The discovery of the Americas brought both life and death to the European and Indian cultures and ways of living. There was a start to life and an end in death. People slowly died as did their culture. New life and ways of living were born. The different perceptions of how life should be were clashed and molded. The Americas became a canvas to the drawing and creation of the “New World.” Without these dramatic changes that occurred in Indian and European cultures the Americas may have been very different.
Way before the European encounter the Indians were living their lives in areas such as Peru and Mexico. One of the Indian tribes living in the Americas was the Aztecs. The Aztecs were highly intelligent for their time period. They were agriculturally mastering the cultivation of maize, or what is usually called corn. The Aztecs also had a belief in a sun and rain God. The Aztecs believe that their Gods should be worshiped through sacrifice. The Aztecs would take their captives from battles and sacrifice them by cutting their beating hearts out of their living bodies. Thousands of people were sacrificed by the hands of the Aztecs. These savage like people would soon meet the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes.
Europe was moving in a fast paced forward direction. Europeans were now at the tip of Africa and were getting greedy. They wanted to find a quick and easy route to Asia. They wanted the spices and items that were not available in Europe. The problem was that no one believed that they had the ship to trek across the ocean to reach the Spice Islands. One man, however, believed that they could. Christopher Columbus, an Italian seafarer, believed that if they traveled west that they would run right into Asia. Columbus’s theory would soon turn into the greatest discovery in History.
In 1492 Christopher Columbus and his crew spotted an island. Columbus was under the belief that he found the Indies. He was so sure that he called the people he met “Indians.” This would later be proved that it was not the Indies, but the Americas instead. This discovery and clash of cultures would be called the Columbian Exchange. Things native to the Indians were exotic and enchanting to the Europeans. The plants on the Americas became a revolutionary agricultural event. The economy in Europe was boosted and the potato became a part of European diets. The “New World” food boosted populations in Africa. This, in the Europeans eyes, made up for the slavery in Africa.
In exchange for the goods given by the Indians the Europeans introduced their crops and animals from Europe. They brought animals such as pigs and horses. Horses were never seen before by the Indians. They thought that they were monsters. Soon, however, they adopted these horses into their daily lives. Columbus also brought seedlings of sugar cane. This started a sugar craze in the European diet. The slaves were put in charge of handling the canefields and the sugar mills. The Europeans were also given gifts such as gold and other precious items by the Indians.
While goods were being traded and transferred to and from the Americas so were diseases. The Native Americans had lived in isolation from disease. That was until the Europeans arrived. The Europeans carried diseases such as smallpox, measles, and typhus. These diseases quickly spread and devastated the Native Americans. Their isolation from disease also isolated them from medicines for those diseases. This in turn made treating the disease brought by the Europeans nearly impossible to heal.