Colonialism in Latin America History Essay Example

The colonial “system” was complex and well-integrated, and is a key analytical component of understanding Spanish American colonialism. Evaluate this statement and provide examples to substantiate your arguments.

A colonial system is a political and economical phenomenon, which involved several European countries or nations being conquered, exploited, settled and exploiting the largest areas of the world. Several European nations came up with several colonial systems which they used upon their colonies, thus speeding up the colonial system. The Spanish American colonial system was considered as complex and well-integrated. For instance, the arrival of Europeans in the New World in the year 1492 has changed the Americas dream forever, where by Spain ruled a vast empire based on the labor and exploitation of Indian population.

The Conquistadors who descended on the American lands had the hopes of bringing Catholicism to the new lands in order to extract great riches. The colonial system, through self-interest and religion, combined forces to try and create a potent mixture that helped in drawing hundreds of thousands of Spaniards across the ocean who hoped to find riches and win more souls for God (Johnson, 1993). As a result of the Spaniard invasion into America, they came with diseases which the natives had no immunities to.

What followed next in the colonial system, was one of the greatest tragedies in the human history, such as influenza, smallpox and other communicable diseases that ravaged the natives in the Spanish American colony, killing millions of people (Mahoney, 2010). On the contrary, the Spanish have never set out to destroy the people of Spanish America, but their main goal was to use the Indian labor to meet their own needs, which led to a serious debate in Spain concerning the Indian rights. This was considered as the first European nation that debated the rights and status of the non-Christians. The colonial system used in Spanish American nation brought various goods and ideas to the new world.

However, the colonial system was considered complex because it was perceived as a troublesome one. For instance, Spanish American colonial system was called the Encomienda system which was established by the Spanish. Its main role was to regulate and control American Indian behavior and labor during the process of colonizing the Americas. The complexity of the colonial system emerges with the challenges it poses to both the colonizers and the colonies. For instance, Spanish crown, in the Spanish American colony unenthusiastically approved the granting of the Encomiendas because it needed to establish a new government system and reward the conquistadors.

The conquistadors moved in quickly to fix the menace that was created by the system. It later made the landed dignity out of men, whose well-known skills were considered to be mayhem, murder and torture, but the existing kings hesitated to set up a New world that could later be troublesome (MacLeod, 2010). To add insults to injury, the Encomenderos further made unreasonable demands to population or people who lived on their land, demanding crop tributes, working on them excessively through provision of labor.

Colonial systems came up with its atrocities, which could infringe the citizens’ rights. Slavery was a common phenomenon during colonial period, with an aim of providing forced labor to the farms, and mining areas (MacLeod, 2010). For instance, the Mestizo culture in Spanish America was not considered as the only racial issue, which was imposed by the colonialists. The terrible destruction of the existing Indian population impelled the Spaniards to import West African slaves into their country in their never-ending search for cheap and affordable labor. Slavery was a common phenomenon in Spanish America during the colonial system and existed even after its abolishment in the United States, and Brazil.

Colonial systems tend to create awareness on the liberation process. The systems are created to politically and economically instigate the change in a way a country is ruled or governed. The entire process should be fruitful in the essence of liberating its citizens from any form of oppression. When trying to understand Spanish American colonialism, there arises a need to take into consideration the colonial system used by the colonizers, which, in the long run, determines the political, social and economic systems of a given nation (Mahoney, 2010).
Colonial system is complex in nature because of its structure. Colonial system should be well- structured to accommodate all aspects, such as the country’s political lineage. Spanish American colonialism is evident through the Spanish conquistadors, who are considered as the poor nobles from the indigent south and west of Spain (Johnson, 1993). The Spanish conquistadors were, eventually, able to conquer huge empires and occupied them in the New World, which was aided by the new superior military technology.

Colonial system leads to several changes socially, such as culture and language. For instance, the inversion of colonialists into a given country leads to a change in culture, such as family structure, marriage and way of life. In Spanish America, the way of life was greatly influenced by the colonial system, imposed on people. Spanish American culture has drastically changed after colonialists used their vast colonial system. The change in culture ensured compatibility and good relationship with one other. The Indians intermingled with the enslaved Africans, thus emulating their way of life and adopting their language. In conclusion, the colonial system used in Spanish America was considered vast, well-integrated and complex, thus useful in understanding the Spanish American colonialism.

