The first program tells the story of the conquest in 1519-21 of the Aztec empire in Mexico by Hernan Cortes and 500 Spanish conquistadors. Michael Wood follows the path of gambler and womanizer Cortes from his home in Spain to the Mayan pyramids on the shores of the Yucatan, on through the tropical forests of Tabasco to the snow-capped volcanoes of Mexico. Trekking over the mountains in torrential storms, Wood considers how a small band of Spanish adventurers could overthrow an empire of millions, and why the Aztec ruler Montezuma could have believed the Spanish were gods. In modern Mexico City, Wood pieces together the climax of the tale, using dramatic and little-known Aztec eyewitness accounts of the final battle between the Spanish and Aztec armies, a battle that changed the course of history. Before the only surviving portrait of Cortes painted from life, Wood returns to the riddle of the gambler who achieved his dream but in the process destroyed a civilization.
Visit the Website: http://www.pbs.org/conquistadors
Episode #101 / Length: 56 minutes