha muchas veces pasa a convertirse en verdad aunque no lo sea, y eso es lo que ha ocurrido con la leyenda negra divulgada por los británicos y holandeses. Precisamente los mayores difamadores son los que más tienen que callar.
    A eso hay que sumar que hay gente ignorante que cree todo lo que le dice el vecino sin contrastarlo, por lo que si se dice Cortes es malo, caen en la ignorancia e irresponsabilidad de creerlo sin más.
    De aquellos polvos vienen estos lodos…

  2. El pasado lunes me pidió Lucía que diese una clase de historia y costumbres europeas, que al final resultaron ser tres horas…..pero lo que me sorprendió es que había unos trabajos de los niños americanos del colegio ensalzando muy, muy gratamente las figuras de Pizarro, de Cortés, de Balboa, de Colón…..
    Una muy grata sorpresa!!!!

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