a Spanish explorer and conquistador who set sail from Cuba in 1519 with sixteen horses, several hundred men, and eleven ships in an effort to gain access to the Aztecs' gold in Mexico. On the island, Cozumel, off the Yucatán peninsula, he rescued a Spanish castaway who had been enslaved by the Mayan-speaking Indians. Not long after, he took in female Indian slave, Malinche, who knew both Mayan and Nahuatl (language of the powerful Aztec rulers). Near present day Vera Cruz, Cortés made his final landfall. With the help of his interpreters, he learned of issues within the Aztec empire among the peoples from whom were demanded tribute by the Aztecs and of tales of gold stored in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán. With a gathered force of some twenty thousand Indian allies, he marched on Tenochtitlán. Cortés turned away welcoming gifts from the Aztec chieftain and asked directly for passage into the capital and gold. Thinking the conquistador was Quetzalcoatl, a god whose return from the eastern sea was predicted in Aztec legends, the chieftain granted passage to the incredible city that couldn't compare to any European one on the standards of beauty or architecture. At first, the chieftain expressed hospitality to Cortés but soon, the conquistador's greedy hunger for gold grew too large to bear. The Aztecs attempted to drive him and his men out on June 30, 1520 but, Cortés laid siege on the city and it capitulated on August 13, 1521 as a result of disease and the conquistador's wrath. (Cortés intermarried with surviving Indians, creating a unique culture of mestizos) The Colombian Exchange was an economic explosion of sorts of international commerce (would later be called "globalization") after Columbus' discovery of the Americas. The exchange altered Europe's trade and imports. From the New World, Europe imported gold, silver, corn, potatoes, pineapples, tomatoes, tobacco, beans, vanilla, chocolate, and indirectly, syphilis. Due to Europe's new influence, North America changed through the imports of Europe and Africa. From these two continents, North American natives gained wheat, sugar (seeds), rice, coffee, horses, cows, pigs, slave labor, and indirectly, smallpox, measles, bubonic plague, influenza, typhus, diphtheria, and scarlet fever. Africa was impacted by this exchange due to the increased demand to farm newly discovered crops between North America and Europe. Native Africans were stolen in the slave trade in gross amounts in order to be used for labor in the recently developed sugar cane fields in Hispaniola. In the exchange, South America, specifically Peru was reaped for gold and silver ore. The illnesses from the Old World ended up slaughtering up to as many as ninety percent of the Native Americans in the centuries after Columbus arrived.