Juan de Grijalba 

Juan de Grijalba, Grijalba also spelled Grijalva, (born 1480? Cuéllar, Spain-died January 21, 1527, Honduras), Spanish explorer, nephew of the conquistador Diego Velázquez; he was one of the first to explore the eastern coast of Mexico. Grijalba accompanied Velázquez in the conquest of Cuba (1511) and founded the city of Trinidad (1514). In 1518, Velázquez, as governor of Cuba, sent Grijalba to explore the Yucatán Peninsula. Setting sail from Cuba with four ships and about 200 men, Grijalba became the first navigator to set foot on Mexican soil and the first to use the term New Spain. He and his men mapped rivers and discovered Cozumel Island.

During their explorations, the men heard tales of a rich civilization in the interior. At last, Grijalba met with its representatives, thus becoming the first European to learn of the existence of the Aztec empire farther to the north. When he returned to Cuba, his uncle was furious that his nephew had made no attempt at settlement, although Grijalba's orders had been to explore only. As a result, Grijalba was passed over and the job of colonization was given to Hernán Cortés.

Grijalba accompanied Cortés on his expedition (1519), but it was Grijalba's explorations that paved the way for Cortés, thereby leading to the conquest of Mexico.

This article was most recently revised and updated by Amy Tikkanen. Citation Information Article Title: Juan de Grijalba

Website Name: Encyclopaedia Britannica Publisher: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. Date Published: 17 January 2021 URL:


Marina, original name Malintzin, also called Malinche or Doña Marina, (born c. 1501, Painalla, Mexico-died c. 1529, Spain), Mexican Native American princess, one of a group of enslaved women given as a peace offering to the Spanish conquistadors by the Tabascan people (1519). She became mistress, guide, and interpreter to Hernán Cortés during his conquest of Mexico. The success of his ventures was often directly attributable to her services. Renouncing her indigenous name, Malintzin, on her conversion to Christianity, Doña Marina served her adopted countrymen with dedication. Her intelligence and tact and her knowledge of the Maya language of the coast and the Nahuatl language of the interior extricated the Spaniards from many perilous situations. She bore Cortés a son, Martín, and later married one of his soldiers, Juan de Jaramillo, with whom she journeyed to Spain, where she was warmly received at the Spanish court. 

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Jeff Wallenfeldt.  January 2022 URL: Access Date: January 09, 2022

Who was La Malinche?

La Malinche was a Nahua woman from an indigenous Mexican region, best known for her role in the conquest of the Aztec Empire by the Spanish establishment. Born in the Mexican Valley ruled by the Aztecs, she grew up in the Nahuatl-speaking lands at the borders of the Aztec and the Mayan empires. Her father died soon after she was born. Her mother remarried, leaving Malinche as a slave to the Mayan slave traders in the early 16th century. A war broke out between the Mayans and the Spaniards, and Malinche was among the 20 Mayan slaves who were offered to the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés. He was impressed by the multilingual skills of Malinche and kept her as a chief advisor, interpreter, and mediator. She later gave birth to Hernán's son, Martin, who is known in history as one of the first Mestizos (people of European-Indigenous American descent). Malinche's role in the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire is known to be one of the biggest causes behind the Spanish victory in the Mexican lands. Hernán Cortés had a wife in Spain, and when she heard about the relationship between her husband and Malinche, she arranged Malinche's marriage to a knight named Juan Jaramillo. History has no mention of her after this.

Childhood & Early Life

La Malinche was born Malinalli, sometime in the late 15th century or the early 16th century. Although the exact place and date of her birth remain unknown to date, it is said that she was born somewhere around the borders of the Mayan and the Aztec Empires in the Valley of Mexico. Her father was a leader of the Paynala tribe. Her mother was from Xaltipan, a nearby town. Soon after she was born, Malinche's father passed away and her mother married another leader. She kept Malinche with her for sometime, but only until she had another son from her second marriage. Her mother had a soft corner for her young son and did not want Malinche to take what was her son's by right. She silently gave away Malinche to the Xicalango people, who then gave her away to the Tabascans. Malinche was 20 years old at that time. She was intelligent yet beautiful. She was well-versed in her native Nahuatl language and quickly learned the Mayan dialects spoken by the people from Yucatán. Despite being a slave, she was treated better than the other slave girls due to her above-average beauty and intellect.

