Timeline of Hernan Cortes' Conquest of the Aztecs

Painting of the storming of the Teocalli by Hernán Cortés and his troops

Emanuel Leutze

1492: Christopher Columbus Discovers the New World for Europe.

1502: Christopher Columbus, on his Fourth New World Voyage, meets with some advanced traders: they were likely Mayan vassals of the Aztecs.

1517: Francisco Hernández de Córdoba expedition: three ships explore the Yucatan. Many Spanish are killed in skirmishes with Native people, including Hernandez.


January–October: The Juan de Grijalva Expedition explores the Yucatan and southern part of Mexico's Gulf Coast. Some of those who took part, including Bernal Diaz del Castillo and Pedro de Alvarado, would later Join Cortes' expedition.

November 18: Hernan Cortes Expedition sets out from Cuba.


March 24: Cortes and his men fight the Maya of Potonchan. After winning the battle, the Lord of Potonchan would give Cortes gifts, including an enslaved girl Malinali, who would go on to be better known as Malinche, Cortes' invaluable interpreter and mother of one of his children.

April 21: Cortes Expedition reaches San Juan de Ulua.

June 3: Spanish visit Cempoala and found settlement of Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz.

July 26: Cortes sends a ship with treasure and letters to Spain.

August 23: Cortes' treasure ship stops in Cuba and rumors start to spread of the wealth discovered in Mexico.

September 2–20: Spanish enter Tlaxcalan territory and battle the fierce Tlaxcalans and their allies.

September 23: Cortes and his men, victorious, enter Tlaxcala and make important alliances with the leaders.

October 14: Spanish enter Cholula.

October 25? (exact date unknown) Cholula Massacre: Spanish and Tlaxcalans fall on unarmed Cholulans in one of the city squares when Cortes learns of an ambush awaiting them outside the city.

November 1: Cortes expedition leaves Cholula.

November 8: Cortes and his men enter Tenochtitlan.

November 14: Montezuma arrested and placed under guard by the Spanish.


March 5: Governor Velazquez of Cuba sends Panfilo de Narvaez to rein in Cortes and regain control of the expedition.

May: Cortes leaves Tenochtitlan to deal with Narvaez.

May 20: Pedro de Alvarado orders the massacre of thousands of Aztec nobles at the Festival of Toxcatl.

May 28–29: Cortes defeats Narvaez at the Battle of Cempoala and adds his men and supplies to his own.

June 24: Cortes returns to find Tenochtitlan in a state of uproar.

June 29: Montezuma is injured while pleading with his people for calm: he will die shortly from his wounds.

June 30: the Night of Sorrows. Cortes and his men try to creep out of the city under cover of darkness but are discovered and attacked. Most of the treasure collected thus far is lost.

July 7: Conquistadors score a narrow victory at the Battle of Otumba.

July 11: Conquistadors reach Tlaxcala where they can rest and regroup.

September 15: Cuitlahuac officially becomes the Tenth Tlatoani of the Mexica.

October: Smallpox sweeps the land, claiming thousands of lives in Mexico, including Cuitlahuac.

December 28: Cortes, his plans in place for the reconquest of Tenochtitlan, leaves Tlaxcala.


February: Cuauhtemoc becomes eleventh Tlatoani of the Mexica.

April 28: Brigantines launched in Lake Texcoco.

May 22: Siege of Tenochtitlan formally begins: Causeways blockaded as the brigantines attack from the water.

August 13: Cuauhtemoc is captured while fleeing Tenochtitlan. This effectively ends the resistance of the Aztec Empire.


  • Diaz del Castillo, Bernal. Trans., ed. J.M. Cohen. 1576. London, Penguin Books, 1963. Print.
  • Levy, Buddy. New York: Bantam, 2008.
  • Thomas, Hugh. New York: Touchstone, 1993.
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Minster, Christopher. "Timeline of Hernan Cortes' Conquest of the Aztecs." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/hernan-cortes-conquest-of-aztecs-timeline-2136533. Minster, Christopher. (2023, April 5). Timeline of Hernan Cortes' Conquest of the Aztecs. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/hernan-cortes-conquest-of-aztecs-timeline-2136533 Minster, Christopher. "Timeline of Hernan Cortes' Conquest of the Aztecs." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/hernan-cortes-conquest-of-aztecs-timeline-2136533 (accessed June 8, 2023).