spanish conquest Essay

Submitted By sixdigits2385
Words: 2045
Pages: 9

The Five-Hundred Year Pandemic of Latin America
The Age of Exploration was a significant time period in our history without which a modern map would appear much differently than that of the present. During this era, with an advancement in technology, Europeans had a thirst for exploration of the uncharted seas. Many discoveries were made, but the one most chronicled is the discovery of the Americas. Bartolomé de Las Casas (Spanish friar, writer) describes the indigenous people from the island of Hispaniola in his book A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies as, “The simplest people in the world – unassuming, long-suffering, unassertive, and submissive – they are without malice or guile, and are utterly faithful and obedient both to their own native lords and to the Spaniards in whose service they now find themselves.”(Las Casas, Destuction 9) With as docile and spiritual as these people appeared, the Spanish explorers launched the mission they had traveled the seas to undertake. This divine campaign that the Spanish embarked on in 1492 was aimed at spreading Christianity, but quickly became a conquest driven by the accumulation of gold, land, slaves, and glory that the New World offered in abundance. Columbus gave assurance to King and Queen of Spain to continue the exploration when he said, "They have no arms and are all naked and without any knowledge of war, and very cowardly, so that a thousand of them would not face three. And they are also fitted to be ruled and to be set to work, to cultivate the land and to do all else that may be necessary, and you may build towns and teach them to go clothed and adopt our customs."(Morgan,3) After the Spanish had taken major control of many islands within the Caribbean Sea through colonization, other countries like Portugal had begun to explore and seize territories of the New World. In the motion picture The Mission, the Guarani Indians of the 1700’s build a mission with a group of Jesuits, and are eradicated when the Portuguese acquire their land in a treaty made with the Spanish. (The Mission, Film) The Mission illustrates the challenge of morality that confronts us all in a world influenced by power, greed, and violence. The violence and displacement of the indigenous in what we now know as Latin America is still ongoing for a period of over five hundred years. The pattern of the displacement of indigenous continues today in the Brazilian Amazon as the Awá tribe fight loggers to keep their rainforest habitat from being destroyed. (Shoumatoff, 184) The European colonization and present-day de-forestation of the indigenous in Latin America from the late 15th century into the 21st has resulted in the destruction of cultures, habitat, and knowledge crucial to understanding the evolution of community. The visions of gold, resources, and territory gain have overshadowed the importance of preserving cultures rich in spirituality and resourcefulness.
Columbus first described the natives he encountered as "so full of love and without greed, and suitable for every purpose, that I assure your Highnesses that I believe there is no better land in the world, and they are always smiling." (Morgan, 3) Hispaniola was depicted with rich fields waving with grass visible aboard ship. There were good harbors, lovely sand beaches and fruit-laden trees. The people were shy and fled whenever the caravels approached the shore. It is written that Columbus gave orders "that they should take some, treat them well and make them lose their fear, that some gain might be made, since, considering the beauty of the land, it could not be but that there was gain to be got." (Morgan, 3) His statement is in reference to the natives presenting these foreign travelers with generous gifts of gold and hand-made trinkets. Later on his return to this land Columbus would start a new pipeline for slave trade out of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. These voyages of discovery, as they were described, proved to be