Imperialism

.. arly 7). What occurred in the Sixteenth century was not so much a discovery of a new world as a meeting of two branches of humanity which had previously been unknown to each other. The European invasions brought much that was radically new in the realm of ideas and values. For instance in agricultural methods including new crops and animals, in technology, the introduction of the wheel, iron, guns, ships, tools, and in the economy where the use of money, profit making and trade were far more developed than in Indian societies (Fagg 99).

In both the European and Latin American states the religious establishment was closely involved with the business of government (Fagg 123). Both kinds of society were seigniorial, relating to a noble or lord: Indian nobles, like their European counterparts, owned large estates worked by peasants (Fagg 123). These two worlds, Europe and Indian America, met and clashed in the sixteenth century. The consequences of this encounter were diverse and destructive for large numbers and people in South America. There were two major determinants of the conquest and exploration of the new world.

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These were the conquistadors desire for precious metals, their need for supply of labor and to achieve noble status by acquiring wealth, land and lordship over men (Freeman 67). The areas of Spanish settlement in the sixteenth century coincided with the boundaries of former Aztec and Inca empires. Outside the Inca spheres of influence there was little colonization (Freeman 73). Partly because of their small numbers, but also for military and political reasons, Spaniards tended to concentrate their settlements within regions densely populated (Freeman 73). There remained vast areas in which there was scarcely any Spanish presence. In South America virtually the whole interior remained unsettled for over four centuries (Freeman 73). Social and economic aspirations provided incentive for constant Spanish expansion in the New World (Snyder 188).

Most conquistadors were laborers, artisans, traders, soldiers and sailors. Colonization tended to attract commoners because they wanted material gain and exploration of the New World promised this (Snyder 188). The world in South America before it was colonized was characterized by its diversity. Even in the areas inhabited by Aztec and Inca people there were an immense number of ethnic kingdoms and tribal groupings (Fagg 244). It would therefore be mistaken to assume that political or cultural unity existed in the Indian world. All of these Indian societies, however, were affected by the Spanish conquest, though not all in the same manner.

Some were utterly destroyed, some chose to ally themselves with the conquerors, some found the conquest a welcome liberation from Aztec and Inca oppression (Fagg 245). The Spaniards, like any other conquerors, did intervene in native societies to extract resources for their own profit, but the conquest did not result in the whole ruin of native cultures (Fagg 129). In the course of the Spanish conquest and the decades following the structures of the Aztecs and the Incas were destroyed, their royal families and nobility deprived of their power (Fagg 129). Once the Spaniards gained control, the Indian people faced the choice of either collaborating with their conquerors or organizing rebellion to recover their former power. Even after the Spanish conquest had been completed, numerous tribes and kingdoms decided to collaborate with the new masters in order to seek advantage against rivals or regain lost territory (Fagg 129).

Within these Indian communities, traditional life went on much as before, and having to accept their new masters, it also seemed sensible to accept their new religion. Even so, the relations with the Spaniards were unstable. If a community or tribe came to believe that the Spaniards were not treating them in an acceptable manner, it might attempt to resist or rebel (Snyder 82). Even though the basic structures of Indian life remained unchanged by the conquest, many villages, crops and individual lives were destroyed (Chrisp 21). Large numbers of Indians suffered torture and rape at the hands of the conquistadors.

Many Spaniards were not interested in settling down but simply wanted to obtain as much wealth as possible from here as possible before returning to Spain (Fagg 35). The worst effects of the conquest were the disease epidemics. These were plagues of smallpox, measles, typhus, and other unidentified diseases (Glubok 16). It has been estimated that over the century following the conquest the population in Mexico fell by ninety percent. The decline in Peru was less drastic, but still about forty percent (Glubok 17).

These epidemics were apparently profitable for the Spaniards. This was not only because they claimed so many lives, but because they disrupted native powers and demoralized the Indians (Fagg 244). The transformation of the Spanish colonies into independent nations was a very complex process that took centuries to mature (Fagg 255). The process of building new nations was not automatic but full of political, ideological, and cultural battles splitting up the former empire into many smaller nations. The independence of Spanish America and the formation of new nation states was not inevitable, nor did the majority of Latin America desire it (Fagg 255).

It was a revolution led by those who felt that their traditional privileges and property were being threatened by the absolutism of Spain (Fagg 255). A small minority of the population carried out most of the revolution movements. Among the most well known and successful leaders of the revolution were Simon Bolivar and Jose De San Martin. Others of importance were Artigas, Belgrano, Hidralgo y Morelos, and Sucre (Fagg 255). Independence produced new and difficult challenges.

Although they varied in the extent of the damage created, the wars of independence in Latin America destroyed local economies and divided society (Fagg 255). The Spanish divided South America into three main sections called Viceroyalties, and then further created smaller audiencias (a governing area with a high court) (Fagg 257). It was in the boundaries of the former audiencias that most of the new governments eventually formed. The governing areas chosen by the Spanish were largely based on the former native kingdoms of the Inca, Maya, and Aztec (Fagg 257). Traditional Spanish America was divided into several classes based on race and birthplace.

These classes ranked from highest to lowest in proportion with the amount of rights they held in society (Fagg 257). Social Issues.