The Process Conquest and Colonization in Latin America Essay

Early Colonial Period-1492-1600

Latin America is one of the regions that have gone through various problems, including inter-clan and inter-tribal wars, poor leadership, and natural calamities. In recent years, the region benefited from economic booms, even though foreign intervention has always been a problem for many locals. The colonial period (1492-1810) is the most important era in the history of Latin America. The colonial-era shaped modern Latin America in a number of ways, as would be discussed in the subsequent sections. The arrival of Europeans changed the lives of the natives in six major ways. With the arrival of Europeans, the local population was wiped out.

Studies show that the Mexican population was over nineteen million in the Mexican Valley, but it was reduced to just two million when the locals interacted with the Spanish. By 1550, the population reduced since colonialists enforced unpopular policies that affected the lives of the locals. In some other places, such as Cuba and Hispaniola, the local population was wiped out completely, meaning that Europeans exterminated all locals found in these regions. The major problem that affected the locals was diseases, such as smallpox, even though Europeans attacked innocent people frequently. The locals in Latin America lacked sophisticated techniques and medicine that would treat these diseases.

Impacts of Conquest on the Locals

The locals had to abandon their culture in favor of a western culture, which was perceived as dominant and superior. The Spanish ensured that the locals did not practice their traditional religions. The colonial administration would frequently attack the locals while attending their traditional prayers in designated areas. Priests destroyed the libraries that hosted the native codices. These priests believed that local religions were demonic in nature; hence they were to be stopped as soon as possible.

In modern society, only a few of these libraries are in existence. Europeans never wanted any form of competition, irrespective of whether it interfered with their culture or not. In modern society, a number of Latin American communities are struggling to regain their once treasured culture that was destroyed during colonialism. Some are even struggling to establish their real identity. The lives of the locals changed tremendously when the colonial government came up with a policy referred to as encomiendas, which authorized colonialists to take over land that belonged to the locals.


Surprisingly, colonialists were given permission to own land, together with what was in it. This means that the locals were made slaves in their own land. Since the encomenderos was in charge of all activities in the area, each person was expected to report to him. In other words, a legal system of slavery was established, forcing locals to live under fear and agony. The Spanish administration established a legal system that was expected to serve the locals, but it was highly discriminative. Locals never obtained justice in case an abuse was meted out to one of them. However, this changed towards the end of colonialism since pressure had piled on the Spanish to exercise openness.

Administrative Structures

Analysts report that the locals had a strong system of leadership before the arrival of Spanish in the region. The region had established political systems that were generally based on the class system and aristocracy. With the arrival of Spanish, these structures were destroyed in favor of the European system of administration, whose major aim was exploitation. The most powerful leaders in the region, who were responsive to the sufferings of the majority, were killed and were stripped off their powers. The most powerful priests, whose role was to pacify the population in readiness for colonization, occupied their positions.

In Peru, the Inca nobility was retained due to their influence in society, but their powers were reduced. With time, the remaining noble class was sidelined in decision-making hence rendering their positions irrelevant. The local community was left without any leadership since their traditional leaders were not recognized at all in the colonial government. This gave Europeans an opportunity to oppress the locals without any form of resistance. In other words, the absence of the noble class meant the marginalization of the local population.

In modern society, the history of the region cannot be traced since colonialists destroyed the valued data that would reveal the lifestyles of the Latin American people. The Portuguese and the Spanish were never interested in conducting agriculture. In fact, history suggests that farming was considered a profession of the poor in the colonial era. The main aim of colonial masters was to exploit cheap labor. Locals were forced to work for several hours a day without pay. They were subjected to inhumane conditions, such as working under poor conditions and going without food for several days.

How Latin America was conquered

The Spanish applied direct rule, whereby they forced the local communities to support their administration through the provision of cheap labor and necessary support. Their presence in Latin America was considered an extension of the Reconquista. Their main objective was to spread the gospel and acquire valuable resources, such as gold. They employed force in conquering the Indian nobles and instituting their colonial rule. Catholicism was used as a tool of colonialism since people were expected to convert to Christianity in order to understand European culture. The Portuguese had the major aim of protecting its trade routes to India. Even though it applied direct rule, its aim was not extend trade to the region but not necessarily colonize the region.

The discovery of Latin America had an impact on the lives of many Europeans since it gave them a different challenge of having to deal with resistance. Spain and Portugal developed some of the strongest armies in the world in order to deal with any form of resistance in the future. Portugal managed to establish one of the strongest colonies in Brazil since it benefited from trade. Brazil was known for its large deposits of natural resources, such as gold and timber, which enable Portugal to develop a strong economy in the region.

