Today’s video is Episode 1 of Michael Wood‘s 2001 BBC documentary The Conquistadors. This episode covers the first post-Columbus push into the American continent: Hernan Cortes‘ 1519-1522 expedition into Mexico.
In 1519, Hernan Cortes led a band of adventurers and treasure-seekers into the flourishing Aztec empire. By utilizing resentment of imprisoned tribes, as well as exploiting Aztec legends of the god Quetzalcoatl, the Spaniards managed to penetrate Mexico all the way into the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan and the embattled Aztec emperor Montezuma II. Within a couple of years, the Aztec empire collapsed, and the Spanish would establish the colony of New Spain, with Mexico City built on the ruins of the old Aztec capital.
Wood’s movie is important, in that it not only chronicles the Cortes expedition and its aftermath, but also views the events through the lens of modern Mexico, highlighting how the conquest has affected this area even today. As so many students are now studying the first European encounters in the Americas, this film would make a worthwhile compliment to your unit planning.