- from Early Settlements
Paying for Columbus’s four voyages gave Spain a big head start in the exploration of North America. From islands in the Caribbean Sea, Spanish explorers and conquerors fanned out to various parts of the mainland. One of the conquerors was Hernán Cortés.
Between 1519 and 1521, he and his army conquered the Aztec empire in Mexico. On the ruins of the Aztec capital, the Spanish built Mexico City. In 1535, Spain named its vast conquered territories New Spain. Mexico City became the capital. But claiming land was only the beginning. The Spanish built settlements to protect their claims and to govern the people there. Without settlements, other European countries might move into the land Spain had claimed.