What were the most important characteristics of Iberian culture that affected the development of colonial Latin America?

In many ways, the Portuguese and the Spaniards shared similar characteristics with other European people across the world. They, however, possessed some special features as the original inhabitants of the South-western part of Europe and the Mediterranean region. Iberia, for a long time, was consolidated into three kingdoms-Aragon, Portugal, and Castile, which formed unification through marriage. The cities, established by the Iberians in Latin America, had the same characteristics, thus becoming the means of organizing vast territories around the European settlement.

Some characteristics of the Iberian family as a culture differed from those found in the northern European family, which affected the development of Latin American culture. This, in the long run, has led to profound effects in terms of relations between the indigenous people and the Iberians in America. Based on the Iberian culture, families were considered as multiline which existed at different levels, thus affecting the developments of the Latin American culture (Fuchs, 2011). For instance, a marriage did not lower the wife’s family to an extent which is common in the Northern Europe. As per the Iberian culture, women were allowed to keep their maiden names after marriage, and the dowry that was given with them remained their own property.
Some of the children of a given couple might take one parent’s name, while some took the name of the other, and the choice was made by the highest socially ranked person in the society. Contrary to other dominant cultures, the Iberians kept track of various network connections, rather than just counted from the father, to son and to the grandson, as they made through the female line same as men.

Relating to the Iberian culture, formal marriage was undertaken only when couples, especially male, fully considered they established, unlike other cultures which affected the development of Latin America. In this case, Iberian men often married late in life, whereas women were married off at a very tender age. This resulted in too many couples never getting married at all, to enable their children be in the strict legal sense of illegitimate (Arnove, Torres, & Franz, 2013). As a result, men who married late ended up having relationships with women of lower ranks and children were later conceived of these informal unions. The overall results were that, despite the ostensible disapproval of the churches, the Iberian society was full of informal marriages and illegitimate children.

A much more complex set of practices has, in the recent past, grown up for the treatment of the women in the society and the children who are involved in informal unions. The Iberian culture stipulates that when a man decides to marry, he often should provide for his informal partner something that is considered dowry, to allow her get married to someone of a lower rank. In regard to this, the Iberian women, who happen to have had informal unions in the Western Hemisphere, were always considered African or indigenous, thus the children were racially mixed up (Burkholder & Johnson, 2010). The Iberian patterns of treatment, for those involved in the informal setting, remained the same, thus allowing for a vast amount of cultural and social mixture and contact.

Christian people were closely related to romance languages, and made up the majority of individuals or inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula, but, in the long run, had coexisted with the larger element of starkly distinct people, as compared to other European nations. According to the country’s history, Iberia had been conquered by the Muslim Arabic speakers who came from northern Africa. Iberian language is considered as a major factor in trying to bring difference diverse communities together in the vast Latin America. Most individuals have for long adopted the languages, imposed by the European nations that once dominated the region. As a result of Iberian culture, Spanish language has become dominant and is used as the primary language in Latin America (Arnove et al., 2013).

The Iberians’ culture is considered to be heavily urban, in terms of the Iberian style design and architecture. The people majorly focused on architectural work and designing of building and other structures. Architectural work and designs greatly affected the development of Latin America. Building structures are well designed and decorated by the Iberians, thus leading to the development of Latin America.

Iberian culture has led to the change in political system of the country. Parties and alliances are formed based on the observed culture. Individual virtues are held within ones culture, which is a body that instigates political realignment. Cultural diversity of the Iberian people had, in the large extent, influenced the political system of Latin America (Burkholder & Johnson, 2010). The Iberian culture influenced both positively and negatively the politics of Latin America. Iberian culture is the most celebrated culture across Latin America because of its impact on political re-alignment. It was considered a superior culture, which was most celebrated across the region.

