The Indian Siutation in Colonial Latin America

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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 Ind...

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...ose ambitions could only be fufilled by exploiting their services.

It was not that the Spanish were evil, yet they held no regard for a culture that they obviously never truly cared to recognize. It was the Indian labor that mattered to the Spanish and as the New World expanded in commercial value as well as Spanish distribution of settlers the Indian situation did not progress. Perhaps the Indians' culture had to be reformed to be "civil" yet they did not have to be dominated and abused by the Spanish. If spreading Christianity and preserving humanity was the goal of the Spanish then they failed miserably, but it is evident that they did have commercial success (as far as exporting precious metals from the New World). The New World offered the Spanish and the Indians a chance at future economic progress in Latin America but the benefit was mostly one-sided.

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