Aztec warriors defending the temple of Tenochtitlan against conquistadors, 1519-1521. Hernando Cortes (1485-1547) Spanish conquistador, led an expedition to Mexico, landing in 1519. Although the conquistadors numbered only some 500 men, an Aztec prophecy regarding the return of the god Quetzlcoatl, whom the natives believed Cortes resembled, enabled them to reach the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, which they then captured, imprisoning the Emperor Montezuma II. The city later revolted, forcing Cortes and his men to retreat. The following year, however, Cortes returned, recapturing Tenochtitlan and overthrowing the Aztec empire. Tenochtilan was the capital of the Aztec empire, founded in 1325, destroyed by the Spaniards in 1521 and now the site of Mexico City.