On the one hand, Iberian culture has both impacted adverse effects on the development of Latin America, bringing on to board socio-political developments. On the other hand, the Iberian culture might have negatively affected the development of Latin America because most people would resist change as a result of preserving their culture. Such characteristics of Iberian culture in Latin America acted as a wave that instigated change by maintaining the cultural diversity of its people. In addition to this, people tend to celebrate their culture because it transforms their dignity to higher standards.

What methods and sources maybe used to estimate the population of Latin America around 1500, what are the key problems facing the researcher using such sources and methods

Population geography is a branch of human geography that is focused on the scientific study of people, their spatial variations in distribution, composition, migration, growth and density in relation to the nature of geographical places. Societies and their habitats throughout the world have been forced to respond to the extraordinary increases in human numbers and consumption in this century and period, where there has been an ever growing interest by academics, the general public and governments in the population question at all levels of scale, i.e. from local to global.

There have been long debates over the size of the indigenous population in Latin America around 1500. One school asserts that Latin America was densely populated, especially the areas of high civilization. In around 1519, the population of Mexico has been calculated to an estimate of 25 million. The population of Andean South America is considered to have been lower than that of central Mexico, but some have estimated the region to have a population of more than 30 million (Bakewell & Holler, 2010). The history of Latin America has been littered with many tragic stories. However, none is more tragic or vital than the story of change in population that occulted in the region in the 16th century. It ought to be kept in mind that the historical record is not exact and there is a considerable debate over the actual changes in population. For instance, the population of Latin America in the year 1500 has been estimated to have been as low as 12 million and as high as 40 million.

Some of the methods used to estimate the population of Latin America are data estimated by the noted economic historian Angus Madison, as his estimates that the population of Latin America in 1500 was around 17.5 million (Maddison & Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2003). Colonialism had an impact on the population, as the wars led to a serious decline in the populations of Latin America. The population declined as a result of many diseases and the continued inhabitants by the colonialists. The area had come under domination of European nations and this led to profound changes in its population, landscapes, and animal life. The lifestyle of European and Asians resulted to many epidemics diseases which were unknown to the Americans. These enlargements were, however, not easily reached, since the countries were subjected to wars. Spanish was up against Mexico for Aztecs and Incas of Peru. American people supported these conflicts. This led to Spain being governed by viceroys of the king. Spain took large areas for mining, farming and cattle ranching, which were meant for increased caring and provision for the Americans. The population loss and cultural chaos can be used as methods to estimate the population of Latin America at around 1500. After the arrival of Columbus, in Latin America, the population estimates in Latin America have tremendously varied with the population debate often having ideological underpinnings.

The sources which can be used to get the population of Latin American in 1500s are the historical writings, most of which have been written by the European colonists. They have all given different estimates, raising questions about the validity of studies. Many historians have written that pleases their masters and the colonialist do not want to bear the responsibility of been the reason for population decline in Latin America, resulting in the bias. It is well known that population decline was caused by the many epidemics and wars that came with the Europeans but they have twisted the narrative to seem like they brought civilization to the Americans. Colonization involves the spread of species into the new world. In the foreign land, the species establish colonies, which later affect the lifestyle of the inhabitants (Henderson, Delpar, Brungardt, & Weldon, 2000). This is a similar procedure which was used by Americans, as they ventured into the European countries.

Some scholars have argued that contemporary estimates of the high Latin American indigenous population have been rooted in a bias against the aspects of Christianity and western civilization. The population estimates have been heavily politicized with many Europeans, favoring higher figures. The number of deaths caused by European –indigenous wars has been hard to determine that the methods used to estimate the population cannot be reliable. Some censuses which were conducted by the colonialists to the Latin Americans were often biased, thus they could not be used to estimate the population of Latin Americans around 1500.

What was the significance of the physical environment in interpreting the aboriginal and early colonial cultures of Latin America?

Being the fourth largest continent, South America lies from Gulf of Darien in the northwest to the Tierra del Fuego archipelago in the south. Latin America was the home to citizens of Columbia, Suriname, Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, Uruguay, the Falkland Islands, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guyana and Paraguay. Latin America is a term that has been used to describe all the Americans countries that were colonies of European nations. The countries have adopted the romance tongues of Spain, France and Portugal.

