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Chicano Studies Analytical Essay

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Updated: Nov 23rd, 2019


The first article analyzed in this paper is ‘Sexual Violence in the Politics and Policies of Conquest’. It was written by Antonia Castaneda. The article was published in a book written by Adela Torre in 1993. The title of the book is Building with Our Hands: New Directions in Chicana Studies. It makes up the second chapter of the book. ‘The Borderlands in North American History’ is the second article. It was written by John Bannon in his book The Spanish Borderlands Frontier, 1513-1821. The book was published in 1973.

The last article ‘Pueblos, Spaniards, and history’ was written by David Weber and published in his book The Spanish Frontier in North America in 1999. All these articles describe the history of the Spaniards occupation of the North-American Frontier. However, each article looks at a different aspect of the Spanish conquest. The aim of this paper is to analyze and summarize the different claims made by each author in their articles.

Sexual Violence in the Politics and Policies of Conquest

In this piece of writing, Antonia Castaneda claims that the sexual violence against Amerindian women can be ideologically vindicated as a means of conquest during war. She asserts that sexual violence against women is a system of subjection to guarantee subordination and submission (Castaneda 29).

According to Antonia Castaneda, the Spanish authority had done everything in their power to stop soldiers from raping the Indian women. Nevertheless, the violence continued. The acts of cruelty against Indian women were carried out by Spanish soldiers who were on duty to protect the missions and presidios.

These missions were the institutions established by the Spaniards to convert Indians to Christianity. The contemptible actions damaged the spiritual subjugation of Indians in California. Instead of bringing hope and peace, the missions instilled fear and dread among the people. At the sight of Spanish soldiers, the women fled to safety.

As a result of the repeated sexual violence, the natives become hostile towards the Spanish people (Castaneda 17). The consequence faced by women who were violated was too painful. If they got pregnant, their children were mercilessly strangled to death. A violated woman was forced to drink bitter herbs and sweat profusely in order to purify herself. They were loathed by the society, and it took several years before the incidence could be erased from the minds of the Indians (Castaneda 17).

Some of the priests and missionaries who could no longer bear the heinous acts left the mission. The missionaries were unable to persuade any moral theology to the Indians. One of the leaders, Serra, was alarmed by the turn of events (Castaneda 18). He blamed the military for their failure to discipline the wicked soldiers.

Therefore, he wrote a letter to the governor and military commander with several recommendations that could help stop the attacks. Serra recommendations included; marriage between Spanish officials and Amerindian virtuous women, bounty rewards for those who engaged in such marriages and permanent residence in mission areas.

According to Serra, these recommendations would improve the political and social interests of the Spaniards (Castaneda 20). Apart from retarding the spiritual growth, the soldiers endangered the Spanish occupation with their acts. The economy of the frontier was at risk. On sensing the danger, the Spanish authority also imposed legal policies to separate Indians from Non- Indians. Soldiers who were found guilty of rape were to be prosecuted. In addition, soldiers were prohibited from spending the night outside the mission.

Despite the recommendations, and various attempts by the Spanish governor and official, sexual violence against Amerindians still continued. According to Castaneda, Amerindian women remained vulnerable to the Spaniards throughout the period they inhabited the frontier (Castaneda 24).

It is evident from the article that sexual violence against women needs to be examined from another point of view. The author seeks to explain the reason why sexual violence continued to be prevalent despite the measures taken by the church and government officials. Castaneda asserts that for a long time, the issue of sexual violence against women had been accredited to race and culture of the natives or soldiers.

Most scholars blamed the poor background of the soldiers or the poor development of institutions by colonial governments. Also, other scholars attributed the lack of discipline to the hardship experienced or the distance from the motherland (Castaneda 24). However, the author claims that in western civilization, rape was a form of domination. It was seen as ‘an act of power’ (Castaneda 26). For that reason, sexual violence is a political act.

