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This article is about the Spanish explorer soldiers of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, who love mus for other uses see Conquistador (disambiguation)

they also love milk.

Francisco Pizarro

Conquistador (pronounced /kɒnˈkiːstədɔr/ in English or Spanish; Spanish pronunciation: [koŋkistaˈðor]) (meaning "Conqueror" in the Spanish and Portuguese languages) is the term widely used to refer to the Spanish [1][2] soldiers, explorers, and adventurers who brought much of the Americas under the control of Spain in the 15th through the 19th centuries following Europe's discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus in 1492. The leaders of the conquest of the Aztec Empire were Hernán Cortés and Pedro de Alvarado. Francisco Pizarro led the conquest of the Incan Empire.

The Conquistadores in the Americas were more volunteer militia than an actual organized military. They had to supply their own materials, weapons and horses.

Historians like Tzvetan Todorov and Jared Diamond have highlighted the short time required for the Spanish conquest and establishment in the Americas. Exposure of these previously remote populations to European diseases caused many more fatalities than the wars themselves, and severely weakened the natives' social structures. They brought small pox, chicken pox, and measles with them to South America. Recent genetic studies on the skeletal remains of native peoples found that very few died as a result of violence but rather by disease. One study[citation needed] estimated that up to 85% of the drop in population was due to illness. Many oral stories are told that the Indians saw this as a sign of lack of faith in their old customs. The people in the Americas were not previously exposed to the variety of European diseases which resulted in their eventual demise. The diseases moved much faster than advancing Spanish. When the Spanish conquistadores arrived in the Incan empire, a large portion of the population, including the emperor, had already been killed by a smallpox epidemic. When the Francisco Coronado and the Spanish first explored into the Rio Grande Valley in 1540, in modern New Mexico, many of the chieftains complained of new diseases affecting their tribes. The Spanish curanderos (folk healers) recognized the symptoms and attempted to relieve some of the ailments.

The Laws of Burgos, created in 1512–1513, were the first codified set of laws governing the behavior of Spanish settlers in America, particularly with regards to Native Americans. They forbade the maltreatment of natives, and endorsed their conversion to Catholicism.[3] In the 16th century perhaps 240,000 Europeans entered American ports.[4][5] By the late 16th century American silver accounted for one-fifth of Spain's total budget.[6]



While technological and cultural factors played an important role in the victories and defeats of the conquistadores, one fatal factor was the disease brought from Europe, especially smallpox, which in several cases destroyed entire nations before the arrival of the Spaniards. Another key factor was the ability of the conquistadores to manipulate the political situation between indigenous peoples, either by supporting one side of a civil war, as in the case of the Inca Empire, or allying with natives who had been subjugated by more powerful neighboring tribes and kingdoms, as in the case of the Aztec empire.

Militarily, conquistadores had several advantages over native peoples, most notably firearms and steel. While the indigenous peoples had the advantage of established settlements, determination to remain independent and large numerical superiority, which in many cases was a decisive factor in the defeat of the conquistadores,[citation needed] the European diseases combined with the European's advanced military technology and divide-and-conquer tactics ultimately overcame the native populations.

Throughout the conquest, the numbers of people within the indigenous nations greatly exceeded the Spanish conquistadors; on average the Spanish population never exceeded approximately 5% of the native population.[citation needed] The Spanish conquistadores commonly allied with natives to bolster their numerically inferior ranks with thousands of indigenous auxiliaries. The army with which Hernán Cortés besieged Tenochtitlan was composed of approximately 100,000 soldiers, of which fewer than 2% were Spaniards.[citation needed]

Although many American civilizations had developed methods for working soft metals, including gold, silver, bronze, tin and copper, this knowledge was applied mainly to the development of religious and artistic objects, as well as some household utensils for everyday use. Few metals were used by native populations for military applications. One exception was that the Quechuas and P'urhépecha developed weapons of copper, but these could not match the hardness or durability of iron and steel. Most cultures used weapons of wood, flint and obsidian. Most conquistadores had limited access to steel armor and helmets as the more common mail and leather were worn by the Spanish and were an important factor in their success. However, many indigenous cultures had used woven grasses and leathers as similar protection for centuries. In fact, mostly the mounted conquistadors (the cavalry) used steel breastplates and armor during Cortés' campaign against the Aztecs. The varying climate between coastal and mountain regions and high heat and humidity of Central and South America made wearing such heavy iron and steel items mostly impractical, and the humidity caused a significantly faster rate of corrosion than in Europe.