The lands of Latin America were hardly uninhabited when Europeans arrived in the region. The Europeans, a wide variety of native people, were already settled in the boarder of the region and were already leading a given way of life, which would later be perceived as being primitive. Aboriginal Latin Americans were living in central and South America before Europeans arrived and they had their own traditional social, economical, political and religious systems which defined their interaction in the society. Native Latin Americans did not view themselves as a single unit of unified people before the Europeans arrived during the pre-colonial era in Latin Americans.

The historic cultures of Latin America mainly developed in connection with their distinct regional landscapes. The Latin American cultures were described to be a fuse of three different cultures. The first was the native or the aboriginal culture, the second was the European culture (Spain, Portugal, England and France), and the third was the African culture (though slavery). From 1492, the European navigators arrived in Latin America, where they conquered and colonized all the extensive territories (crown of Spain and Portugal). By the need of the 16th century, Spain had occupied all of the central and south America, as well as some parts of North America. The Portuguese took hold of the coasts which is today’s Brazil. The Catholic Church was the main unification that blended the colonialism. The natives danced, smoked and prayed, in order to appease the spiritual forces and ask for protection and guidance. Bad and mysterious things that happened in the environment were believed to have happened for a reason and there was a meaning behind every disease outbreak, famine and drought. Rituals provided the answer by appeasing the spirits and regaining the required balance. The native men hunted and fished; it was their role to provide food and sustenance for their families and the community as a whole (Birkenmaier, 2013). They utilized small groups but there also existed large groups that were conducted occasionally. The men believed that how an animal was treated would determine how the spirits of the animal would react.

Colonization and occupation of South America, by the Spain and Portugal, was partly motivated by the need to share the knowledge regarding Christianity and enhance the influence of the religion in the society. Christian colonizers viewed the cultural practices of the Native Latin Americans, which defined their religious practices as being primitive and not based on believable practices. In their agenda, their aim was to convert Native Latin Americans into Christianity and influence their perception regarding religion and existence of the universe. This limited the freedom of choice that Native South Americans had regarding practicing their cultural beliefs which they had been practicing for several centuries (Keen & Haynes, 2012).
In the pre-colonial period, the aboriginal South Americans had their own economic and cultural practices which defined their interaction in the society. Freedom can be perceived as members of the society, having the ability to make choices regarding what is in their best interest and being able to exploit it. Colonization period saw the Native Latin Americans lose their freedom through the economic and cultural restrictions imposed on them. Economically, Native South Americans lost the option of having a choice of whom to sell their land to, when and at what rates, as they were pressurized into selling (Francis, 2005). As the numbers of Spanish and Portuguese settlers increased in the society, the aboriginal Latin Americans were forced to sell their land in order to accommodate the influx of settlers. Cultural practices, like religious beliefs which Native Latin Americans had developed over centuries, were labeled as primitive, hence they were encouraged to convert to Christianity. This has limited their freedom of religion in the society.

The aboriginal Latin Americans had beliefs, ideas and values that influenced their interaction with the environment around them and their relationship with other occupants of the region. The way the native people saw the world around them was very different from how the Roman Catholics and the Europeans viewed the world and this influenced the way they lived their lives and interacted with the environment. Their understanding of the cosmos and the position of human beings within it was different from the perception held by Europeans and Christians.
The physical environment comprises of land, water, air, animals/animals, and infrastructure. It also includes the natural resources which provide the basic needs and opportunities that help in social economical development. The physical environment of the Latin Americans was significant in defining their aboriginal culture.

To what extent did the developments in mining sector stimulate other key socio economic sectors in Spanish America?

