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Latin America Colonization Period Essay

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Updated: Jun 24th, 2020

The arrival of Europeans changed the lives of the indigenous population through many ways; for example, there was a massive decline in the population of the indigenous people due to numerous European diseases that they contracted and displacement of the population as they were escaping harsh treatment from the Europeans. For instance, the Mexican population reduced by 90% within the first half century of Spaniard’s arrival. The Europeans forced Christian values on the locals.

Additionally, Europeans wanted to spread their own doctrines without persecution; therefore, the colonizers had to use all means to convert the natives to Christianity. The brutality among the colonizers was the key reason for the displacement of the indigenous people. The political structure was highly religious in nature with the Kings of New Spain (Mexico and the Philippines) as the head of the region. The council of Indies assisted the Kings in making key decisions.

The kings could appoint viceroys to be in-charge of different Spanish territories that were highly populated and had a lot of wealth. There was also the subdivision of the viceroyalties to aid the growth of the economy in South America. The indigenous Latin Americans were under the control of Catholicism. When the Spanish conquered this region, they changed the moral code, the concept of Heaven and Hell, and the idea of good and bad. However, there was the rise of liberation that favored self-thought and secularism. Even before the arrival of the colonialists, there were secular and regular clergies who administered the process of conversion and acculturation.

The Spanish, for instance, took the responsibility of evangelizing to the indigenous population and exploring the region for precious commodities like gold and silver. The Portuguese had conquered the regions of Brazil and involved the locals in sugar plantations as workers. The indigenous population that remained in Latin America accepted the religious teachings of the Europeans and became Christians.

The European influence totally changed the lives of the locals since their indigenous culture became extinct by 1650. The Treaty of Tordesillas guided the Spaniards and the Portuguese in colonizing America. In the treaty, the two nations agreed to split the new regions equally. The western part of the meridian line belonged to the Spaniards while the eastern front of the New World belonged to the Portuguese.

This occurred after Christopher Columbus had discovered the new territories in 1493, which he named West Indies with the belief that he had reached India from another route. The name made most European settlers come into the new land, with Britain, Netherlands, and France making their way in the next century after Portugal and Spain. Pope Alexander VI set up demarcation lines from pole to pole 100 leagues to accommodate interests of Spain and Portugal who were claiming to own the New World. The Tordesillas Treaty helped in solving the dispute that had risen following Christopher Columbus invention of the New World.

The Europeans discovered the new territories with the aim of finding new trade routes to China and India. This was a way of improving their trading routes. After Christopher Columbus had stepped in America in 1492, numerous expeditions from Europe followed suit in order to exercise their control over the territories. For example, the Spanish Crown took firm control over the locals and could inspect those who wanted to pass through the territory. Moreover, Europeans could exploit both the natural and human resources that existed within their territories. Portuguese could use the local labor Brazil to work in their sugarcane plantations. By 1550, Lisbon through the general governor established his capital at El Salvador in order to use it as a base for receiving Indian slaves who could work at the plantations.

The Spaniards focused on gold and silver extraction in which it used local labor. Evidently, the discovery and colonization of America created massive impacts on the development of the Europeans. The Europeans learned how Latin Americans respected their culture. The indigenous population could use arts, cinema, dance and festivals as sources of unity in their midst. In addition, the Incas, Aztecs, and Mayas had high levels of civilization at the time when the Spaniards were colonizing them. The Europeans also faced the issue of using local labor to extract the natural resources of the native land and benefiting them at the expense of the indigenous population.

The wealth that the locals had could easily benefit the European settlers at a higher scale than the indigenous people. Some European settlers came to the New World to settle. They displaced the indigenous population from their original fertile lands. Clearly, the colonialists faced these ethical issues during their conquest of the New World. When Cortes landed in Aztec with over 500 men, he became a friend of Montezuma II who was the last of Aztec rulers. Cortes took this opportunity to overturn the Montezuma’s rule in 1521.

He went further to destroy and conquer the whole Aztec Empire. Pedro de Alvarado conquered the Maya in 1523 after receiving commands from Hernando Corte. During the encounter, many Maya people died as their civilization had greatly declined. By 1532, Francisco Pizarro attacked the Incan Empire, which had suffered severely from European diseases and civil war. Pizzaro went ahead to manipulate the two ruling brothers and eventually defeating both. The Spanish went on to establish new cities in these regions and spread new religious practices. For instance, the initial friendly nature of Cortes made him learn the weaknesses of the Empire. In addition, he developed close ties with both the cronies and enemies of the Aztec Empire. As a result, the Empire did not expect any conquest from Corte and his 600 men.