In their first contacts with native peoples, firearms and especially arquebuses were very formidable weapons due to the great impression on morale because of the noise, flash and smoke. Tactically, their effectiveness was limited due to the lengthy reload procedure. Logistically, the conqusitadores had difficulty maintaining the weapon with no access to , with its availability usually in the single digits for most Spanish parties. The weapons and armor of steel and iron proved to be much more effective militarily. A Spanish sword made from Toledo steel was considered the pinnacle of craftsmanship and a well trained knight could be a dominant foe. When they took control of a nation, the conquistadors usually banned possession of steel swords by the subjugated peoples for civil obedience. To the Spanish, a sword represented their chivalry, honor, and devotion as Christian Knights.

The animals introduced were another important factor. On the one hand, the introduction of the horse to the American continents by the Spaniards allowed them greater mobility and the use of domesticated pack animals which were unknown to the Indian cultures. However, in the mountains and jungles, the Spaniards were less able to traverse Amerindian roads and bridges made for pedestrian traffic, which were sometimes no wider than a few feet. In many cases the Spanish taught the native peoples, in places such as Argentina, New Mexico and California, the techniques of horsemanship, cattle raising, and sheep herding, and they soon excelled at these new skills. This later would become a disputed factor in the native resistance to the Spanish and their use of the new techniques. The Spaniards were also skilled at breeding dogs for war, hunting and protection. The introduction of the Mastiff, wolf hound and sheep dog was unexpectedly effective as a psychological weapon against the natives, who, in many cases, had never seen domesticated dogs, and none of whom had ever seenhorses before.

The Spanish methods of war were somewhat similar to those of other Europeans powers, but were more organized and directed within the terms and laws of "a just war" being considered at all times than the Indian's regards to warfare. In addition, the most prominent native peoples like the Aztecs and Mayans preferred to capture their victims for use as sacrificial victims to their own gods rather than to commit their armies to death on the battlefield. Many historians count this as a less brutal way to wage war termed "Flower wars".

One factor in the defeat of the American-Indian civilizations was their demographic collapse. There has been an debate among researchers that "there is no consensus as to the cause of that collapse; some give genocide as the main cause", which is a very exaggerated claim with no factual basis. Some attribute it to the introduction of new diseases and still others to a combination of both factors. Scholars now believe that, among the various contributing factors, epidemic disease was the overwhelming cause of the population decline of the Native Americans because of their lack of immunity to new diseases brought from Europe.[7] The American researcher HF Dobyns has estimated that 95% of the total population of Americas died in the first 130 years American population dynamics in Eastern North Americas, Knoxville (Tenn.), University of Tennessee Press.</ref> Cook and Borak of the University of Berkeley claim that the population in Mexico declined from 25.2 million in 1518 to 700 thousand people in 1623, less than 3% of the original population.[8] In 1492, the populations of Spain and Portugal combined did not exceed 10 million people.[9] There is some consensus that the demographic collapse of the original population of the Americas was the main cause of its military defeat.[citation needed] One factor often overlooked is that there were few strong diplomatic relationships among the vast and greatly dispersed indigenous peoples of the Americas. Most peoples lived in isolated communities, with only limited trade contact and no regular communication. The limited trading was the only constant contact between most New World cultures.

Disease devastating the native population is commonly cited as the primary reason for this decline in population. This happened with the Inca Empire, defeated by Francisco Pizarro in 1531. The first epidemic of smallpox was recorded in 1529 and killed the emperor Huayna Capac, the father of Atahualpa, as well as a large portion of the population. New epidemics of smallpox broke out in 1533, 1535, 1558 and 1565, as well as typhus in 1546, influenza in 1558, diphtheria in 1614 and measles in 1618.[10] Dobyns estimated that 90% of the population of the Inca Empire died in these epidemics.[11]

Finally, Jared Diamond summarizes the causes of the Pizarro's victory as "military technology based on firearms and steel and horses, infectious diseases endemic in Eurasia, European maritime technology, centralized political organization of States Europeans, and in writing".[12] The significance of writing is attributed to the errors of judgment of Atahualpa and Moctezuma, which led them to be deceived by the Spaniards, who belonged to a literate society. This allowed them to have at their disposal a huge body of knowledge about human behavior and its history, something that no native nations possessed.