The Mexican Conquest

Spanish conqueror Hernán Cortés eyed the vast lands of Mexico and North America and engaged in a battle with the Chontal Maya in April 1519. Hernán won and was offered 20 young women by the Chontal Maya people of Potonchán as a token of respect. Malinche was one of those women. She was initially supposed to be gifted to Alonso Hernandez Puertocarrero, but Hernán later kept her by his side. Malinche was not too happy about the entire deal, but she could not do anything to turn it around. Before that, Hernán had a Spanish priest named Jeronimo, whom he used as an interpreter for communicating with the Mayan people and other native Mexicans. However, Hernán came to know soon that one of the women that were offered to him, Malinche, was highly skilled in speaking the dialects and languages of almost the entire Mexican region. However, Malinche did not speak Spanish. During the initial years, she merely translated the Aztec language to the Mayan dialect, which was understood perfectly by Jeronimo. Jeronimo would then relay the message in Spanish to Hernán. This continued for a while, and slowly, Malinche became one of Hernán's favorites among all the slaves he was gifted. Malinche's beauty and brains made sure that she was the only slave whose name was actually remembered. She was also baptized and converted to Christianity. She was given the name "Marina" by Hernán. She also earned a special place in his court. She was always with Hernán during his meetings and other important events. Many painters from that era who painted him almost always showed him with Malinche by his side. She also played a great role in Hernán's victories in her native land. The surviving records state that she understood the Cholula plans to form an alliance with the Aztecs to attack the small Spanish army. She informed Hernán and thus avoided a horrific bloodshed of the Spanish troops. However, this led to a strong hatred for Malinche among the natives. Following this, several assassination plots were also planned, but none of them was executed. Hernán also fell in love with Malinche around the early 1520s. Malinche gave birth to his son, Martin Cortés, in 1522. Hernán build a house for her, where she stayed peacefully and raised her son. However, well aware of her tactical skills, Hernán often took Malinche with her to the battles. When he set out to suppress a rebellion in Honduras in 1524, he took Malinche with him to serve as an interpreter. Although she acted mostly as an interpreter, there are many accounts that state that her role was a lot larger than that. She was seen alongside Hernán during important meetings and was also known to take some independent decisions. 

Over the years, historians have carefully studied the first-person accounts written by the soldiers and historians of that era to conclude that she was "the real conqueror of Mexico." Several accounts also write about her abilities to negotiate. She talked Indians into submitting to the Spanish people and made them see things in a better light. However, historians believe that it would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the Spanish to conquer the Mexican lands if Malinche had not been with them. The vast North American lands had many different dialects, which might have caused a major difference in communication. Along with her tactical and manipulative talents, Malinche was a force to reckon with. One of the most important feats of her life was to bring the native tribe of the Tlaxcalans to negotiate with the Spanish. Both the forces had armed clashes repeatedly. Meetings were organized, and Malinche

Personal Life

La Malinche was renamed many times during her life. She was born as "Malinalli" and after being taken in by the Spanish, she was named "Doña Marina." She was later called "La Malinche," after she became close to Hernán. Her name meant "the Captain's Lady" in Spanish. Malinche was also known to be a kind woman. When Hernán brought her face to face with her mother who had abandoned her, Malinche forgave her. In 1522, she had a son with Hernán and named him "Martin." Martin later became a 'Comendador of the Order of St. Jago.' Martin was also known as one of the first Mestizos, people with a mix of European and Native American ancestry. Malinche had become very close to Hernán on a personal level. Hernán's first wife was in Spain then, and upon her intervention, Malinche's marriage was arranged to another Spanish conquistador, Juan Jaramillo. She soon gave birth to Jaramillo's daughter, Doña María. Her life after this has not been recorded in history. However, some historians claim that she died in 1551. 


Malinche is a highly divisive figure in Mexican history. While many Mexicans hate her for being a traitor to her people, many praise her. Hernán Cortés himself is known as one of the most-hated conquerors of the Mexican lands. While many other invaders had their statues erected in their honor in Mexico, Hernán received no such honor. La Malinche has been the subject of many books, novels, and movies in Mexico.

