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The Indian Siutation In Colonial Latin America

886 words - 4 pages

The Indian Siutation in Colonial Latin America

The Indian situation in South America presented Spain with an interesting dilemma. At first, territorial expansion and the hunt for gold loomed over the New World, with Spain at the helm of the operation. Indians were obviously native of the area and their presence left Spain with several options if the New World was to become a "gold mine" of Spanish conquest. Economic progress took precedent in the eyes as well as the ideals of the Spanish regarding the "Indian situation". There were attempts at preserving and even enhancing Indian cultural rights yet these issues did not seem mutually exclusive. I feel as if the Spanish reaction to these issues left the Indians with the option of either assimilation or perishing at the hands of their conquerors (in both the figurative and literal sense).
When the Spanish first encountered the Indians (explorers such as Columbus, Cortes, and Pizarro) they were appalled at the culture that they found. Human sacrifice and a seemingly obvious disregard for human life made the Indians' customs appear primitive to the "enlightened" Spanish. One must notice that although the Spanish came with the intent to "baptize the world", they persecuted the Indians that they encountered. The beliefs that the Catholic Spanish held were ones that the Indians did not want to obey or accept yet were forced to follow as a result of the Spanish might. As Cortes and Pizarro used the excuse of spreading Christianity to give their slaughter good meaning, it was blatantly obvious that the Spanish were hiding behind the Bible to justify their mistreatment and reapportionment of the Indians.
Economic opportunity gave the Spanish the notion that the Indians inhabiting the area were merely tools of imminent commercial success. Spanish legislators were clever enough to realize that Indians under the rule of their own nobles were subject to a life of servitude and the Spanish sought to exploit this with a dose of their own idealism. The Spanish crown was knowledgeable of the mita (labor tax), under the Inca Empire, and enforced this policy in their colonies to require the Indians to comprise the New World "working class". As far as economics is concerned, a move such as this would be beneficial to the Spanish government for it places laborers (Indians) in the mines, and enhances the army's strength. When looking at this from a Spanish perspective it almost seems fair because it is a humane alternative to the genocide (forced human sacrifice) that the Indians...

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