The discussion made by the author bears several elements of truth. First, Castaneda points out that during the war, sexual violence is a symbol of terrorism, dishonor, and conquest. It signifies the physical control of women and the defeat of men. Legally, rape is a crime against the property of the land. Consequently, rape is an acceptable form of violence that bears no punishment during the war. In relation to the Amerindian women, the Spaniards only saw them as spoils of war.

The soldiers devalued the value of women because they belong to the land and therefore, represent the land. Furthermore, the Amerindians were considered inferior because they were non-Christians. From the article, it is noteworthy that rape is a political devaluation. It is a weapon that does not discriminate against gender. The author asserts that the best explanation for the sexual violence experienced in the Spanish frontier is that rape is an ideology justified in the institutions of war.

The Borderlands in North American History

John Bannon in his article “The Borderlands in North American History” asserts that years after Spain had moved from the Borderlands in North America, the Anglo-Americans realized the significance of the Spanish culture and history of American civilization. Bannon claims in this article that the Spanish occupation of the borderland had a tremendous impact on agriculture, economy, institutions, and surroundings of the North America frontier.

The Spaniards introduced new techniques and methods that were essential for the development of the region. Bannon points out that if the Spaniards had the numbers they would have dominated the borderlands both politically and economically (Bannon 232).

According to Bannon, borderland refers to the region from California to Texas, which was claimed by Spain. Spain occupied the borderland for three centuries, from 1520 to 1820 (Bannon 229).

Initially, Spain withdrew from some areas like Florida following the Adams- Onis indenture. They gave up part of the frontier to the United States. Later, Mexican Rebels took over some parts like Texas, California and New Mexico. Finally in 1848, the Anglo-Americans who had made several attempts over the frontier took control (Bannon 229).

After the Anglo-Americans had settled over the frontier, they discovered that Spain had made significant contributions to the development of the frontiers. They acknowledged the challenges faced by the Spanish and the efforts made to overcome the difficulties.

The Spaniards were faced with a non-friendly environment (Bannon 233). The land was uneven, sterile and unproductive. Furthermore, they had to deal with rebellious Indians who were the primary occupants of the land. This knowledge gave the Anglo-Americans a desire to understand more concerning the Spanish history. In addition, the American tried to preserve some of the things that represented the Spanish culture such as monuments and missions.

Although the Americans transformed the borderland, they left most of the land as it previously was during the Spanish reign. They gave priority to Spanish names of streets and avenues; they celebrated Spanish festivals and kept the original architectural designs made by the Spanish (Bannon 233). Most of the missions were refurbished and held in reserve. In other words, the Anglo-Americans founded their institutions according to the Spanish culture.

According to the author, the Spaniards made a significant contribution to American civilization. This can be seen through their inventive ways. They introduced enhanced techniques of tiling land and inventive irrigation systems (Bannon 229). They had proficient equipments and tools, which enhanced efficiency in the farm. In addition, they organized missionary centers where training on the use of the equipments and diverse farming techniques was provided.

The fields in the mission centers and several gardens provided most of the food required by the people in the frontier (Bannon 233). In areas like California, the land was more fertile. Therefore, several ‘experimental stations’ were established for fruits and cereals (Bannon 233). Agricultural activities were extensive in California because the natives had little knowledge on such matters. They were used to growing nuts and fruits. Additionally, the Spaniards occupying the region required food in order to survive.

Besides farming, the Spaniards had better skills in cattle keeping. They established ranching in the western frontier. The Spaniards discovered that sheep were favorable in regions like New Mexico while cattle were organized in Texas and California (Bannon 233). Missionaries and priests who travelled to new regions made sure they took a few animals with them.

One of the most significant contributions of the Spaniard was the introduction of the Spanish horse. The military was eager to buy the horses, and this gave the Spaniards initiative to breed more Spanish horses. The other useful breed introduced by the Spaniards was the mule (Bannon 234).

