The Spanish Armada, 1577

Will The Lost Fleet of Hernán Cortés And Its Treasures of the Aztec Finally be Found?


The search for the lost fleet of Hernán Cortés – the man who invaded and conquered Central America – is about to launch soon. Archaeologists suggest that the lost ships probably lie at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico and may contain countless treasures stolen from the Aztecs.

Hernán Cortés Leads Conquistadors in Destruction of Aztec Empire

Hernán Cortés was a Spanish conquistador who was responsible for the fall of the Aztec Empire. He was born in 1485 in Medellin in Spain, and became part of the first group of Spanish colonizers in the Americas. His family belonged to the lesser nobility of the time. He began his life in the New World in Hispaniola (located in the Caribbean island group). Later Cortés went to Cuba, where he became magistrate of the second Spanish town founded on the island. In 1519, he was elected as a captain of the third expedition to the mainland - an expedition which he partly funded. His enmity with the Governor of Cuba, Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, resulted in the recall of the expedition at the last moment.

It was an order which Cortés completely ignored and he went on to overthrow the Aztec Empire. During his expedition, he ordered numerous atrocities against the Aztecs: the death of innocent people, the destruction of ancient sites, and the looting of as much gold as possible. For these despicable actions, Cortés was awarded the title of Marqués Del Valle de Oaxaca. In 1541, Cortés returned to Spain, where six years later he died from a case of pleurisy at the age of 62.

Cortés with stout armored band fights his way back into Tenochtitlan

Cortés with stout armored band fights his way back into Tenochtitlan (public domain)

The Mystery of his Lost Fleet

Hernán Cortés arrived in Yucatan, Mexico, in 1519, in order to conquer the Aztec empire of Central America. International Business Times reports that almost half a millennium later, researchers from Mexico are determined to discover the lost fleet of Cortés and investigate the ships meticulously to find out what artifacts they might hold. According to unverified rumors, Cortés burnt his ships so his crew could not flee. However, Cortés never verified such rumors but instead in a letter he sent to the Spanish king, Charles V, he mentioned that his ships sank near the coast of Veracruz.  

Several ships are believed to lie on the sea bed in the Gulf of Mexico, where Cortés supposedly abandoned them, even though none of them has ever been spotted during an underwater exploration. This might change very soon though, as the Sub-Directorate of Underwater Archaeology at Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) has recently made known that it is currently organizing an underwater exploration in the shores where Cortés landed to recover the ships, as International Business Times reports.

          The arrival of Cortés in Veracruz and the reception by Moctezuma's Ambassadors

                The arrival of Cortés in Veracruz and the reception by Moctezuma's Ambassadors (public domain)

Ambitious Project Could Reveal Important Details about Cortés' Mission

It was also announced that the project will be directed by Pilar Luna, former head of the Sub-Directorate of Underwater Archaeology. The main goal of this project is to determine how many ships of the large Spanish fleet that 500 years ago dominated the waters of Mexico still remain in the area, and what state they are in. The project team was motivated by the eagerness of treasure hunters, who kept coercing the Mexican government for permission to explore the cargo of the lost ships.

The most important part about this ambitious project, however, is the fact that if the ships and what they include are found to be in good condition, then they could reveal critical information about Cortés' mission and his long expedition to Central America. The only sure thing for now though is that the Gulf of Mexico will definitely be at the center of archaeological research for the following months or even years.

Top image: The Spanish Armada, 1577 (public domain)

By Theodoros Karasavvas

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