The colonization of the American lands by the Spaniards is a long process that has become important for world history. There was a lot of events in it. Cultures mixed, exchanged, absorbed. Strange as it may seem, this process in the mass history is covered quite scantily. Contemporaries wrote about Conquest a lot. But since the XVI century, the British and the Dutch have organized a real psychological war. The methods of the Spaniards began to spread rumors. They were accused of real barbarism.
These myths were even spread by monks, not suspecting that they became the vehicles of someone’s politics. This theme in mass culture and today is practically not disclosed, remaining politicized. Plunging into the theme of the colonization of America by the Spaniards, a lot of interesting things are revealed. The conquistadors are not at all the ruthless fighter of the Indian population. The most popular myths about these brave explorers will be dispelled.
The Spaniards quickly conquered America.
Conquest usually refers to events in the XV-XVII centuries, beginning with the discovery of America. Included in it and the activities of Cortez, and the conquest of Pizarro. But the Spaniards themselves from the second half of the XVI century from the term refused. In fact, the process of conquering America stretched for almost three hundred years. Thus, the last Mayan city, which had seen the first conquistadors, Tayasal, died only in 1697. Since the landing of Ernan Cortez in Mexico, by that time, 179 years have passed. This was already the time of the reign of Peter I, and in the meantime the pre-Columbian civilizations of America still resisted European expansion. Living in the territory of modern Chile and Argentina Araukans stopped fighting the Spaniards in general only in 1773. In fact, the Spaniards finally conquered the New World at the time when they began to lose it. The history of the Conquest is inextricably linked with the war.
The conquistadors rode to the New World, driven by the thirst for gold.
There are legends about the mysterious country of Eldorado, where innumerable treasures are hidden. And in general, the volume of gold exported from America makes it clear that the conquistadors were driven by greed for profit. In the New World it was possible to get rich quickly, simply due to the robbery of the local population. This view seems greatly simplistic. Conquest was nevertheless precisely a colonization, and not a banal squeezing of all juices from new territories. And the Spaniards themselves were not a gang of marauders, as they are often represented, but by researchers and soldiers. In 1494 the Treaty of Todessa was concluded, it was reinforced by further formal and not very agreements. These documents determined the legitimate owners of the Europeans, even if they were not yet open lands. So even the most influential conquistadors could not particularly hope for enrichment. Their goal was to fill the Spanish treasury, about ordinary soldiers and say nothing. The dream of the conquistadors was different at that time. Most of the Spaniards saw in Conquest a chance to show courage and military skills. Having won fame in the battles with the Indians, one could hope to get a good position in the colonies. And even the famous Pedro de Alvarado did not rest easy on the looted treasures, but personally traveled to Madrid to ask the king to give him the post of governor in Guatemala.
The conquistadors outnumbered the Indians by defense and arming.
This persistent myth is often replicated with colorful pictures. They clearly show all the helplessness of Americans in comparison with Europeans. Indians with bows were opposed by riders in armor and infantrymen with firearms. Nobody denies that the technical superiority was with the conquerors, but how important was this? Its role was played by logistics – the delivery of something from Europe was a matter of expensive and difficult. It was initially impossible to produce the analogue on site. So in the first decades of the war equipped with modern weapons were only a few conquistadors. The existing image of the conquistador – in an iron helmet and steel cuirass, had little in common with reality.In the first half of the Conquest, most soldiers wore a leather helmet and a quilted jacket. Eyewitnesses wrote that even the noble hidalgo dressed like the Indians. To learn Europeans it was possible only on shields with swords. While the Spaniards in the Italian Wars showed everyone advanced pikiner tactics, the conquistadors all also managed with a sword and an archaic round shield. Those “Rodelieros”, which in Europe at the Great Captain, Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordoba, played the role of auxiliary forces, Cortes was the basis of his army. Yes, and firearms were originally a rarity. Almost until the end of the XVI century, the Spanish arrows dealt with crossbows. It is not necessary to talk about the spread of cavalry. Over time, the situation has changed. So, in the middle of the 16th century the colonists raised uprising in Peru, fighting with other Spaniards. It turned out that the settlers had learned to produce armor, arquebuses and even cannons. The Spaniards noted that in terms of quality, the weapons were not much inferior to the European ones.
The Indians were backward savages.