The mules provided power for carriage, handcart and railway wagons used for transportation. Since infrastructure was poor, the strength and stability of the mule were necessary. Although Spaniards were noted for mining, mining was a paltry economic activity in the borderline. In this article, the author proves that the contribution of the Spaniards to the development of the frontier was significant.

The Anglo-Americans considered their value and acknowledged their efforts. Moreover, they did not selfishly keep their knowledge to themselves. The Spaniards opened missions where the natives were allowed to learn the different techniques. Wherever the missionaries went they took their animals and other tools. Despite the challenges faced by the Spaniards, they turned out to be worthy borderlanders.

Pueblos, Spaniards, and History

In this editorial, David Weber in his book The Spanish Frontier in North America claims that the religious belief of the Pueblo people was a key factor behind the revolt of 1680. After the Spaniards had conquered the borderline, they established their settlement and apprehended Indian property (Weber 90).

They coerced the Indians to work for them as slaves. Additionally, the Spaniards tried ways to convert the Indians to Christianity. The Spanish demanded that the Indians forfeit all their acts of worship. Any form of resistance was punished by torture, servitude or imprisonment. Before the Spanish arrived, the Indians were independent people.

They lived in different pueblos which represented their villages. Each Pueblo had a distinct style and tradition. As a result, the Indians spoke several dialects of different languages.

Because of the language barrier, several attempts by the Pueblos to rebel against the Spaniards had failed. After enduring the oppression for several years, a medicine man named pope finally rose up to defend his religious freedom.

They kept their operations and secrets well hidden to launch their attacks. They worked around their language barrier to deliver a united front.

In his discussion, Weber asserts that the difference between the Spaniard and Pueblo’s religious system was irreconcilable. Despite the fact that some pueblos embraced Christianity, they still held on to some of their traditions and beliefs.

The Pueblos learned to survive by separating the two religions in their hearts. To support his argument, the author illustrates that after the invasion, Pope ordered the pueblos to destroy the religious emblems used by the Spanish (Weber 100). Ideally, this argument is not sufficient. The author fails to bring out the larger picture.

There exist other reasons that might have also played a key role in the revolt. Research shows that there was drought and famine in the area. Moreover, the Spanish had stirred up Inter-tribal wars and Apache raids due to their intense ways. The presence of a foreigner brought curiosity and uncertainty among the native villages. The totality of these factors and not only religion could have instigated the revolt.


In my opinion, the history of the Spanish conquest is an intriguing study. However, it was difficult to compare the achievements and failures of the Spanish during the conquest. Although they contributed to the development of the frontier, they also instilled fear and pain. The Amerindians experienced no peace during the Spanish regime. My favorite article is ‘Sexual Violence in the Politics and Policies of Conquest’ by Antonia Castaneda.

This article kept me thinking about the reasons why sexual violence continued even after the Spanish authorities had made several attempts to stop it. It was well written and easy to comprehend. It evoked sympathetic feelings towards the Amerindian women. On the other hand, her claims were sober. The author took her time discussing several aspects of sexual violence and what it symbolizes during war.

Her claims were difficult to accept but educative and convincing nevertheless. ‘The Borderlands in North American History’ was also well written and uncomplicated. The evidence provided by the John Bannon regarding the Spanish contribution made his arguments convincing. The article was unambiguous and it made sense. The thought that the Spaniards had something amusing to offer was a relief.

In addition, it was fascinating to find out that the Anglo-Americans appreciated the efforts of the Spanish and preserved their history. ‘Pueblos, Spaniards, and History’ by David Weber was not so amusing compared to the other two articles. Nevertheless, the fact the Indians finally gained their independence made me like the article. It was sincere and straightforward. The arguments made by the author were not convincing enough.

Works Cited

Bannon, John F. The Spanish Borderlands Frontier, 1513-1821. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1973. Print.

Torre, Adela. Building with Our Hands: New Directions in Chicana Studies. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1993. Print.

Weber, David J. The Spanish Frontier in North America. New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press, 2009. Print.

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