European Exploitations in the Americas Essay

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American History 1
European Exploitations in the Americas
Essay 1

Andrew J. Dolio

Andrew Dolio
Prof. Keith Jacobson
American History 1
21 October 2014 The exploitation of peoples and resources has been a trend ever since there has been a person around to exploit them. There is no better example for this than the Spaniards in North America. As soon as they landed and realized there was a whole new hemisphere which was largely untouched by modern people, it was an all-out free-for-all, with territorial, property, and human rights disputes galore. Prior to colonization in the Americas, European countries – which had until recently driven by agriculture – were struggling to adapt and keep up with a rapidly evolving capitalist economy. Many farmers were falling behind the businesses and shops in the big city. However, the capitalist model would prove to become highly profitable for countries in Europe when an Italian explorer would approach the Spanish government, requesting funding for a voyage out west in order to find a more direct route to China, the largest trade partner with Europe. When Christopher Columbus landed in the New World in 1492 and discovered an entirely “new and untamed land”, this set in motion a plethora of new voyages and explorers seeking unfathomable riches in the Americas (namely the Spanish). This period would become known as the Age of Discovery and would dig Europe out of a hole dug by their recent shift in economic ideologies. On the other hand, prior to the Spanish arriving, there had already been native people inhabiting the lands of the Americas. Where the Europeans prospered, the native peoples of the Americas suffered dearly. Factors such as disease, loss of territory, and assimilation of culture lead to the destruction and near ruin of many of the land’s native tribes. Just for some perspective on the situation, when Hernán Cortes invaded Mexico in 1520, the population was around 20 million. A century later is was less than 2 million. Be that as it may, the lessening of the population was due much more in part to the introduction of alien diseases brought by the foreigners than their gunpowder and steel. Preceding the arrival of outsiders to the Americas, the natives hadn’t really had much to worry about in the way of diseases; any diseases that had existed in their locale they had already developed a resistance to them, as is the same with the Europeans. When they came over from the east, they had no idea of the invisible weapons that hitched a ride on their ships, diseases such as smallpox and measles. Nonetheless, it probably made their job easier, not having to necessarily physically fight to steal other people’s property, just wait for them to die from smallpox and move in. The high prize the Spanish discovered hoarded in Native American towns and temples was, of course, gold. The Indians saw gold as a precious and holy metal, meant only for the high powers and kings, which as the Spanish saw it applied to them as well. For example, when Cortes arrives in Mexico, he and his men are invited to stay in Tenochtitlan with the native Aztecs. After a time, they realized the droves of gold hidden in plain view around the city. Cortes devised a plan to capture the city and the emperor, Cuauhtemoc. He and his men left the city, thanking them for their hospitality, and then returned later that night to raid their temples and homes, and then burn the city to the ground. The Spanish were famous for manipulating trust and stealing property. They thought themselves better than the natives in many ways. Strangely enough, they mainly thought themselves to be more “civilized”; be that as it may, they killed droves of native people and leveled their cities and temples. In fact, when Columbus first arrives in the Americas, the local natives helped his crew unload their ships. Following this, Columbus captured all the native people and held them prisoner for days, and then he killed them. As for…