It is a mistake to think that the conquistadors had to deal with savages. Initially, the Indians lagged behind not only in military equipment, but even in the simplest tactics. But the situation changed rapidly. The araukans already mentioned surprised the Spaniards not only with their original military skills, but also with the ability to quickly learn tactics from the colonialists. By the middle of the XVI century, this people began to use leather armor, similar to European peaks and halberds with weapons. Araukans had a drill tactic – phalanxes of spearmen were covered by mobile groups of shooters. Controlled connections with the help of drums. Participants in the battles with the Indians quite seriously compare them with the Landsknechts, and not with the savages. They knew Araukans and methods of fortification, they learned how to quickly erect forts in the fields, with fortresses, moats and towers. And by the end of the 16th century, the Indians had even created their own cavalry, and had started using firearms. And in Southeast Asia, there were situations when Conquest was generally opposed by developed civilizations, with armies and fighting elephants.
The Spaniards conquered both numbers and skills.
In the New World, the Spanish could not have been much. But we do not even suspect how little they were, not only in the early years of the Conquest. So, in 1541 the Europeans set out with an expedition to Chile, where they founded the current capital of the country, the city of Santiago de Nueva Extremadura. In the detachment of the first governor of Chile, Pedro de Valdivia was only 150 people. And the first reinforcements and supplies from Peru arrived only two years later. The first colonist of New Mexico (now the southern United States), Juan de Onyate in 1597, made 400 accomplices, directly the soldier of them was about a hundred people. Expedition Hernando de Soto with 700 travelers was perceived conquistadors, as a major operation. Almost always the Spaniards had only hundreds, and even dozens of soldiers. But even this made it possible to achieve military success.
The Indians were afraid of firearms.
Of course, the new rumbling weapon first frightened the Indians. But soon they ceased to be afraid of him. Cortes noted that in the course of his second battle with the Tlascalans, the roar of guns did not bother them at all. And the arquebus did not help the Spaniards avoid the rout in the Night of Sorrow.
The Spaniards conquered America only with the help of the Indians.
It is believed that a small number of Spaniards were compensated by a large number of their local allies. They were the basis of the allied forces. But in this case, not everything is so straightforward. First of all, the Spaniards were able to find allies in the territory of modern Mexico and the surrounding countries. There next to the Aztecs there were weak people who dreamed of destroying cruel and influential neighbors. And the participation of Indians directly in the fighting was limited. Cases when the Spaniard commanded a detachment of natives were very rare. Indians were involved as trackers, porters, guides, workers, only occasionally as soldiers.If there was any need for it, the Europeans remained disappointed. An example is the events of the Night of Sorrows, when the conquistadors had to withdraw from Tenochtitlan with bloody losses. At the decisive moment, the allied Tlascalans were completely helpless because of their low organization and morale. It is easy to understand this situation. By the time of the arrival of the Europeans, almost all the warlike and powerful tribes were already in a depressed and semi-free state. They already have lost the habit of fighting. And in the campaigns to the south, the Spaniards had no allies.
The conquest of America became a real genocide for the Indians.
Legends draw Conquest an act of genocide. Destroyed peoples and civilizations, and all for the sake of greed and intolerance of Europeans, who were eager to turn everyone into their culture. War and colonization are themselves cruel things. The clash of two ancient civilizations without tragedies is not complete. Nevertheless, the policy of the metropolis was rather mild. In America, the conquistadors acted in many ways. In 1573, King Philip II published the Ordinance on New Discoveries. In this decree, it was explicitly forbidden to rob, convert Indians into slavery, use weapons unnecessarily. Even the term “Conquest” was banned, the crown did not see the colonization of the military conquest of new lands. These soft rules were not always executed. Somewhere this was due to circumstances, the human factor played a role. But in the history there are many examples of how the Spaniards tried to treat the Indians with a soft and humane attitude. For example, the governor of New Mexico at the end of the XVI century allowed to conduct any military operations only with the permission of the court. Demographic catastrophe occurred as a result of several factors. These are epidemics, and cruelty in suppressing uprisings, and hard work in mines. And what genocide can be said, if in the former Spanish colonies the majority of the population are descendants of Indians or inhabitants of the pre-Columbian era. In the same North American Indians there were only a few tens of thousands.
The Spaniards were able to defeat the Indians with the help of unusual, European diseases.
The success of the Conquest is explained not only by the cultural shock of the Indians, but also by the appearance of new diseases in their midst. What the Europeans have long developed immunity for the aborigines has become a terrible scourge. But we must understand that this stick has two ends. The conquistadors also had to face new conditions for themselves. They were not ready to survive in the hot conditions of the tropics, the flora and fauna were unfamiliar, like the terrain as a whole. The Indians defended their home, and the Spaniards spent months in isolation. Even from the nearest colony, the help and supplies could go on for months. Debunked this myth of poisons, which the Indians used against the colonizers. The conquistadors did not immediately understand how to treat wounds inflicted by poisoned arrows and traps. So the danger of new diseases was mutual.
The conquistadors conquered only America.
