Jim Zarroli

When the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés and his band of 300 men reached the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan in late 1519, they found a civilization of staggering beauty that dwarfed any western European city.

Stucco towers, "painted with colorful animals and sculpted on stone" were "a marvel to behold," drawing comparisons to Venice, one observer wrote. Tens of thousands of canoes dotted Lake Texcoco, "some, like great barges, carrying up to sixty people," writes Fernando Cervantes in Conquistadores, his masterful new history of the era.

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This winter, millions of small businesses are barely surviving. Congress has approved another round of loans to help those businesses. But as NPR's Jim Zarroli reports, it won't be enough for those closest to the edge.

No one predicted what a tumultuous, stomach-churning year 2020 would be for the stock markets. And few foresaw how well it would end up.

Here are the highlights:

Stocks in meltdown

Between Feb. 12 and March 23, the Dow lost a stunning 37% of its value.

Economic benefits for victims of the pandemic will expire soon if Congress and the president don't act to extend or replace them.

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