Mining and European Revolution

The discovery of silver deposits not only transformed the local community, but also transformed most parts of Spanish America. Mining fueled the European revolution, accelerating imperial competition between Spain and England. The silver mined provided economic empowerment for the Spanish imperial state to development and defend its empire with the American colonization by the arrival of Europeans (Rawley & Behrendt, 2005). There are two main silver mining centers that developed in the 16th century at the North West region of Mexico and at the Zacatecas and Guanajuato, transforming these economies significantly. The Spanish Crown residual ownership of the mineral deposits and the rights to levy taxes on the mining industry. At the mining camps, government representatives were present and, therefore, the silver mining camps resembled the current Spanish municipalities. The mining camps were led by councils that were headed by the local mining business people, professionals, and merchants.

Mining required huge labor, as well as big capitals to run, besides the long term investment in technical expertise. The infusion of silver to the Spanish economy has contributed to inflation that caused revolution on prices across all the Western Europe. The inflation affected other social products, such as food, agriculture due to the dramatic increase in the silver coinage under circulation. The price revolution led to adrift between the different social classes with the rich getting richer and the poor being unable to provide for their basic needs. In addition, the mining sector was a key economic driver of Spain. The Spanish law has allowed the colonists to use free labor, as long as they paid taxes to the crown. The miners enriched themselves through the revenues generated from the mining business.

Mining Enhanced Trans-Atlantic Trade

The beginning of the sixteenth century Africans were brought from the Spanish colonies in Africa to work in the gold mines and at the plantations. Before 1600, the Spaniards shipped items, such as food, weapons paper and nails from Spain and paying for goods using silver and gold. After 1600, a number of Spaniards started to manufacture these items, but the Crown was not happy, since Spain wanted to keep its colonies (MacLeod, 2010). In the effort to keep the colonies, paper making was burned. Since the demand for paper was high, it led to a big shortage and important legal documents were reused. In addition, since Mexicans and Peru began producing their own clothes and foods, the Spanish merchants could not purchase all the silver, hence leading to the slavery economy.

Transatlantic trade included the sale of slaves, which was propelled by credit, flowing from Europe. The minerals, such as gold and silver, were used as forms of payment. Military goods were exchanged for the captives. Some of the European merchants cohabited with the local women whom they paid them with silver coins and other goodies. The triangular trade was three legged, whereby the ship would sail from Europe with goods, and exchange them in Africa for the slaves who would then be transported to the Spanish America to work in the mines. The slave ship from America would then sail to Europe with minerals and food produced by the slaves completing the triangle. Some of the products from the triangle trade were used in the European industries.
The transatlantic trade emerged as the biggest and most lucrative enterprise and was the main economic driver of the current economic systems of capitalism in the European communities.

Social Repercussions

In addition, mining brought social change to the Indians, as most of them moved to the urban areas, where mining was done. Majority has shifted from the rural agricultural community to the Spanish dominated areas, where mining was more lucrative. The movement has changed the lifestyle of the Indians, as they changed their dressing to buy the Spanish style, and in the process gradually lost the Indian culture. The movement of majority of people to the mines greatly affected the agricultural sector, distorting the culture. Mining offered profound social impacts to both the Spanish colonist and the local communities. The colonists found quicker ways of enriching themselves through the use of free labor, and soon became prominent people. The mining wealth not only brought social wealth, but also brought political powers. The rich miners dominated the local governments and were respected by the society. The differences in Mexican and Peruvian mining industries led to long distance labor movements. The Peruvian mines used high numbers of temporary workers, hence greatly slowed down cultural change processes.

Slavery Economy

Spain was developing its empire in the newly acquired American lands and needed labor to work in the mines and the plantations. At the initial stages the Indians were used to provide free labor, as they had lived in America long before the Spanish colony arrived. The Indian population decreased with the arrival of the Spanish colony, and majority of them were killed during the war. Majority of the Indians died during the early years of Spanish rule, leading to high shortage of labor to work and the Spanish did not have the desire to work (Eltis, 1983). This led to slave trade from Africa, who came from slaving ports from West Africa. This formed the solution to the trade imbalance, since the Spanish merchants found an exchange for their gold and silver. The slaves were sold in exchange for different goods and services. African slaves filled specialized roles to improve the economic development of their masters. Some African assumed domestic household work and occasionally dominated the mining sector.

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