Hernan Cortez was a soldier who was born in Medellin, the Province of Estremadura, Spain, in 1485 to Martín Cortés and Catalina Pizarro Altamirano, were both of good family, but in reduced circumstances. He was a sickly child, and at the age of fourteen was sent to the University of Salamanca, but returned home two years later without leave. He then determined upon a life of adventure, a native of Estremadura, who was about to sail for Santo Domingo to replace Bobadilla in his command. An accident that happened to him in a love adventure detained him at home, and the expedition sailed without him.
He then sought military service under the celebrated Gonzalo de Cordova, but on his way to Italy was was defeated by sickness in Valencia, where he remained for a year, experiencing great hardship and poverty. Returning to Medellin, he was able in 1504 to sail from San Lucar for Santo Domingo. Ovando received him cordially, and he obtained employment under Diego Valasquez in the suppression of a revolt, on the termination of which he was assigned the control of a large number of Indians, and appointed a notary. He was at this time remarkable for a graceful judging and amiable manner as well as for skill and address in military matters, and he held successively various important offices.
In 1511 he accompanied Diego Velasquez, who was sent out by Diego Columbus to conquer and colonize Cuba. Later he held the office of alcalde of Santiago in the new colony, and meanwhile he married Catalina Juarez, a Spanish lady who had come over in the suite of Maria de Toledo, the vice-queen.