Following in the footsteps of the greatestSpanish adventurers, Michael Wood retraces the path of the conquistadors fromAmazonia to Lake Titicaca, and from the deserts of North Mexico to the heightsof Machu Picchu. As he travels the same routes as Hernán Cortés, Francisco, andGonzalo Pizarro, Wood describes the dramatic events that accompanied the epicsixteenth-century Spanish conquest of the Aztec and Inca empires. He alsofollows parts of Orellana’s extraordinary voyage of discovery down the Amazonand of Cabeza de Vaca’s arduous journey across America to the Pacific. Fewstories in history match these conquests for sheer drama, endurance, anddistances covered, and Wood’s gripping narrative brings them fully to life.
Woodreconstructs both sides of the conquest, drawing from sources such as BernalDiaz’s eyewitness account, Cortés’s own letters, and the Aztec texts recordednot long after the fall of Mexico. Wood’s evocative story of his own journeymakes a compelling connection with the sixteenth-century world as he relatesthe present-day customs, rituals, and oral traditions of the people he meets.He offers powerful descriptions of the rivers, mountains, and ruins heencounters on his trip, comparing what he has seen and experienced with thehistorical record.
As well as being one of the pivotal events in history, theSpanish conquest of the Americas was one of the most cruel and devastating.Wood grapples with the moral legacy of the European invasion and with theimplications of an episode in history that swept away civilizations, religions,and ways of life. The stories in Conquistadors are not only ofconquest, heroism, and greed but of changes in the way we see the world,history and civilization, justice and human rights.