The strong European countries wanted to trade with Asia in order to exchange their products with luxuries like silks and jewels, which were available in Asia. However, Muslims controlled the major land routes to Asia. For that matter, Europeans opted to look for sea routes around the Muslim-controlled land routes. In 1492, Christopher Columbus began to explore the sea route to Asia by sailing west since he believed that the Earth was spherical.

In 1519, Ferdinand Magellan also began the exploration of the same trade routes. It is Columbus spirit of adventure that made him reach Latin America. However, he believed that the land was the East Indies. Evidently, Columbus journey jump-started a process that ended in the conquest of Latin America. The Spaniards received support from the oppressors to conquer the Aztec Empire. The Empire occupied a fertile valley where they grew cotton, chili peppers, and beans.

The Spaniards faced intense resistance in conquering the Araucanian tribes, Aztec and Inca Empires. These Empires were exceptionally powerful in the region before the arrival of the Europeans; therefore, they had to resist the colonization as a way of maintaining the influence over their regions. In other areas, the locals did not wield a lot of control over a given group hence the Spaniards could not use force to control such regions. Notably, religion also played a factor in conquering other areas. For example, the Aztec Empire welcomed Hernan Cortes, as they believed that he was their supernatural being who was fulfilling the promise of coming back from the east. In the process, Cortes made deals with the enemies of the Aztec to destroy the empire and erect the Christianity symbol.

The 15th and 16th centuries marked the Age of Discovery. The European nations such as the Netherlands, England, and Britain wanted to be more supreme than Portugal and Spain. The latter nations had done massive discoveries into the New World and had occupied large parts of the land. The supremacy battles in Latin America enabled individual nations to establish their companies that brought wealth to their mother countries. England joined the rivalry by sending missionaries of trade and setting up colonies in North America where the Dutch counterparts had conquered. The move led to cycles of wars dubbed the Anglo-Dutch Wars, which extremely weakened the Dutch and made England the mighty European nation in naval power. These nations were competing for trade centers, which were highly available in the colonies.

During the colonization of the New World, Spain occupied most part of Central America and the Caribbean. However, Spain did not settle in the Caribbean. This European nation looked for wealth in the Caribbean by enslaving most natives and the move led to the extinction of the Spanish rule. The decline of the Spanish rule saw the long-term establishment of the French, British, and Dutch rule in this region. These European powers imported millions of slaves to assist in developing agriculture in the Caribbean Islands. Colonialism made the Caribbean adopt the sugar plantation system hence becoming dependent on agriculture. Europeans rivalries in Central America and the Caribbean Island empowered these regions to invest in agriculture.

Spain experienced a power decline in the 1600s due to numerous reasons. Spain had conquered many colonies, which were distant apart. The vastness proved expensive for Spain to manage, for instance, from Manila to Mariana Islands of Micronesia, fleets would take over six months to connect between them. As a result, supplies and soldiers could take longer to reach the destinations. These colonies required high financial assistance thus making Spain spend heavily on managing the colonies.

Moreover, Spain faced constant competition from France and England in conquering new Islands. There were also the Moros who aided piracy on Spaniards ships. Large-scale piracy led to destructions of many Spanish galleons. The Spanish power declined due to the low production in agriculture from the dwindling population of the slaves. The masters gave special care to offsprings of slaves who had Spanish blood hence leading to a reduction in the number of slaves, in Spaniard colonies. Further, failure by the Spanish monarchs to unify the Aragon and Castile administrative systems led to unfocused resolutions in case of conflicts. Spain also had a poor taxation policy.

The Spanish Empire had little interests in exploiting their resources to meet the cost of external territories. Some nations could involve pirates in order to attack Spanish ships that were transporting ammunition, goods and other useful materials to their colonies. So intense was the political rivalry that Spain’s grip on controlling most of its territories declined. In 1588, Spanish Armada attempted to invade Elizabethan England but was defeated by the English fleet under the leadership of Francis Drake. War had broken out between England and Spain back in 1585. In the war, Spain lost the city of Cartegena, fort San Augustin and the port of Santo Domingo.

