The Spanish conquistadors were the elite unit of the Spanish Army. In the 14th, 15th and 16th century, they played a very instrumental role in the South American Conquest. The foundation of the Spanish and other European colonies was laid by the invading Spanish conquistadors. The conquistadors, by the conquest of the South American colonies, played a very important role in boosting the economy of Spain and sparking off the race of imperialism and colonization.
The history of conquistadors can be traced down deep into the pages of history, right up to the era of the 'Holy Wars' or the 'Crusades'. The main objective of the Holy Wars was to repel the Islamic rulers from the Holy Lands. The crusades were mainly fought during the medieval ages by most of the dominating powers in Europe. The Spanish however, for a long time, were fighting an extended and also isolated version of the crusades, popularly known as the "reconquista", against the Muslim rulers of the Moors. This version of the war lasted altogether for more than a span of eight hundred years. The fighting was never continuous, but the outcome was that the Spanish Empire was stabilized once again after driving out the Muslim Moors from the Iberian Peninsula.
The credit of the outcome of the battles of the "reconquista" was given to the Spanish elite unit, known as the conqueror or the el conquistadors'. The el conquistadors were basically a unit that was a combination of conquerors and explorers. It was using these skills of exploration and conquest, that Cortes, Pizarro, Orellana and Cabeza de Vaca aimed to conquer the new world.
The nation of Spain at that time, followed very stringent and strict rules regarding their religions. The whole population of Spain was Catholic. The most important thing for the Spanish Church was the spread of Catholic faith to the new world. This was also one of the most important reasons for them to undertake the voyage to the new world and South America. Conquistadors like Cortes, who followed later, had the sole aim of exploration and conquest in their minds. Even others like him who came later were in search of gold, silver, spices and natural resources, to cater to the growing needs, due to the age of Imperialism.
Cortes, Pizarro, Orellana, and Cabeza de Vaca waged wars against the natives of the South American Continent, namely the Aztecs and the Incas. The Spanish were very small in number when the famous conquistador - Francisco Pizarro conquered the city of Cuso, which was also capital of the Incan Civilization. In this legendary conquest, the Inca King Atahualpa, who was held hostage by Francisco Pizarro, filled the room in which he was being held hostage, with gold as a ransom.
Another legendary conquest was led by Hernando Cortes, who, with a very small force of conquistadors, defeated the whole Aztec empire.
History points out that conquering armies basically used weapons made of steel, and most of them also carried weapons of superior firepower.
The clothing of the conquistadors was simple. They wore a long-sleeved shirt known as camisa. This would be also accompanied by the balloon pants or pumpkin pants. The mounted conquistadors also wore gloves and boots made from leather. The steel body armor was initially very expensive, as it was imported from Spain, till the discovery of Durango iron mines. Hence, the conquistadors used quilted cotton jackets or Guerra. The Spanish soldiers however, still preferred the traditional amour. The conquistadors also used the Chaqueta de malla, which was a long chain mailed and a sleeve vest. The Cota de Malla was a similar shirt. Most of the helmets used by them were mass-produced in Cuba.
They used weapons that were highly versatile. The most modernized firearm called the matchlock muskets was used. In addition, they also used lances, crossbows, and daggers. The infantry relied on swords, while some of them also carried two-handed swords, muskets, and crossbows.
The conquistadors individually relied on different weapons during combat. Many of them specialized in different types of weapons. However, the standard weapons that everyone carried were the sword and the lance.
By the end of their era, in the 17th Century, the conquistadors had established themselves at a very high position in the Spanish society and the empire.