Martín Cortés, 2nd Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca
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Don Martín Cortés y Zúñiga, 2nd Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca (1532–1589) was the son and designated heir of Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés by his second wife, Juana de Zúñiga. Don Martín shared his name with an elder half-brother, whose mother was Doña Marina.
Martín Cortés was born in Cuernavaca, Morelos, in the then-viceroyalty of New Spain, now Mexico. He had an older half-brother with the same name (Martín Cortés (el Mestizo), 1523-1568), son of Hernán Cortés y La Malinche, nicknamed "El Mestizo". In this article Martín Cortés Zúñiga is referred to as simply "Martín" while any reference to his brother will be suffixed "el Mestizo".
Martín Cortés Zúñiga traveled with his father to Spain in 1540, to serve King Charles I of Spain, and later his successor Philip II of Spain. He participated in the Battle of St. Quentin in 1557, and in the Netherlands campaign.
During his residence in Spain, he married his niece, Ana Ramírez de Arellano. He maintained close ties with the aristocracy and intelligentsia of the moment, such as the writer López de Gómara, to whom he dedicated the biography he wrote of his father Hernán Cortés.
Martín, with his brothers Luis and Martín el Mestizo, returned to a friendly welcome in the viceroyalty of New Spain in 1563. At the time, during a period of disturbances in the city of Mexico City, Martín was considered the richest person in New Spain, and promptly demonstrated arrogant and spendthrifty ways.
Martín led a movement along with some other encomenderos, fighting to prevent the abolition of ecomiendas, and greater autonomy for the new world. On the death of the Viceroy Luís de Velasco in 1564, Martín was named Captain General by the Mexico City Council with hints of independence for the viceroyalty. In 1565 there was a push to crown Martín king of New Spain. On 16 July 1566, the failure of these subversives lead to the arrest of the leaders, including Martín, his brothers, and the rich and influential Alonso de Ávila, nephew of the conquistador of the same name. The conspirators were sentenced to death, but on arrival of the new viceroy Gastón de Peralta on 15 November 1567, the Cortés brothers were spared. Most of the other conspirators, including Alonso de Avila, were executed by public beheading.
Martín was given leave in April of 1567 to travel to Spain to plead their case before the King. He served time in Algeria, along with his brother Luis. Martin was pardoned in 1574, his properties returned to him, and was allowed to leave Algeria but not return to New Spain. His brother Luis, who had also served time in Algeria was allowed to return to New Spain.
Martín Cortés died in Madrid, Spain, 13 August 1589.
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