On Good Friday, 1519, Hernando Cortez landed in Veracruz, Mexico. Since the arrival of Grijalva in the Yucatan, 2 years earlier, Montezuma had kept careful watch for the return of the foreigners.
Within hours of the appearance of Cortez, Montezuma received the news from his sentries, speedy runners, who had fled immediately to give him the news of the mysterious men, who could, possibly be gods or the emissaries of the gods.
If they were gods, Montezuma would need to honor and appease them; if they were merely mortal men, he could call the warriors of his mighty Aztec Empire’s armies together and easily annihilate the invaders, or so he reasoned.
He summoned several worrier-priests, Jaguar Knights; he instructed them to go to Cortez with the treasure that was reserved for the time of the return of Quetzalcoatl. Some of the gifts included helmets of gold; some were decorated with green feathers, golden bells and mirrors, and turquoise earrings. There was a breastplate made with exquisite intricately-designed shell work. Beautiful ornaments crafted of fine gold, collars of jade, which was considered more valuable than gold, a crown of jaguar hide with feathers and green stones, and golden shields. The treasure was packed and loaded upon the backs of slaves. He ordered his Knights to deliver the hoard of treasure to the strangers, to listen, to observe everything and to report back to him as soon as possible. The Knights trekked on foot for miles, while safeguarding the treasure, to the Gulf of Mexico. There they continued the journey in canoes until they saw, what appeared to them, to be towers floating on the ocean.
They were welcomed aboard by Cortez, who could communicate with them through the help of his interpreters. The Knights bowed down and kissed the deck of the ship to show their respect to Captain Cortez, under the impression he might be the god, Quetzalcoatl. The Knights adorned him with some of the elaborate finery that they had brought. The captain was not as pleased as the Knights thought he would be. Cortez said, “Is this all?”
Cortez, who had easily subjugated the Mayan-speaking Aztecs of the Yucatan, knew he could intimidate the Jaguar Knights. He put the men in chains, demanded they show their fighting skills, and shot off his cannons. After the display he fed them and let them go. Terrified, the Knights paddled away in their canoes as swiftly as they possibly could; even paddling with their hands by those who did not have oars, to report all they had observed to Montezuma.
Montezuma waited apprehensively for the news from his men. He felt death in his heart, wondering if anyone would outlive the invasion. The worry that consumed him most was whether they would come to Tenochtitlan.
When his Knights arrived, they told him of the horses, describing them as deer as tall as the roof of a house and of enormous dogs with yellow eyes. They told Montezuma of their helmets, their clothing made of white metal and iron weapons. They told him of their white skin, yellow hair and beards; some with black hair. They described the cannons raining sparks and fire, and how they roared, deafening them, causing them to faint. The odor that the cannons made and how the cannon balls had the power to burst a mountain and destroy trees. Montezuma was filled with despair and anguish.
Cortez recognized the high caliber of the artwork he was presented while aboard his ship. He was blazing with enthusiasm and the obsession of conquering the kingdom of gold. He was encouraged by his knowledge of the power he possessed over these superstitious people. After he officially established the City of Veracruz he started the march inland to meet Montezuma.