Hernando Cortes, sometimes spelled Hernan Cortes, left Spain in 1504 en route to Hispaniola, also known as Santo Domingo, where he served as a notary in the town of Azua. In 1511, Cortes set sail for Cuba under the command of Diego Velazquez. Cuba was claimed for Spain and Cortes became mayor of Santiago. In 1518, he set sail for Mexico, leading a fleet of 11 ships and 500 men, disobeying a direct order from Velazquez.
Cortes arrived on the Yucatan coast in 1519 and claimed the land for Spain. His journey turned inland, conquering native tribes such as the Tlaxacan and the Cholula along the way. His goal was to capture the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. After capturing Montezuma II, the Aztec ruler, he raided the city.
Meanwhile, Velazquez sent Spanish forces after Cortes to arrest him. Cortes found out and left the Aztec city. After defeating the Velazquez forces and in some cases getting the men to join his expedition, Cortes returned to Tenochtitlan, but this time, the Aztecs drove the Spanish out. It wasn't until the third attempt, in 1521, that Cortes was able to conquer the city.
Following the victory, Cortes was appointed the governor of New Spain by King Charles I. After having to travel to Honduras in 1524 to stop a rebellion, Cortes returned to Mexico, but found himself removed from office. Despite traveling back to Spain, his governorship was not reinstated. Cortes spent the remainder of his life in Spain.