Conquest of the Americas. guardian.co.uk. Presentation created by Robert Martinez Primary Content Source: Prentice Hall World History Images as cited . .
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Conquest of the Americas
Presentation created by Robert Martinez
Primary Content Source: Prentice Hall World History
Images as cited.
In 1492, Christopher Columbus landed in the islands that are now called the West Indies, in the Caribbean. There, he encountered the Taino people. The Tainos lived in villages and grew corn, yams, and cotton, which they wove into cloth. They were friendly and generous toward the Spanish.
Friendly relations soon evaporated. Spanish conquistadors followed in the wake of Columbus. The settled on the islands of Hispaniola, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. They seized the gold ornaments worn by the Tainos, then made them pan for more gold. At the same time, the newcomers forced the Tainos to convert to Christianity.
Meanwhile, a deadly but invisible invader was at work – disease. Europeans unknowingly carried diseases such as smallpox, measles, and influenza to which Native Americans had no immunity. The diseases spread rapidly and wiped out village after village.
As a result, the Native American population of the Caribbean islands declined by as much as 90 percent in the 1500s. This cycle of disease and death was repeated in many other places across the western hemisphere.
From Cuba, Spanish explorers probed the coasts of the Americas. They spread stories of empires rich in gold. Attracted by the promise of riches as well as by religious zeal, a flood of adventurers soon followed.
Among the earliest conquistadors was Hernan Cortez. Cortez landed on the coast of Mexico in 1519 with about 600 men, 16 horses, and a few cannons.
As he headed inland toward Tenochtitlan, he was helped by Malinche, a young Indian woman who served as his translator and advisor. The Spanish called her Dona Marina. Malinche knew both the Mayan and Aztec languages, and she learned Spanish quickly.
From Malinche, Cortez learned that many conquered peoples hated their Aztec overlords. The Aztecs sacrificed thousands of captives to their gods each year. Malinche helped Cortes arrange alliances with thee discontented groups. They would help one another fight the Aztecs.
Meanwhile, messengers brought word about the newcomers to the Aztec emperor Montezuma. He wondered if their leader of the pale-skinned, bearded strangers might be Quetzalcoatl, the god-king who had long ago vowed to return from the east.
Cortez had no intention of turning back. Fighting and negotiating, he led his forces inland toward the capital. At last, they arrived in Tenochtitlan, where they were dazzled by the magnificence of the city.
Montezuma welcomed Cortez to his capital. However, relations between the Aztecs and Spaniards grew strained, and the Aztecs drove the Spanish from the city. Montezuma was killed in the fighting.
Cortez’s success inspired other adventurers. Among them was Francisco Pizarro. He arrived in Peru in 1532, just after the Incan ruler Atahualpa won the throne from his brother in a bloody civil war. A civil war is fought between groups of people in the same nation.
Helped by Indian allies, Pizarro captured Atahualpa after slaughtering thousands of his followers. The Spanish demanded a huge ransom for the ruler. The Incas paid it, but the Spanish killed Atahualpa anyway.
Despite continuing resistance, the invaders overran the Incan heartland. From Peru, Spanish forces surged across Ecuador and Chile. Before long, Spain added much of South America to its growing empire.
How could a few hundred European soldiers conquer huge Native American empires with populations in the millions? Several factors came into play.
Superior military technology was a key factor. The Spaniard’s horses frightened some Indians, who had never seen such animals. Spanish muskets and cannons killed soldiers, while metal helmets and armor protected the Spanish from the Indian’s arrows and spears.
Division and discontent among the Indians aided the Spanish. The Spanish won allies by playing on old hatreds among rival Indian groups. In fact, Indians provided Cortez and Pizarro with much of their fighting power.
Disease brought by the Europeans weakened the Aztecs and Incas. As tens of thousands of Indians died, some of the bewildered and demoralized survivors felt that their gods were less powerful than the god of their conquerors.
Many Indians believed that the disasters they suffered marked the world’s end. To Aztecs, the destruction of Tenochtitlan signaled the end of the reign of the sun god.
Native Americans continued to resist the invaders. Mayas fought Spanish rule . Long after the death of Atahualpa, revolts erupted among the Incas. Throughout the Americas, Indians resisted Europeans by preserving aspects of their own culture, such as language, religious traditions, and clothing.
The Spanish seized gold and silver statues and ornaments from the Aztecs and Incas. After depleting these sources, they forced Native Americans to mine silver in Peru and Mexico. In the 1500s and early 1600s, treasure fleets sailed each year to Spain or the Spanish Philippines loaded with gold and silver.