Hernán Cortés Letter
SPANISH CONQUISTADOR’S WRITINGS RARELY AVAILABLE ON MARKET
In the history of the New World, few men figure as prominently as Hernán Cortés. The Spanish conquistador defeated Montezuma and the Aztec Empire and gave Spain control over vast regions of America.
“Cortés was there at a key moment in world history, the face-to-face meeting between two men from civilizations a world apart,” says Sandra Palomino, Heritage’s director of historical manuscripts. “He expanded the Spanish empire, converted the natives to Catholicism, and carried off a fortune in gold. There’s no doubt he’s among the world’s most prominent historical figures.”
After overthrowing the Aztec Empire, Cortés was given the title of Marqués del Valle de Oaxaca in Mexico.
It was during this time, in the 1530s, that Cortés penned a letter that is being offered at auction May 10-11 in Dallas. Addressed to a relative, Juan de Toledo, Cortés refers to the payment of a debt. “Toledo accompanied Cortés when he conquered Mexico,” Palomino says, “and Cortés made him mayor of Tehuantepec. This letter is a glimpse of the tasks he addressed as overseer of his estate.”
The framed letter originates from a collection known as the “Golden Age of Spain” put together by Texas collector Mary Lou Phillips Schenkel. Cortés letters are rare, with the last piece offered to collectors in 1984, Palomino says.