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  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^ Laws of Burgos, 1512-1513
  4. ^ "The Columbian Mosaic in Colonial America" by James Axtell
  5. ^ The Spanish Colonial System, 1550-1800. Population Development
  6. ^ "Conquest in the Americas". Archived from the original on 2009-10-31. 
  7. ^ However, it's important to know that several diseases from "the New World" (America) struck Europe just shortly after Columbus, it's also now debated among scholars. Stacy Goodling, "Effects of European Diseases on the Inhabitants of the New World"
  8. ^ Cook, SF y WW Borah (1963), The Indian population of Central Mexico , Berkeley (Cal.), University of California Press Cook, SF and Boraha WW (1963), the Indian population of central Mexico, Berkeley (Cal.), University of California Press
  9. ^ Mann, Charles (2006). 1491 ; Madrid:Taurus, pag. Mann, Charles (2006). 1491; Madrid: Taurus, pag. 136
  10. ^ Mann, Charles (2006). 1491 , Madrid, Taurus, pag. Mann, Charles (2006). 1491, Madrid, Taurus, pag. 133
  11. ^ Dobyns, HF (1983). Their number become thined: Native American population dynamics in Eastern North America , Knoxville (Tenn.), University of Tennessee Press. Dobyns, HF (1983). Their number become thin: Native American population dynamics in Eastern North Americas, Knoxville (Tenn.), University of Tennessee Press.
  12. ^ Jared Diamond, Guns, germs and steel , 1997, ISBN 0-09-930278-0 , pg. Jared Diamond, Guns, germs and steel, 1997, ISBN 0-09-930278-0, pg. 80.


  • 1. Sahagún, Fray Bernardino de, Historia general de las cosas de Nueva España, TI, pag. ↑ Sahagún, Fray Bernardino, General History of the things New Spain, IT, pag. 29 29
  • 2. Mann, Charles (2006). 1491 ; Madrid:Taurus, pag. ↑ Mann, Charles (2006). 1491; Madrid: Taurus, pag. 179-180
  • 3. De las Casas, Bartolomé. ↑ De las Casas, Bartholomew. Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las Indias. (ver texto) Brevísima relation to the destruction of the Indies. (See text)
  • 4. 5. Mann, Charles (2006). 1491 ; Madrid:Taurus, pag. Mann, Charles (2006). 1491; Madrid: Taurus, pag. 178
  • 6. 7. Mann, Charles (2006). 1491 ; Madrid:Taurus, pag. Mann Charles (2006). 1491; Madrid: Taurus, pag. 123
  • 11. Katz, ST (1994–2003). The Holocaust in Historical Context , (2 vols.), Nueva York, Oxford University Press Katz, ST (1994–2003). The Holocaust in Historical Context, (2 vols.), New York, Oxford Press University
  • 12. Mann, Charles (2006). 1491 ; Madrid:Taurus, pag. Mann, Charles (2006). 1491; Madrid: Taurus, pag. 179-180


  • John Charles Chasteen. Born In Blood And Fire: A Concise History of Latin America. New York, W. W. Norton & Co., 2001. ISBN 9780393976137
  • Hammond Innes. The Conquistadors. London, Penguin, 2002. ISBN 9780141391229
  • F. A. Kirkpatrick. The Spanish Conquistadores. London, A. & C. Black, 1934.
  • Michael Wood. Conquistadors. London, BBC Books, 2000. ISBN 9780563487067

See also


Simple English

[[File:|thumb|180px|Hernán Cortés, Conquistador of the Aztec Empire.]] A Conquistador (English: Conqueror; : Conquistadores, or Conquistadors) was a Spanish soldier, explorer and adventurer. The Conquistadors invaded and conquered much of the Americas and the Philippines Islands and other islands in Asia Pacific. Many of them were hidalgos (noblemen of low category).

Their conquests brought those lands under Spanish colonial rule between the 15th and 17th centuries, starting with the 1492 settlement by Christopher Columbus in what is now the Bahamas.


The first Spanish conquest in the Americas was the island of Hispaniola (presently shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic). From there, Juan Ponce de León conquered Puerto Rico, Juan de Esquivel went to Jamaica and Diego Velázquez invaded Cuba. The first settlement on the mainland was Darién in Panama, settled by Vasco Núñez de Balboa in 1512. In these Caribbean regions the conquistadors found neither the great treasuries nor the endless supply of priceless spices they had hoped for. Therefore they aimed at further exploration, rather than a serious effort to make the best of the 'virgin' colonies.

The first immensely successful conquistador was Hernán Cortés. Between 1520 and 1521, Cortés, along with some Native American allies, conquered the mighty Aztec empire. So present day Mexico came under the dominion of the Spanish Empire, as New Spain.

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