Seven Myths of theSpanish Conquest History 140: History/Americas thru 1800 Dr. Arguello Patricia Fonseca November 20, 2011
Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest Acknowledgements & Introduction• The number seven has significant meaning in regards to the history of America.• The origin myth of Mexica started with a tale of descent from seven lineages emerging from seven caves in a mythical location in the north of Mexico.• The basis of Spanish law during the Conquest period was called “The Seven Items”.• The seven myths of the Conquest are all found in the Cortes legend.• The term “myth” is not used in the sense of folklore or supernatural terms. It is used by the meaning of not being based in truth.
Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest Chapter 1: A Handful of Adventurers• It is virtually undisputed that the discovery of the Americas has been one of the most important events in world history.• Columbus’ discovery of America, while celebrated as a personal achievement, was an accidental byproduct of Portuguese expansion, of Portuguese-Castilian competition for Atlantic control, and of Portuguese-Castilian competition for a sea route to India. Any other adventurer would soon have discovered America in search of Asia.• However, after the discovery of America, royal officials wrote and published a letter claiming it to be a Spanish achievement with Columbus acting on their behalf.• These types of letters are taken as fact and are used in chronicling history. Cortes wrote many letters regarding his own success of the Conquest. He was supported by the Franciscans, humanists, and other intellectuals in similar writings.
Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest Chapter 3: Invisible Warriors• As the battles between the Spaniards and the natives are recounted, the scene is painted as one of a miraculous victory of outnumbered conquistadors against hordes of barbarians. The many free and enslaved Africans and the friendly natives that acted as allies of the conquistadors are entirely ignored and forgotten.• Native men fought and transported supplies while the native women cooked and became romantic companions, later acting as servants.• The help of native allies was essential in that they supported Cortes in wars but also gave supplies that were needed.• As the Spaniards searched for native allies, they took advantage of civil rivalry and regional politics.
Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest Chapter 7: Apes and Men• The Spaniards attributed their success against the native forces to three things. One, to spread the faith of God to the natives. Two, because they were fighting on behalf of the king. Three, because they were fighting for their lives.• The success the Spanish experienced against the natives is explained in the fact that the Spaniards were superior in their fighting and weaponry, but these were not the sole factors in their victories.• The discovery of “saltpeter” played a huge significance for the Spanish as it allowed them to make gunpowder.• Epidemics were sweeping through native villages and were decimating their people.• Another factor to consider is the native’s willingness to compromise to save their homes, families and lives.
Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest Epilogue• When comparing texts describing different events, conquistador stereotypes of “Indians” are constantly repeated. Natives are spoken of as duplicitous, scheming, untrustworthy, easily frightened, credulous, and superstitious.• When the actions of the natives are described, however, they do not reflect the natives as being frightened, fatalistic or traumatized victims.• All of the accounts we base or collective history on were written by the Spaniards who were biased when describing their tales.• These stories were perceived by conquistadors and reconstructed and reified repeatedly over the centuries by colonial Spaniards .