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50 To 90 Percent Of Native Americans Were Killed By Smallpox

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50 To 90 Percent Of Native Americans Were Killed By Smallpox, After first contacts with Europeans and Africans, some believe that the death of 90-95% of the native population of the New World was caused by Old World diseases.

In 1519 Hernán Cortés landed on the shores of what is now Mexico and was then the Aztec empire. In 1520 another group of Spanish arrived in Mexico from Hispaniola, bringing with them the smallpox which had already been ravaging that island for two years. When Cortés heard about the other group, he went and defeated them. In this contact, one of Cortés’s men contracted the disease. When Cortés returned to Tenochtitlan, he brought the disease with him.

Soon, the Aztecs rose up in rebellion against Cortés and his men. Outnumbered, the Spanish were forced to flee. In the fighting, the Spanish soldier carrying smallpox died. After the battle, the Aztecs contracted the virus from the invaders’ bodies. Cortes would not return to the capital until August 1521. In the meantime smallpox devastated the Aztec population. It killed most of the Aztec army and 25% of the overall population. The Spanish Franciscan Motolinia left this description: “As the Indians did not know the remedy of the disease they died in heaps, like bedbugs. In many places it happened that everyone in a house died and, as it was impossible to bury the great number of dead, they pulled down the houses over them so that their homes become their tombs.” On Cortés’s return, he found the Aztec army’s chain of command in ruins. The soldiers who still lived were weak from the disease. Cortés then easily defeated the Aztecs and entered Tenochtitlán. The Spaniards said that they could not walk through the streets without stepping on the bodies of smallpox victims.

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