Cortés, Martín (1533–1589)

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Cortés, Martín (1533–1589)

Martín Cortés (b. 1532/1533; d. 13 August 1589), legitimate son of the conquistador Hernán Cortés and Juana de Zúñiga, born in Cuernavaca. Not to be confused with his stepbrother, also named Martín (son of Cortés and Malinche), this Martín was the second Marqués del Valle de Oaxaca. In 1540, he went to Spain, where he joined Charles V's royal service and later became a favorite in the entourage of Philip II. His return to Mexico in 1562 to claim his father's titles and property coincided with the Spanish crown's attempt to revoke the extension of the encomienda to the sons and grandsons of conquistadores. Indignant at the crown's assertiveness and eager to protect their inheritance, the criollos naturally looked to Martín Cortés for leadership. Don Martín, however, had an arrogant disposition and had an ostentatious lifestyle that offended many; more important, he seemed to lack the natural leadership abilities of his father. Though he tacitly agreed to their plan to make him king of Mexico, he never fully pledged his support for criollo plans to assassinate royal officials and overthrow the government. The plot failed, and the leaders were severely punished. Cortés was apprehended and sent to Spain to face trial in 1567; he was fined and sentenced to military duty. Though pardoned by the crown in 1574, Cortés never returned to Mexico. This failed uprising represented the last serious challenge to the crown's authority in Mexico by the early conquistadores and their families. Cortés died in Madrid.

See alsoConquistadores; Cortés, Hernán.


Irving Alber Leonard, Baroque Times in Old Mexico (1966).

Michael C. Meyer and William L. Sherman, The Course of Mexican History (1991).

Additional Bibliography

González Obregón, Luis. Semblanza de Martín Cortés. México, D.F.: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2006.

Suárez de Peralta, Juan. La conjuración de Martín Cortés y otros temas. México: Universidad Nacional Autónoma, 1994.

                                           J. David Dressing