This engraving shows Hernán Cortés (1485–1547), the Spanish captain who headed the conquest of the Aztec Empire. He became a part of popular mythology the moment he arrived in Mexico around 1520. Cortés had spent time in Cuba killing and enslaving its indigenous inhabitants and administering the new social order of the Spanish colonies of the Caribbean. As his well-read memoirs attest, even his experiences in Cuba did not prepare him for the history-altering intrigues, battles, and cultural encounters between the Spanish and the Mexicans, Mayas, and their many neighbors in between. Motivated by an ancient notion of fame, Hernán Cortés wrote his own version of the conquest of Mexico that put him squarely at the center, favored by the Christian God. But neither his victories nor his pillage of the Mexican capital would have been possible without the aid of soldiers, slaves, and supplies from the enemies of the Aztecs. As a testament to Cortés's enduring fame, his portrait by the Spanish painter Antonio Carnicero was published as an engraving by Manuel Salvador y Carmona in 1791 in the book, Retratos de los españoles ilustres, con un epítome de sus vidas, (Portraits of Illustrious Spaniards, with a Synopsis of Their Lives.)
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