Through cheap labor and oppressive policies, Europeans in the region were able to produce surplus goods, which were exported to Europe and other parts of the world. The demand for goods from the region encouraged the growth of the slave trade in the subsequent years, whereby cheap labor was obtained from Africa to produce goods that would be exported to Europe. The presence of Europeans in the region encouraged the development of factories and industries, which led to the process of industrialization.

Moral Issues

The issue of slavery was the moral issue that Europeans had to deal with since the bible was against it. Slavery became a moral issue since some Europeans interpreted the bible to suit their needs. Some were of the view that even kings in the bible had slaves, while some disputed the claim that slavery was justifiable. Europeans managed to conquer the region in 1500 since the local population was faced with a number of problems, with diseases and calamities being the major problems. Europeans could easily combine forces to subdue the locals. On the other hand, local communities lacked unity, making it easier for colonialists to defeat each community without much resistance.

Middle Colonial Period (1600)

Before the conflicts in Latin America, Europe had been characterized by the balance of power, whereby a number of states were considered superpowers. Each state had its own interests. In 1453, the Ottoman Turks cut a major route to India, forcing European powers to seek an alternative. In England, laws were altered significantly to benefit the navy. However, constitutional laws had negative impacts on farm policies. The Hanseatic League died a natural death with the coming of new laws in England. Spain considered itself a powerful nation since it had a strong group of Reconquista, which believed that it could conquer the world easily. This inspired Spain to develop a strong empire in Latin America. Each state in Europe considered itself powerful, with England believing that it had a strong army while Spain was proud of a Reconquista. Each state had the ambition to explore new places.

While in Latin America, the European states renewed their rivalry because each had its own ambitions. It was believed that the acquisition of wealth from overseas countries would strengthen the economy of the state, which would give the state an advantage over others. Silver was considered a standard measure of value in a number of states in Europe. Therefore, the acquisition of this material would strengthen the state in a certain way. Latin America had enormous resources, including silver, which was a treasured resource in the European continent. In Europe, silver and gold could not be found since they were spent on acquiring goods from Asia. The acquisition of goods from Asia was impossible since the Ottoman Empire had blocked the major routes. European states had to compete for scarce resources in Latin America in order to satisfy their markets at home.

Rivalries among European powers gave some communities an advantage, while others suffered a lot due to constant wars. Wars and characterized the region as each power tried to outmuscle the other. The rivalries formalized illegal human trade, which was later referred to as the slave trade. Slaves could be acquired at a certain price since the major economic activity depended on human labor. Many families suffered since their loved ones were taken to Europe to work in factories, and they would never come back.

Decline of Spain

The power of Spain declined in the region because of mainly disunity. Spain was a formation of matrimony between Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castle. The two disagreed on how to manage the state, which led to its failure. This extended to Latin America since enemies took advantage of the wrangles to force the Spanish out of their colonies. Moreover, Spanish colonialists were reluctant to pay taxes, something that made it difficult for colonies to operate.

Bourbon Reforms

Bourbon reforms were introduced in Spain in order to modernize the state. This would allow the economy to compete favorably with other economies in the region. Through reforms, the state was to implement strategies that would promote industrialization and scientific growth. In overseas colonies, the governments were expected to develop some mechanisms that would make them efficient and competitive. Through this, colonies would achieve economic and political development. The reforms were intended to reestablish the power of Spain over its colonies in the Latin America region. Through the reforms, Spain developed close links with France, which became its trade partner. Consequently, the state regained its lost glory since it was able to take control of the colonies, but this victory was short-lived as a number of revolts were experienced in the colonies. In Latin America, Tupac Amaru organized a rebellion against the Spanish, which was very successful.

The reforms instituted by the Spanish in Latin America brought about conflicts in the sense that people were now aware of their rights. The policy touched on the wealth of Creoles, who were considered the real owners of wealth in the region. People derived ideas from the European enlightenment, which suggested that human beings had the right to conduct their businesses without external interruption. It became very difficult for the Spanish government to impose unresponsive policies that would interfere with individual ownership of property. Through enlightenment, people were aware that they had the right to own property. In this regard, the role of the government was simply to provide an enabling environment for individual fulfillment of his or her wishes. People were simply expected to pay taxes, but not to surrender their wealth to the government.

The Process Conquest and Colonization in Latin America

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