Hernán Cortés

Hernán Cortés, in full Hernán Cortés, marqués del Valle de Oaxaca, also called Hernando Cortés or Fernando Cortés, Cortés also spelled Cortéz, (born 1485, Medellín, near Mérida, Extremadura, Castile [Spain]-died December 2, 1547, Castilleja de la Cuesta, near Sevilla), Spanish conquistador who overthrew the Aztec empire (1519-21) and won Mexico for the crown of Spain. Cortés was the son of Martín Cortés de Monroy and of Doña Catalina Pizarro Altamarino-names of ancient lineage. "They had little wealth, but much honour," according to Cortés's secretary, Francisco López de Gómara, who tells how, at age 14, the young Hernán was sent to study at Salamanca, in west-central Spain, "because he was very intelligent and clever in everything he did." Gómara went on to describe him as ruthless, haughty, mischievous, and quarrelsome, "a source of trouble to his parents." Certainly, he was "much given to women," frustrated by provincial life, and excited by stories of the Indies Columbus had just discovered. He set out for the east coast port of Valencia with the idea of serving in the Italian wars, but instead he "wandered idly about for nearly a year." Clearly Spain's southern ports, with ships coming in full of the wealth and color of the Indies, proved a greater attraction. He finally sailed for the island of Hispaniola (now Santo Domingo) in 1504.

Years in Hispaniola and Cuba

In Hispaniola he became a farmer and notary to a town council; for the first six years or so, he seems to have been content to establish his position. He contracted syphilis and, as a result, missed the ill-fated expeditions of Diego de Nicuesa and Alonso de Ojeda, which sailed for the South American mainland in 1509. By 1511 he had recovered, and he sailed with Diego Velázquez to conquer Cuba. There Velázquez was appointed governor, and Cortés clerk to the treasurer. Cortés received a repartimiento (gift of land and Indian slaves) and the first house in the new capital of Santiago. He was now in a position of some power and the man to whom dissident elements in the colony began to turn for leadership. Cortés was twice elected alcalde ("mayor") of the town of Santiago and was a man who "in all he did, in his presence, bearing, conversation, manner of eating and of dressing, gave signs of being a great lord." It was therefore to Cortés that Velázquez turned when, after news had come of the progress of Juan de Grijalba's efforts to establish a colony on the mainland, it was decided to send him help. An agreement appointing Cortés captain general of a new expedition was signed in October 1518. Experience of the rough-and-tumble of New World politics advised Cortés to move fast before Velázquez changed his mind. His sense of the dramatic, his long experience as an administrator, the knowledge gained from so many failed expeditions, above all his ability as a speaker gathered to him six ships and 300 men, all in less than a month. The reaction of Velázquez was predictable; his jealousy aroused, he resolved to place leadership of the expedition in other hands. Cortés, however, took hastily to sea to raise more men and ships in other Cuban ports.