Moreover, other European nations targeted to control the lucrative sugarcane farming in Brazil in order to get revenues for developing their economies. There were also rampant corruptions as can be attested by Xica da Silva. Xica who was an African slave had fallen in love with Joao Fernandes de Oliveira. This relationship made Fernandes de Oliveira excessively exercise his control over public administrative offices as a way of limiting corruption practices that had been perennial in the offices. Evidently, the authorities in the colonies engaged in corrupt practices hence encouraging misuse of finances.

The colonization of Latin America saw the inclusion of slaves in the region plantations. Slave trade was commercialized during this time, as the slaves were one of the commodities that left the west coast of Africa for Latin America. Transatlantic trade favored the commercialization of slaves. The Europeans could exchange ammunitions, clothing, and guns through barter trade for slaves from African Lords. The slaves were sold in exchange for products that were not available in Europe like sugar, tobacco, and rum.

The colonialists had large plantation farms that required intensive labor that slaves could offer hence leading to commercialization of slaves. Slaves developed some forms of resistance like rebellions, running away, or slowing down their working paces. The colonial authorities reacted to such collusion to form runaway communities like maroon colonies and rebellions by executing the slaves. For instance, over 100 blacks and 20 slaves were massacred when Nat Turner tried to rebel against the way the colonial authorities were handling the slaves.

Slave trade had left a legacy in Latin America to date. Presently, the Black-Americans that form a sizeable population of the American population are the descendants of the slaves. In addition, slaves are responsible for the present developments in places like Brazil, which currently relies on sugarcane to drive its economy. Women had been victims of patriarchy as men occupied government offices and could access higher education. Women began to labor outside their homes; for instance, in Mexico, women became members of the guilds in Mexico City. They also began involving themselves in domestic services like nursing and cleaning. Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, on her part, became the first Latin American poet. She went against the societal expectations of acquiring higher education, which was only a reserve for men. In 1667, she opted to be a nun in order to access education and went further to defend women’s rights to education.

With the dwindling state of Spanish control on their colonies, Spain targeted to ease the administrative burden by reappointing of territory into the New Granada and of La Plata viceroyalties. Spanish monarchs adopted the intendant system from France where they could improve the level and transparency of tax collection. The intendants proved more honest than the public officers they had substituted. Evidently, the bourbon reforms assisted Spain to minimize misuse of funds through rogue officials. Politically, the Bourbon reforms centered on increasing revenue for the Spaniards, which was to be used in adjusting the reinforcement at sea and land of Spanish Empires. Moreover, the reforms targeted to dilute the power of the Catholic Church hence reducing the powers of the Creole elites.

This led to massive political and social unrest in the entire Spanish Empires such as the Tupac Amaru II Rebellion and the Comuneros Revolution. The legislation led to discontent among the indigenous population who felt racially abused as Spanish aimed at modernizing themselves at the expense of the natives. For example, Bourbons used to carry out military selection along racial lines. Moreover, Bourbons never selected churchmen for political offices and continued to suppress the Society of Jesus. The revolutions that the Mestizos, Indians, and Criollos led opposed the actions of the Bourbons and furthered the fight for the independence of Latin America.

The Enlightenment in Europe affected areas like Haiti and South America in Latin America. Napoleon’s invasion and ousting of the Spanish king marked the beginning of the revolutions. Enlightenment ideals supported a free and equal society. This led to the rejection of foreign domination in Latin America where the Spanish rule had been dominant. The slaves in Haiti worked in sugar plantations under harsh conditions even though the sugar was hugely profiting the French. Toussaint L’Ouverture fought for the independence of the Haitians as a way of ending the French rule. Clearly, Enlightenment ideals led to several revolutions in Latin America that resulted in the eventual freedom of the Americans.

The movements in Latin America believed in a free and just society. In Mexico, Father Miguel Hidalgo headed the rebellion against the Spanish. Priests were the main actors in the quest for independence. Political developments in Spain made Agustín de Iturbide and a large section of the army defect and supported the Mexican quest for independence. However, in South America, the army led the rebellion, as opposed to Mexico where the priests were at the forefront. For instance, Argentines and Chileans ended Spanish rule at the Battle of Maipu. On the other hand, Caribbean movements fought unsuccessful wars against the Spaniards until 1895 thus prompting the Spanish-American war in 1898, which made the Islands part of the US province. The US approved Cuban independence in 1902.

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