Conquest is considered to be the conquest of the New World. The long colonization of America is not all that the Spanish conquistadors were doing. There is also a dramatic, eventful history of the development of South-East Asia. In the XVI century the Spaniards appeared in the Philippines, trying to spread their influence from here. Support from the mother country, the Asian conquistadors were practically deprived. But this colony existed until the XIX century, Europeans had a significant impact on local culture. The Spaniards from here began their colonization campaigns on the mainland. They were the first Europeans on the territory of Laos, in fact they ruled Cambodia. The Spaniards fought against the Chinese and supported the Japanese. Very few people know about this side of the history of the Conquest.
The conquistadors were greeted as invaders.
Europeans, coming to a new continent, met there powerful civilization of the Incas and Aztecs. They were created by violent means, by enslaving neighboring nations.The success of the Spaniards was based on the fact that they were helped by other tribes. They saw in Europeans liberators, not conquerors.
Conquistadors easily defeated the peace-loving Indians.
Today, historians do not deny the sheer cruelty of Indian civilizations. The locals were bellicose and aggressive. The Aztecs are mired in bloody sacrifices, doing this extremely subtle. So, the young Indians pulled their hearts. They were eaten by priests, and bodies – aristocrats during the ritual feast. The goddess of fertility was sacrificed to the girls, the rain god to the children. The priests and even the king adorned themselves with the scalps and the skin of the victims. The Aztecs could sacrifice thousands of people each year. This tribe even started wars, only to get new captives. Similar customs were with other tribes. So the Spaniards had to deal with cruel peoples who, without a second thought, killed their enemies.
The conquistadors destroyed the great cities and culture of ancient civilizations. Испан Spaniards did not destroy the cities, this contradicts common sense. The conquistadors needed strong points for further conquests. The pagan temples with their idols were destroyed or altered. But after all there were bloody and inhuman rites going on there. Cities whose remains are buried in the jungle are not traces of the conquistadors. This is how the remains of the Mayan civilization look, which was still in the X century, long before the conquistadors. You can blame the Spaniards for destroying gold items – they were simply melted for easy transportation.
Conquistadors made of freedom-loving Indians slaves.
Do not idealize the Indians and consider them freedom-loving. They and Europeans were well acquainted with the institution of slavery. And it was also common among the peace-loving tribes. The Spaniards just fine-tuned the working system to their own needs. The Incas and the Aztecs were particularly successful in slavery. But if in other cultures slaves were military prisoners, then the Indians used their fellow tribesmen. The slave could become a debtor or a betrayer. Aztecs trade slaves made big business – in the largest cities worked markets. The most massive structures of civilization were erected with the help of slave labor. With the arrival of the Spaniards, nothing particularly changed – freedom was not given to the slaves, sacrifices and wars did not stop. Despite all their respect for white people, the Indians did not leave their habits. Europeans were also befuddled by the opportunity to quickly become rich and powerful. The Spaniards introduced the system Encomienda, which secured the conquistadors of the land at once with the local population, who worked there. True, this applied to men from 15 to 50 years, women and children were not involved in the work.
The conquistadors were interested in new lands, not Indians.
There were different people among the colonizers, with their own purposes and methods. Some wanted power and money, others dreamed of making Indian ideological Christians. Official authorities wanted to see the emergence of new states that would pay tribute to the crown. And between these directions was fought. Remoteness from Europe unleashed the conquistadors hands, they could ignore the decrees. But in Mexico, the camp of those who called for avoiding cruelty towards the Indians gradually began to form. So there were New Laws, which prescribed humane attitude to the Indians. Most fiercely they were defended by Catholic monks. In addition, even before the bloody events, the Indians were recognized as equals with Christians. Queen Isabel promised to reduce taxes transferred to the Catholic faith. Many villages voluntarily began to serve the Spaniards, which was required by the authorities.
Conquistadors are invaders, and the Indians fought for their land.
Central America has long been a battlefield for different tribes and civilizations fighting for the possession of this fertile region. The Spaniards had fewer rights than the same Aztecs. Those too were invaders.Even the Mayan cities and states fought each other for control of the lands. The hostile ruler and the prisoners were sacrificed. In the 7th century the Teotihuacan tribes invaded the Mayan territory, and soon the city itself fell victim to the northern tribes. From the west, the Mayans were attacked by the Pipil tribes, who destroyed the original civilization in the 9th-10th centuries. From the north it was invaded by militant Toltecs. The population of the region assimilated with the invaders, a new culture appeared. And the Inca empire was not born peacefully. This tribe, who lived in the area of the city of Cuzco, eventually overtook his neighbors. In the middle of the 15th century, the main competitor on the road to supremacy in the region, the kingdom of Chimor, fell. The arrival of the conquistadors of the Inca was met at the very peak of the strength of its state.