Adapted from the first half of a novel by Samuel Shellabarger, a Spaniard flees the Inquisition and joins the expedition of Cortes to Mexico.
In 1518 Pedro de Vargas (Tyrone Power) helps the runaway Coatl (Jay Silverheels) in Spain. Pedro then defends the servant Catana Perez (Jean Peters) from two men. Juan Garcia (Lee J. Cobb) tells Pedro about the new world. Diego de Silva (John Sutton) calls on Francisco de Vargas (Antonio Moreno) and accuses his son Pedro of interfering with his servants. Pedro tells Luisa de Carvajal that he loves her. Catana tells Pedro that his parents and sister were arrested by the Inquisition. Pedro asks the Marquis de Carvajal for help and is told to turn himself in. Pedro is arrested, and De Silva accuses him of aiding a heathen. De Silva orders the girl tortured first, and she dies. Juan brings Pedro a sword. Pedro duels with De Silva and stabs him. Juan helps Pedro and his parents escape, and with Catana they lead the soldiers away from Pedro's parents. The Marquis tells Luisa that De Silva survived.
Juan, Pedro, and Catana take a ship to Cuba. In Havana they meet the astrologer Botello (Alan Mowbray). Hernando Cortes (Cesar Romero) welcomes Pedro because their fathers know each other. Pedro confesses to Father Bartolomé (Thomas Gomez), who rips up the order for his arrest. Marina (Estela Inda) translates for Cortes in Mexico. Cortes disregards his orders and proposes conquest.
Catana asks Botello to help her win Pedro's love, and he gives her a ring. She dances with Pedro and gives the ring back. Pedro says he loves her and asks her to marry. As they travel inland, Cortes gets more gold from Moctezuma. Pedro leaves his post to calm down drunk Juan. Pedro and Cortes discover that gems were stolen. Cortes gives him one day to recover them. Pedro follows two men to a ship and overhears them plan to go back to Cuba. They chain Pedro. Corio asks Pedro what Cortes will give him for the ship. Pedro promises on his father's honor and is released, but he is shot with a crossbow while escaping. Botello cauterizes the wound. Cortes tells Pedro that he will pay the debt and makes him a captain. Cortes has the ships burned so they all have to go forward.
They meet an ambassador with more gifts. Cortes has his cannon fired to scare them. Marina says they found 18 ships in the harbor. Cortes leaves Pedro in charge there and goes back. Coatl asks Pedro why his people came to make his people slaves. Catana tells Juan she is pregnant. Cortes returns and says the governor of Cuba will have evidence of their success. Juan tries to choke De Silva for torturing his mother. De Silva has Cortes arrest Juan for murdering his mother to keep her from being burned. De Silva tells Pedro that he married Luisa. Cortes tells Pedro to take care of De Silva. At a banquet Pedro challenges De Silva for having murdered his sister. Cortes lays down his law and arrests neither.
De Silva is strangled in bed, and Pedro is arrested. In jail he tells Catana that he did not do it. Coatl tells Bartolomé that he killed De Silva. Catana stabs Pedro so he won't be hanged. Bartolomé tells her that Pedro will live. Bartolomé preaches, and they march toward conquest.
This historical drama explores how the abuses of the
Inquisition could ruin people's lives but stops short of showing
the cruel slaughters of the Mexicas by the greedy conquistadors.