By the 16th and 17th centuries, the Spanish had already colonized most parts of Latin America. European occupation of the Americas brought great impacts on the continent and its people. Miguel Leon – Portilla, a Mexican journalist, wrote a detailed view of the Spanish colonization of the Aztec, the indigenous people of Mexico, in a book called The Broken Spear (1962). Miguel outlined the history of these indigenous people and the impact of European settlement on their land – from the perspective of the Aztec – and the near-collapse of the culture of the indigenous people. There is also another writer; Manuel G. Gonzalez in several of his works tells the rich history of the Mexicans, a unique kind of people who emerged from the ruins of Aztec culture and Spanish plunder, moved northwards and placed a remarkable impact on the history of the US.
These people arose from Indian and Spanish ancestry, who was deeply rooted in Catholic-Christianity; still make the majority of Latinos in the US. This paper asserts that there was a great impact of Spanish colonization of Latin America on the Aztec culture, language and civilization. These two works give us the Aztec accounts of how the Spanish invaded the Americas with a historical perspective of the Aztec culture and systems of government. The words describe how the Spanish arrived on the continent and how they were welcomed as visitors, who would later permanently, change the face and way of life of the continent. Spanish occupation of the Americas brought with it many changes to the land and the people who lived there; a people, who lived harmoniously and oblivious of the outside world, would be segmented and divided along with all possible divisions.
The major impact of the Spanish occupation of the Americas was on the land itself. Europeans were looking for land to grow cash crops to satisfy the demand of the industrial revolution that was taking root in the world (Miguel 148). The Spanish divided the land among themselves. To the Aztec, the land was a resource that belonged to anyone who had use for it. The Spanish were determined to bring a change to many aspects of Aztec life; for instance, the Spanish enslaved the natives and forced them to work on farms. With the introduction of Christianity and Spanish education, the natives were taught to be submissive and to obey European masters. The education was designed to make them look down upon their culture, language and religion.
As the two diverse cultures interacted, the Europeans made the Aztec feel that their culture was primitive and something to be discarded, hence the natives started copying European ways of life (Miguel 143). Most Christian teachings were against all aspects of Aztec traditions and forced them to abandon their ways of life and embrace Spanish lifestyles. The Aztecs eventually lost their language and religion (Miguel xxii). The Spanish were determined to change these people completely, so they explained most of the misfortunes that befell the natives, like the Wrath of God upon them, because they have refused to convert to Christianity. The Europeans came with their agricultural techniques, which saw the introduction of non-native plants and animals. There was an outbreak of diseases like smallpox and measles. Most Europeans were already immune to the diseases, and they remained unaffected by them. However, they made natives believe that it was because of their opposition to Christianity that had angered God against them.
Due to revolts and diseases, many natives lost their lives. Europeans could slaughter, rape, and maim the natives at any slight provocation or sign of revolt against Spanish authority. The natives lost their natural resources; silver and gold were mined and shipped to European markets without the natives receiving any compensation in return (Miguel 68). The natives were also enslaved, especially after introducing the Encomienda system, which gave the Spanish express rights to own slaves in the pretext of protecting them.
The process of capital accumulation system was an idea just like capitalism, which promoted the accumulation of wealth and increase in capital through profit, capital gains, or interest. Most societies embraced the system, which later resulted in strife as people desired to become wealthy. Greed increased among the people, who participated in revolutions to overthrow old monarchical regimes and establish liberal, democratic, and independent states. Nations were led to war against one another. For instance, Anglos, who were allowed to move southwards into Mexico, acquired large tracts of land, and these made the newly independent state jittery and insecure. The Mexicans responded by imposing tariffs and legislation that outlawed colonization. Conflicts then started to arise between Anglos and the Mexicans, which led to a war in 1832 (Gonzalez 29). Texas’s declaration of independence in 1836 was influenced by the capital acquisition system, which angered the Mexicans further.
Manifest Destiny was an expression invented in 1845, the impression that the US is predestined (by God, its promoters believed) to increase its territory and spread capitalism and democracy through the North American region. Manifest Destiny was an idea in the US in the 1840s that was largely promoted by Democrats and a section of white minority groups. The idea was used to justify the US expansion across the continent, which was thought of as being oblivious, inevitable, and a divine right. The idea was also used to justify the war between USA and Mexico (Gonzalez 35).
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The ideas were destiny based and hence, unstoppable. Americans believed in this idea of Manifest Destiny, and they were also endorsed by the then president Polk (1845-49) who began to take effect more rapidly than before. For instance, the conflict over Texas border in which the Mexicans believed was supposed to be at the north of the River Nueces, while the Americans insisted that the border was further South of Rio Grande. The change of command in the Mexican government complicated any possibility of a peaceful settlement of the issue. The Mexicans perceived it as a threat to their independence, and therefore, felt the need to arise and protect their land or become slaves to the Americans. Truly, the Americans wanted to conquer the Mexicans and turn them into slaves.
Although the Republicans were against the war and supported the Mexican claim that the war was another proxy to gain more slave states and acquire Mexican land, however, President Polk was keen to start a war at the slightest provocation from the Mexican side (Gonzalez 67). The opportunity presented itself when a small exchange of fire between US and Mexican troops in the Rio Grande, in which some American soldiers were injured (or killed), prompted Polk to declare war on Mexico. US troops entered and occupied Mexican territory, including Mexico City. The months that followed the war witnessed a series of plunder and looting by the Americans.
In the end, Mexicans had lost over half a million square miles of their land to the USA (Gonzalez 18). Of course, this is what the pro-Manifest Destiny supporters had dreamed of achieving. The Americans felt they had achieved their Manifest Destiny philosophy by acquiring new territories. The new challenge was the status of the Mexicans who remained in their lands. Over the years, the USA has been involved in various activities that have shaped the landscape of the continent, and which have come to haunt the nation later. For instance, the immigration crisis is one of the historical mistakes committed by the US on the continent as most Mexicans still regard US territory as their home.
Manifest Destiny and the slave trade were important considerations that justified the colonization of Northern Mexico. The dream by the Americans to expand their territory was coupled by the fact that most of the states North of Mexico were slave states that needed colonization and could provide cheap labour to Anglo capitalist ranchers (Gonzalez 12). Some of the states had already been annexed while others were in the process of being sold out to the US government.
In conclusion, the Spaniard presented a lot of new things to Mexico. The natives were able to speak Spanish since the Spaniard trained them. A lot of Mexicans were enslaved and most of their silver and gold taken. Unknown illnesses were introduced to the people, which resulted in countless deaths of individuals. A new religion was introduced to the Mexican culture. As a result, a fraction of Mexicans has christened Catholics. Many possessions were taken from Mexico and many other societies by the Spaniard. Currently, Latin America has few possessions due to colonization.