Five-hundred years ago, two men met and changed much of the world forever.
About 500 Spanish conquistadors — ragged from skirmishes, a massacre of an Indigenous village and a hike between massive volcanoes — couldn’t believe what they saw: an elegant island city in a land that Europeans didn’t know existed until a few years before.
“It was all so wonderful that I do not know how to describe this first glimpse of things never heard of, seen or dreamed of before,” wrote conquistador Bernal Díaz del Castillo.
The date was Nov. 8, 1519. Bernal’s leader, Hernán Cortés, walked them down a causeway leading into the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlán, and was greeted by this land’s most powerful man: Emperor Montezuma II. (Montezuma was Mexica, but the term Aztec is often used to denote the triple alliance of civilizations that made up his empire.)
According to Cortés, Montezuma immediately recognized the divine right of the Spanish and the Catholic Church to rule these lands and he surrendered his empire.
But according to historian Matthew Restall, author of the book When Montezuma Met Cortés, this is simply wrong.