The expedition to Mexico

When Cortés finally sailed for the coast of Yucatán on February 18, 1519, he had 11 ships, 508 soldiers, about 100 sailors, and-most important-16 horses. In March 1519 he landed at Tabasco, where he stayed for a time to gain intelligence from the local Indians. He won them over and received presents from them, including 20 women, one of whom, Marina ("Malinche"), became his mistress and interpreter and bore him a son, Martín. Cortés sailed to another spot on the southeastern Mexican coast and founded Veracruz, mainly to have himself elected captain general and chief justice by his soldiers as citizens, thus shaking off the authority of Velázquez. On the mainland Cortés did what no other expedition leader had done: he exercised and disciplined his army, welding it into a cohesive force. But the ultimate expression of his determination to deal with disaffection occurred when he sank his ships. By that single action he committed himself and his entire force to survival by conquest. Cortés then set out for the Mexican interior, relying sometimes on force, sometimes on amity toward the local Indian peoples, but always careful to keep conflict with them to a strict minimum. The key to Cortés's subsequent conquests lay in the political crisis within the Aztec empire; the Aztecs were bitterly resented by many of the subject peoples who had to pay tribute to them. The ability of Cortés as a leader is nowhere more apparent than in his quick grasp of the situation-a grasp that was ultimately to give him more than 200,000 Indian allies. The nation of Tlaxcala, for instance, which was in a state of chronic war with Montezuma II, ruler of the Aztec empire of Mexico, resisted Cortés at first but became his most faithful ally. Rejecting all of Montezuma's threats and blandishments to keep him away from Tenochtitlán or Mexico, the capital (rebuilt as Mexico City after 1521), Cortés entered the city on November 8, 1519, with his small Spanish force and only 1,000 Tlaxcaltecs. In accordance with the diplomatic customs of Mexico, Montezuma received him with great honor. Cortés soon decided to seize Montezuma to hold the country through its monarch and achieve not only its political conquest but its religious conversion. Spanish politics and envy were to frustrate Cortés throughout his meteoric career. Cortés soon heard of the arrival of a Spanish force from Cuba, led by Pánfilo Narváez, to deprive Cortés of his command at a time (mid-1520) when he was holding the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán by little more than the force of his personality. Leaving a garrison in Tenochtitlán of 80 Spaniards and a few hundred Tlaxcaltecs commanded by his most reckless captain, Pedro de Alvarado, Cortés marched against Narváez, defeated him, and enlisted his army in his own forces. On his return, he found the Spanish garrison in Tenochtitlán besieged by the Aztecs after Alvarado had massacred many leading Aztec chiefs during a festival. Hard pressed and lacking food, Cortés decided to leave the city by night. The Spaniards' retreat from the capital was performed, but with a heavy loss in lives and most of the treasure they had accumulated. After six days of retreat Cortés won the battle of Otumba over the Aztecs sent in pursuit (July 7, 1520). Cortés eventually rejoined his Tlaxcalan allies and reorganized his forces before again marching on Tenochtitlán in December 1520. After subduing the neighboring territories he laid siege to the city itself, conquering it street by street until its capture was completed on August 13, 1521. This victory marked the fall of the Aztec empire. Cortés had become the absolute ruler of a huge territory extending from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean. In the meantime, Velázquez was mounting an insidious political attack on Cortés in Spain through Bishop Juan Rodríguez de Fonseca and the Council of the Indies. Fully conscious of the vulnerability of a successful conqueror whose field of operations was 5,000 miles (8,000 km) from the center of political power, Cortés countered with lengthy and detailed dispatches-five remarkable letters to the Spanish king Charles V. His acceptance by the Indians and even his popularity as a relatively benign ruler was such that he could have established Mexico as an independent kingdom. Indeed, this is what the Council of the Indies feared. But his upbringing in a feudal world in which the king commanded absolute allegiance was against it.

Later years

In 1524 his restless urge to explore and conquer took him south to the jungles of Honduras. The two arduous years he spent on this disastrous expedition damaged his health and his position. His property was seized by the officials he had left in charge, and reports of the cruelty of their administration and the chaos it created aroused concern in Spain. Cortés' fifth letter to the Spanish king attempts to justify his reckless behavior and concludes with a bitter attack on "various and powerful rivals and enemies" who have "obscured the eyes of your Majesty." But it was his misfortune that he was not dealing simply with a king of Spain but with an emperor who ruled most of Europe and who had little time for distant colonies, except insofar as they contributed to his treasury. The Spanish bureaucrats sent out a commission of inquiry under Luis Ponce de León, and, when he died almost immediately, Cortés was accused of poisoning him and was forced to retire to his estate. In 1528 Cortés sailed for Spain to plead his case in person with the king. He brought with him a great wealth of treasure and a magnificent entourage. He was received by Charles at his court at Toledo, confirmed as captain general (but not as governor), and created Marqués del Valle. He also remarried, into a ducal family. He returned to New Spain in 1530 to find the country in a state of anarchy and so many accusations made against him-even that he had murdered his first wife, Catalina, who had died that year-that, after reasserting his position and reestablishing some sort of order, he retired to his estates at Cuernavaca, about 30 miles (48 km) south of Mexico City. There he concentrated on the building of his palace and on Pacific exploration. Finally, a viceroy was appointed, after which, in 1540, Cortés returned to Spain. By then he had become thoroughly disillusioned, his life made miserable by litigation. All the rest is anticlimax. "I am old, poor and in debt...again and again I have begged your Majesty...." In the end he was permitted to return to Mexico, but he died before he had even reached Sevilla (Seville).

