1697 – The last Mayan city is defeated by the Spanish

Nojpetén (also known as Tayasal) was the capital city of the Itza Maya kingdom, located in what is now Guatemala. It was the last Mayan capital city to fall to the Spanish in their conquest of the Petén region. After the conquest, the Spanish recorded that it had 21 temples, including a step pyramid of similar size and design to the one in Chichen Itza. These were almost all destroyed, and the Mayan culture was largely eradicated by the conquerors.

The Spanish committed a form of cultural genocide – although we know that the Maya were a highly literate culture, only three books survived the fires made of them by missionaries who believed it was their holy mission to save these primitive heathens. The Maya also had a highly developed system of timekeeping, with a calendar that had been calculated as far in advance as 2012 – leading many to assume, wrongly, that the Maya believed history would end then, rather than that date simply being where the work had ended.

Referenced in:
People of the Sun — Rage Against The Machine

1521 – The Aztecs surrender to Cortes

After a war that lasted for nearly two years, the Spanish Conquest of the Aztec Empire was finally completed with the destruction by fire of Tenochlitan, the Empire’s capital (which stood on the site of modern Mexico City). The last of the Aztec Emperors, Cuauhtémoc, surrendered to Cortes and his men.

The Spanish ruthlessly eradicated whatever traces of Aztec culture they found, considering it barbaric and cruel. The religion of the Aztecs was replaced by Christianity, their language of Nahautl by Spanish, and so on. In particular, almost all documents the Aztecs had kept were destroyed, often by Spanish missionaries.

Over the subsequent decades, the Spanish would defeat and destroy the other nations of Mexico: the Tlaxcala (who had been their allies against the Aztecs), the Zapotecs, the Maya and the Mixtecs all fell before the might of Spanish gunfire, although the complete conquest of Mexico would take until 1697 to be completed

Referenced in:

Short Memory – Midnight Oil
Montezuma was a Man of Faith – Andy Prieboy