September 25h, 2013
Colonization: Sponsored by greed
The Spanish and Portuguese were two of the world’s superpowers in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. Conquest of the Americas and Asia was a major goal for the Spanish and Portuguese during this period of time, and these two empires started on an elevated platform, which propelled them to greatness in this time period. But what drove them to this greatness? Both the Portuguese and Spanish began their travels to the Americas and Asia only after establishing their dominance in Europe. The Portuguese started their triumphs shortly after establishing their navy, while the Spanish began their exploration of the new world with Columbus’s trip to the Americas. The reason for the empires’ explorations to the Americas and Asia are often under the pretext that it was curiosity and the desire to spread Christianity that pushed them, but it was in fact greed that was the primary driving force behind every effort to colonize the Americas and Asia. Christopher Columbus’s arrival to Hispaniola is one of the most famous expeditions in history. His initial plans to establish an alternate trade route to the Indies were thwarted when he came across the Americas, and although he arrived on the wrong body of land, he still found a way to make his travels seem profitable to his investors, the King and Queen of Spain.1 In Columbus’s letter to Luis De San Angel, King Ferdinand II and queen Isabella’s finance minister, he wrote about his voyage to the Indies. In this letter, his tone when writing about the native people of the Indies came off as condescending. The reason for this is because upon Columbus’s arrival to the Americas, he took by force some of the natives, and from then on was treated like a god. 2 One of Columbus’s main reasons for voyaging to the Indies was to spread Christianity, but when he realized that he was being treated like a divine being, he abandoned his efforts to spread the word of Christ and instead started thinking for himself.3 The mental advantage that Columbus gained by being treated like a god made him begin to think about how he could make a profit off of the indigenous people rather than how he could save their souls by introducing Christianity to them. Columbus’s actions were solely motivated by greed and not the desire to spread the word of Christ. He knew that slavery had not yet been a major source of income for the Spanish empire, and when he saw this opportunity arise, he seized it. Greed fueled the burning fire of exploration, and the Spanish empire’s desire for more grew and grew over the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. Bartoleme de las Casas, a sixteenth century Spanish Dominican friar and social reformist, wrote the Brief Account of the Devastation of the Indies in the mid-sixteenth century after his visit to the Americas.4 De las Casas brings to light the terrors of the Spanish empire in the Americas, and is a prime example of an individual who publicly came out against the Spanish empire. He did this when he stated in his piece that “Their [The Spanish] reason for killing and destroying such an infinite number of souls is that the Christians have an ultimate aim, which is to acquire gold, and to swell themselves with riches in a very brief time and thus rise to a high estate disproportionate to their merits. It should be kept in mind that their insatiable greed and ambition, the greatest ever seen in the world, is the cause of their villainies.”5 The Spaniards ruthlessly killed the natives, and had no remorse when performing these horrifying acts. This account was written roughly fifty years after Columbus’s first expedition to the Americas. In that timeframe, Columbus pioneered the Atlantic slave trade, and the Spanish empire was already well into their colonization of the Americas. The church still did not punish the Spaniards, who went against all the...
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