The Spanish Conquest of the Americas
When one thinks of the phrase “Spanish Conquest,” several names may spring to mind including those of Vasco Nunez de Balboa, Juan Ponce de Leon, Hernando de Soto and Francisco Vasquez de Coronado. All of these men followed the Portuguese explorer, Christopher Columbus, to the New World. When they arrived to the Americas they forcefully established Christianity in a pagan world and conquered the great nations of the Mayan, Incan and Aztec people. While Christopher Columbus was not Spanish his journey was the first to be sponsored by the Spanish Crown under Ferdinand and Isabella, the Monarchs of the Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon.
Columbus’ infamous voyage occurred in 1492, where he did not immediately discover the Americas but instead landed on an island newly named Hispanola in the chain of the Antilles Islands off the Gulf Coast (modern day Haiti). This began the chain of conquests as Columbus enslaved the local Arawak people and demanded that they provide food, gold and material goods for the Kingdom of Spain. When the natives attempted to revolt against their captors they were often brutally mutilated or killed for their treasons. The Arawak people, like many of the natives on the main land, did not have weapons sufficient enough to compete with the armor and guns of the Spanish soldiers.
After Columbus, Vasco Nunez de Balboa continued the journey onward and made his way across the Ismuth of Panama. Here it was declared by Balboa that the Pacific Ocean and all adjoining lands were claimed for the Kingdom of Spain. Hernan Cortes would later conquer the Aztec people with the help of the Aztecs long time enemies, the Tlaxcala nation. Soon however, the allied Tlaxcala would find themselves with the same fate as the mighty Aztecs whom they helped defeat.
All of the conquests of the Spaniards were based on the Catholic ideal of evangelization at the time. This ideal declared that the mission was to bring Christianity and civilization to the less fortunate peoples of the world. However, in truth the quests were driven by the Spaniards hunger for gold. The native people who would not accept Christianity were declared to have no rights, and thus their lands were taken from them. The Spaniards used long standing hatred between Native American nations to help strengthen their own armies and take down the numerous large cities. Last and most destructively, if force or religion could not conquer the Native peoples, the European diseases to which they had no biological immunity did.
“Conquistador.” WikipediA The Free Encyclopedia Online. 21 July 2008
“Spanish colonization of the Americas.” WikipediA The Free Encyclopedia Online. 21 July 2008