Ralph Hammond Innes 

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica Citation Information Article Title: Hernán Cortés Website Name: Encyclopaedia Britannica Publisher: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. Date Published: 01 January 2022 URL:

Gonzalo Guerrero

The Yucatan Times presents today in "Yucatan Awaits" a column by Anthropologist, researcher, and writer Indalecio Cardeña Vázquez...

By Yucatan Times on April 3, 2020

One of the first Spaniards who experienced the strength and vigor of the Mayan culture and was captivated by it, joining that society ultimately, was Gonzalo Guerrero, a soldier from Puerto de Palos. In the same place, Christopher Columbus first set sail for the New World.

Guerrero was one of two castaways who survived the sinking of a Spanish ship in the Caribbean Sea in 1511. The other survivor was Jerónimo de Aguilar, an ex-religious man who returned to the Spanish eight years later when Hernán Cortés arrived on the Yucatan Peninsula in 1519.

Gonzalo Guerrero had married the daughter of the "cacique" or chief, to whom he had initially been served as a slave. Then he became a captain of that ruler's armies and gave military advice to many indigenous leaders of Yucatan for the defense of their territory, against their already ex-Spanish compatriots.

Various colonial chroniclers such as Francisco López de Gómara, Bernal Díaz del Castillo or Fray Diego de Landa, refer to this Spaniard with not very flattering terms since Gonzalo Guerrero was considered in his time by his fellow countrymen as a traitor and idolater.

The chronicles coincide in pointing out that Guerrero spoke Mayan perfectly, was the captain of Nachancán, lord of Chetumal, and highly esteemed for the victories he achieved in the battles of that ruler against his enemies from other indigenous provinces, he instructed the Mayans to fight with Spanish strategies and taught them to build trenches. The documents also state that Guerrero married an important woman from that province and had three children.

When talking about Guerrero's refusal to return to the Spaniards, despite Hernán Cortés' invitation, the chroniclers gather the testimony of Jerónimo de Aguilar and say that he did not respond out of shame. He had carved his face, pierced his nose, ears and lower lip, like the Mayan warriors, his face and hands were painted. They highlight the love he had for his wife and three children.

When Hernán Cortés knew what Guerrero was doing, the chronicles point out that the conqueror said: "I wish I could catch him with my own hands, he will never be any good".

The author Julio Izquierdo published in 1992, a book: "Gonzalo Guerrero. A Mayan chief born in Palos. This book contains a biography of this Spanish soldier. So we can read that Guerrero, originally from the port of Palos, was an arquebusier (a soldier specialized in handling the arquebus), in Naples and Granada.

Other authors point out that he was born in 1470. Julio Izquierdo indicates that Guerrero arrived in America in 1510 or perhaps a little earlier. The ship that sank in 1511, where this Spanish soldier was traveling, was called "Santa María de Barca," built-in Almería. Guerrero was the officer in charge of the crew and the slaves that the ship was transporting.

Gonzalo Guerrero died in 1536 in Guatemala, fighting against the Spanish.
A letter sent to the Crown that same year of 1536 by an accountant from Honduras, Andrés de Cereceda, refers to the fact that one day before the Guatemalan Mayans surrendered in a critical battle in that region a Spanish Christian named Gonzalo Aroza (At that time they were not sure of his last name) was killed with a shot of the harquebus, who was among the Indians in the Province of Yucatan twenty years ago and is the one who destroyed the plans of the Adelantado Montejo.

Because there was a depopulation of Christians, Gonzalo came to help the Mayans here with a fleet of fifty canoes, this Spanish who was killed was naked, had his body carved and dressed like an Indian, that letter states.

Gonzalo Guerrero constitutes in the process of Spanish conquest and colonization, the first case of change of ethnic identity, of adoption of a culture different from the original one, and perfect integration to a new and unknown society.

Indalecio Cardeña Vázquez
For The Yucatán Times / Times Media México
05 de abril de 2020
Mérida Yucatán, México

Indalecio Cardeña Vázquez. - Anthropologist, researcher and writer.