The Selfish Nature of the Spanish and Portuguese Exploration

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Throughout the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, Spanish and Portuguese exploration can easily be described as vast. With continuing curiosity, a sense of adventure, and a desire to save souls, expeditions lead to the New World in the Americas and eastward to Asia. However, it can be argued that no one of importance tried to stop the atrocities that were coinciding with the exploration of foreign territories. This is because the Spanish and Portuguese claimed that they were advancing humanity, but in reality, they were doing everything out of selfishness.
Two different aspects of the discovery of the Indies and Hispaniola were seen. The first aspect was from the viewpoint of Christopher Columbus. In 1493, Columbus wrote a letter to Luis De Sant Angel announcing his discoveries in the Indies. The letter was also being sent to the king and queen of Spain. The letter was written in a very deceitful manner to make it so the king and queen would continue to fund Columbus and his expedition as long as he continued making achievements for Spain. Upon his arrival, Columbus talks much of the land the Spaniards have conquered in the name of Spain. In the letter, he also talks about how the Indies were inhabited by a great number of people. Columbus describes the people as, “hopelessly timid, unsuspicious, generous, and very accepting.”1 The indigenous people were accepting of the conversion to Christianity. The justification of Christianity was used for Columbus’ expedition, while the territory and resources were the byproduct. Columbus was hoping that by

1. Christopher Columbus, “The Letter of Columbus (1493).” writing this letter, he would continue to get funding for his expedition. The king and queen wouldn’t send Colum...

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...ich ends with a fight resulting in multiple deaths from each side.
All of these sources reinforce the materialistic and personal selfishness that was a key characteristic in exploration from the sixteenth to eighteenth century. Selfishness was more of a defining characteristic than curiosity, a sense of adventure, and the desire to save souls. No one of important status objected to all of the atrocities that were taking place. This is because objecting these atrocities came with the acknowledgement that they were doing terrible things to gain control. Even if it was against the doctrine they believed in, accepting wrongdoing meant that there was a possibility of having to give back the territorial and materialistic rewards that the countries had reaped during their exploration.

6. The Mission. Perf. Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons. Columbia-Cannon-Warner, 1986.

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