Cortés went (1504) first to Hispaniola and later (1511) accompanied Diego de Velázquez to Cuba. In 1518 he was chosen to lead an expedition to Mexico. Although Velázquez later sought to recall his commission, Cortés sailed in Feb., 1519. In Yucatán he rescued a Spaniard who had learned the Mayan language; after a victory over the native people of Tabasco, Cortés acquired the services of a female slave Malinche—baptized Marina—who knew both Maya and Aztec. Having proceeded up the coast, Cortés founded Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz and was chosen captain general by the cabildo; thus he discarded Velázquez's authority and became responsible only to Charles V.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.