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Life in colonial spanish america

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  • 1. Garretson1Christiana GarretsonDr. Arguello150 History Latin America to 182413 December 2011 Life in Colonial Spanish America Colonial expansion of the Americas was initiated by Spanish conquistadores and,through its administrators and missionaries, was developed by the monarchy of Spain.Trade and the spread of the Christian faith were what motivated the colonial expansion,which lasted over four hundred years (beginning in 1492 and ending in 1898).Christopher Columbus was the man who arrived and began the immense expansion of theSpanish Empire. Over almost four centuries, Columbus expanded the Spanish Empire across mostof present-day Central America, the Caribbean Islands, Mexico, most of North Americaincluding the Southwestern, Southern, and Pacific coastal regions of what is today theUnited States. Although they were inactive, the Spanish also claimed territory in presentday British Columbia as well as Alaska, Washington, and Oregon. Revolutionarymovements in the early 19th century resulted in most Spanish colonies choosing to beindependent from the others colonies. The only colonies that did not decide to do sowere Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines, due to the fact that these colonieswere given up in 1898 after the Spanish-American war. The loss of these remainingterritories was what politically ended Spanish colonization in America. However, thecultural influences are far from gone.
  • 2. Garretson2 Beginning with the voyages of Columbus, the Kingdom of Spain wished to startup missions to convert the pagans in New Spain to Roman Catholicism. Spain wanted toconvert the pagans in order to promote the colonization of the lands that were awarded toSpain by the Catholic Church. In 1741, King Philip V felt that these conversions werenecessary in upper California. The whole idea of the mission system was put in place inorder to control Spain‟s tremendously expanding holdings in America, or “the NewWorld” as it was referred to. The Kingdom of Spain knew that if they were tosuccessfully run their colonies, that they would need a literate population of people. Thegoal of the Spanish government was to turn the indigenous people of the New World intotax-paying citizens and Christians. These Native Americans were inevitably required tolearn to speak Spanish as well as learn the Christian ways and job skills. Estimates forthe population in California at the time are as high as 300,000 indigenous peoples,possibly divided into over 100 separate tribes/nations. In 1769, the King decided torelinquish power over the Baja California missions and give said power to the priests ofthe Dominican Order. This was done so that the Franciscans could focus on foundingbrand new missions in Alta California. In the early 16th century, very few Spanish men brought women with them whenthey traveled to the Caribbean as well as to Mesoamerica. This fact quickly formedsocial conditions that would favor the intermixing of European people and the indigenouspeople. When these Spanish men came to these places, they began living with andhaving indigenous women as their mistresses and sometimes later on as their wives. TheKingdom of Spain made an attempt to steer social policy toward protecting marriagebetween Spaniards. This attempt was made by banning Spanish men who were married
  • 3. Garretson3from traveling without their wives, or returning to Spain or sending for their wives withina two year time frame. However, since the King simply had no way of enforcing saidpolicies, they quickly failed. There was also a time when the Crown prohibited Spanishwomen who were unmarried from traveling to the colonies, unless they were travelingwith their family or they were emigrating as servants. These such policies left Spanishmen in the New World with very few available Spanish women as possible wives.Despite the Crown‟s desire to preserve Spanish marriages, it also had much interest incolonizing the New World. The Crown realized that, if Spanish men were to marry theindigenous women, that they might then be moved to settle down and create ties tocertain areas of the New World. The Catholic Church generally did not oppose suchmarriages in hopes that the marriages would end up converting the indigenous women toCatholicism. In the late 1500s, the number of Spanish households that were present in the NewWorld was only at 25,000. Obviously, these households were surrounded by the nativepopulation, which was much greater than the Spaniards. The Spaniards were aware ofthis fact, and consequently created a caste-like system in order to „preserve their wealth,power, and privileges.‟ This caste-like system consisted of multiple ranks, withSpaniards being in the top group. The ranks of this system were based on a person‟spercentage of Spanish blood. The child of a Spaniard and an indigenous person wascalled a mestizo, and the child of a Spaniard and a mestizo was a castizo. Thisclassifications system not only accounted for Spaniards, but also for African people.Most of the Africans in the New World were brought their by the Spanish, as their slaves.By the end of the 16th century, Africans began having children with the indigenous
  • 4. Garretson4people as well as the Spaniards, which then required the production of more categories inthe classification system that was put in place. The child of an African person and aSpaniard was called a mulatto, and the child of a mulatto and a Spaniard was morisco,and the system eventually had many categories. The caste-like system, which ended up being very complex, inspired the creationof 18th century casta paintings that showed where each person ranked in the New World.These paintings were popular in Spain and other European regions as well as in the localareas. This fact was an indication that, in the modern Atlantic world, there was some sortof increasing enchantment with interracial mating. Despite the Crown‟s desire to keepthis system in order and enforce it, the system was not as powerful and enforced as it wasintended to be. This was partially due to the fact that some of the classifications in thesystem were easily manipulated or changed. The classifications could be done so by aperson moving to a town where his or her family‟s origins were not known, by wearingcertain types of clothing that were indicative of a certain culture, by “marrying up”, orsimply by speaking Spanish. Inevitably, the Crown‟s precious system of cultural classification ended up notbeing as solid as it was intended to be. Their system was more flexible and malleablethan the Crown desired, and it became even more difficult to manage as time went on,partially due to the difficulty of distinguishing a person‟s ancestry. By the time 1650came around, there were more people of mixed ancestries than there were Spanishpeople. These numbers of people with mixed ancestries only increase more in the 18thcentury. The caste system that was established was then abolished in the early 19thcentury.
  • 5. Garretson5 It took the people of Spanish America until around the 1930s to start fighting backthe racist ideas that were put in place by colonialism. Writers, political leaders, and morebegan to start movements that would upset the colonial racism and ideas and thus support the indigenous foundations and heritages. Although these movements did help and did make some people think differently, they did not eliminate racist ideas and attitudesentirely. Those who led the movements, those who supported the movements, and others who were aware of the situation were criticizing those who did not appreciate the fact that people of African (and other) descents had a great effect on Latin America.
  • 6. Garretson6 Sources Used in Chronological Orderhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_colonization_of_the_Americas#The_Caribbean:_First_settlements_in_Americahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_missions_in_Californiahttp://www.pbs.org/kcet/when-worlds-collide/essays/social-order-in-the-spanish-new-world.html