Conquest of the Americas Term Paper

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Conquest of the Americas

When twelve barefoot Franciscans led by Martin de Valencia began marching two hundred and seventy miles from the coastal road of Vera Cruz to Mexico City, they carried a cross, not bladed weapons of war. They had come to fight a spiritual war. Their desire was to conquer Mexico and the heathen natives. Their apostolic mandate was to convert the pagans worshipping hideous idols and performing rites violative of what is true, good and beautiful.

As they traversed the hard stony paths they were met by hostile but curious men ready to defend their homes and their people but when the invading forces met then only with smiles, soft words and acts of kindness, they were won over. They laid down their bladed weapons and welcomed these small group of white missionaries spreading among them the word of Christ, healing their sick and helping them in whatever way they could.

These men reflected Spain's purpose in the New World and this was not solely to gain wealth but also to civilize the Indians and convert them to Christianity. This group of missionaries was ready to endure any hardship and any suffering in order to convert the natives. At first the Indians were suspicious of them. But gradually they learned to appreciate the difference between the missionaries and the Spanish conquerors.

By 1600, Spanish settlements and missions were scattered from southern California to Chile. Many people had left Spain to take up homes in Spanish America. Spain had established permanent colonies in the West Indies, in Mexico and in Central and South America. Many of the Indians in these regions had become Christians and had taken up Spanish ways. The colonies were prosperous and well-governed. Spain had build a new colonial empire in America before any other European nation, except the Portuguese who had established in Brazil a single permanent colony.

It is observed that the citizens of Latin American republics in Central and South America except Brazil are still largely Spanish in language and civilization. Still evident are traces of the Spanish influence in the southwestern states of the U.S.A.

From the gold mines of Mexico and Peru, a steady flow of treasure ships found their way to Spain. It is not surprising that Spain became the richest country in Europe. Her rule extended over Austria and countries now known as Belgium and Holland as well as in Germany and Italy. The King of Spain could have brought under his control the whole of Western Europe had it not been for the intervention of England.

Spain could have been a very rich hegemony what with gold and riches from Mexico and other ich resources in America but it had always been the butt of envy of the foreign countries like England. There were small spots of rebellion in the colonies it held in America and elsewhere and Spain had to spend so much to quell these uprisings.

The so called Spanish Armada was so weak, inept and inefficient it was useless in the fight with the British. It was easily defeated by the better equipped, better manned British who ruled the seas.

Perhaps the greatest saving grace of Spain was its religion. Roman Catholicism was the core of Spanish existence - in this it had the support of Rome, of the Pope and various congregations who imposed rules and who dictated the rules of Catholicism in its various colonies - but then the infamous Inquisition was the biggest black spot in the history of its religions influence.

To say that Spanish rule in the Americas and elsewhere was a hit and miss thing is to speak the truth. The monarchies who ruled in Spain did not know how to run the government both at home and in its colonies.

To aver that the conquest of the Americas by Spain was simply an extension of the Spanish "reconquista" (reconquest) is a statement of a fact. Spain had a desired to establish a solid government but it was a total mismanagement all along. Perhaps Ferdinand and Isabelle had noble thoughts of civilizing the natives and bringing a semblance of the true, the good and the beautiful in its Catholic mandate but while the natives accepted all this in a good natured stance, still vestiges of old heathen paganistic forms of worship prevailed in the hearts of some of the people.

The Christianization or the imposing of religion in the Americas took three forms or stages: first, "the catachysmic" or transformation model - with the total destruction of what was ethnic or native religion and the takeover of Christianity. Arguing against this position is the so-called alternative "idols behind altars" which contended that the old native heathen religion with idol still existed among the natives hiding behind a thin film of Christianity on the outside. A third form called syncretism followed - in which there was a fusion, amalgamation, synthesis or integration of what was Christians and what was native - what was valuable pragmatic, good, and beautiful preserved and incorporated in the religion now acceptable to both natives and colonizers.

How do we account for the differences in presentation of events in the history of the Spanish conquest, the death of Montecsuma and the massacre of the Choluian people.

Spanish text explained the victory of the conquistaheres in this vein: first the Spaniards had more sophisticated weapons. What value would spears, sometimes wooden have against the steel of the Spaniards. There was organized systematic invasion against which the natives were powerless. Second the natives were already rebellious against the existing rule in old Mexica and they wanted more freedom, a change for the better with the newcomers. The times were hard for the natives and they sought change and a better quality of life with the foreign invaders. Diseases of the old world took a heavy toll on the lives of the natives - so opportunities for a better way of life were welcome. This of course would be the point-of-view of the Spanish narrators.

The natives - some of them would have a different story to tell. I believe it would be their dissatisfaction, their desire for improvement in their life which would form the basis of their explanation for the turn of events. One reading closely the texts of both Spaniards and natives would note basically the same observation, the inability of the natives to defend themselves against the more powerful weapons of the invaders.

The natives would blame the easy acceptance of the invaders by their people - but in the ligth of the impossibility of victory against the strong invaders there could only be acquiescence.

Monteczuma had to be sacrificed: he was the strongest threat to the invaders. Do away with him first and it will be easier battle.

The Choluians (Aztess) were a fierce people - they had to be vanquished, eliminated by massacre - it was merely a case of cleaning the area so there would be space for improvement, so that changes could be made presumably (according to the Spaniards) for the betterment of the life of the people.

How did the natives react to all these changes and the way the changes have been processed?

To the outsider looking in on all these events it could be an overkill -why cut down a man to size because he was an impediment? Why butcher communities of people because they stand in the way of so-called improvement of the quality of life?

And now for the question of justification of the conquest. Was the conquest successful? Was it a case of massive success for the Spaniards and only a miserable defeat for the natives?

This question brings us to the idea of the philosophy or combination of philosophies that would…[continue]

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