Conquistadors with Michael Wood Previous Broadcasts

The Search for El Dorado/All The World Is Human (Episode #103W)

KQED 9: Wed, Sep 23, 2009 -- 8:00 PM

"The Search for El Dorado" - From Peru, Wood moves to Ecuador, where a member of the Pizarro clan, Gonzalo, led an expedition in 1541 to find El Dorado, a ruler reputed to possess unsurpassed riches in gold. Crossing the Andes, Wood and his crew hack through the dense forests to the Coca River. Once there, they build a balsa raft to carry them to the site where the Spanish expedition split up. On Christmas day of 1541, Francisco de Orellana, a veteran of the battles with the Incas in Peru, set out with 57 men on one of the great voyages of exploration. Orellana and his men discovered and traveled the length of the Amazon River, encountering an elaborate network of kingdoms and unknown empires - with a population perhaps as high as five million - that were eventually wiped out by war and disease.

"All the World Is Human" - Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca arrived in Florida in 1528 to begin the exploration and conquest of what is now the southern United States. His experience living among the Indians was to spark the debate over the morality of the conquistadors' deeds. Wood tracks their progress northward toward Tallahassee, where, fleeing hostile Indians, the conquistadors built boats in the hope of reaching Mexico. Shipwrecked off the coast of Texas, most were never seen again. For five years, Cabeza de Vaca lived among the Karankwa and then the Coahuiltean Indians until he rejoined three fellow conquistadors. Together they embarked on an epic walk across America to the Pacific coast, reappearing eight years after they were lost. Their route remains a subject of controversy. Using Cabeza de Vaca's own book, Wood rides through the north Mexican desert, sleeping at prehistoric campsites. Traveling to the Pacific along ancient Indian trails, he visits the spectacular Native-American city of Casas Grandes, passing through some of the most beautiful landscapes in America.

Repeat Broadcasts:

  • KQED 9: Thu, Sep 24, 2009 -- 2:00 AM

The Conquest of the Incas (Episode #102)

KQED 9: Wed, Sep 16, 2009 -- 8:00 PM

Six years after the fall of Mexico, the conquistador Francisco Pizarro, exploring south of the equator, uncovers another civilization unknown to the European world: the empire of the Incas, which extended 3,000 miles from Ecuador to Chile. Michael Wood recounts Pizarro's daring march into Peru with fewer than 200 men and tells the almost incredible tale of his capture of the Inca Atuahuallpa and his promise to ransom himself with a roomful of gold. Traveling across the Peruvian desert along ancient Inca roads, Wood climbs the Andes with a train of llamas, continues to the ancient city of Cuzco, the Incas' "navel of the earth," where massive Inca buildings still stand, and to the stupendous Sacred Valley ruins, including Macchu Picchu. Telling the story of the Inca resistance, and using Inca accounts discovered only in modern times, Wood journeys on over the passes of the high Andes, up 17,000-foot glaciers and finally down into tropical rainforests on an epic trek to the lost city of the Incas, their last refuge, at Vilcabamba, which was identified only 30 years ago.

Repeat Broadcasts:

  • KQED 9: Thu, Sep 17, 2009 -- 2:00 AM

The Fall of the Aztecs (Episode #101)

KQED 9: Wed, Sep 9, 2009 -- 8:00 PM

The first program tells the story of the conquest in 1519-21 of the Aztec empire in Mexico by Hernan Cortes and 500 Spanish conquistadors. Michael Wood follows the path of gambler and womanizer Cortes from his home in Spain to the Mayan pyramids on the shores of the Yucatan, on through the tropical forests of Tabasco to the snow-capped volcanoes of Mexico. Trekking over the mountains in torrential storms, Wood considers how a small band of Spanish adventurers could overthrow an empire of millions, and why the Aztec ruler Montezuma could have believed the Spanish were gods. In modern Mexico City, Wood pieces together the climax of the tale, using dramatic and little-known Aztec eyewitness accounts of the final battle between the Spanish and Aztec armies, a battle that changed the course of history. Before the only surviving portrait of Cortes painted from life, Wood returns to the riddle of the gambler who achieved his dream but in the process destroyed a civilization.

Repeat Broadcasts:

  • KQED Life: Fri, Sep 11, 2009 -- 1:00 AM
  • KQED Life: Thu, Sep 10, 2009 -- 7:00 PM
  • KQED 9: Thu, Sep 10, 2009 -- 2:00 AM
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