Seven myths of the Spanish conquest By Sarah Macedo December 3, 2011 Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest
“ a handful of adventurers” <ul><li>This chapter begins to look at the mythology that embodies the Spanish conquest by explaining the ever present themes of “discovery”, being the “greatest event”, and that it was done by a “handful” of adventurers. </li></ul><ul><li>The “handful” have become one with myth over the years as their achievements are praised as brilliant and extraordinary, despite the fact that in reality much of what they did was protocol and their beliefs far less unique than we view them today, such as the conquest pattern used to conquer the Aztec and Incan civilizations. </li></ul><ul><li>While the stories of Cortés and other conquistadors are deeply shrouded in mythology dating back for centuries, I found the development of Columbus to be especially interesting because he is a historical figure that continues to be debated today. I wonder if most people realize that it was already accepted in Europe’s educational community that the Earth is round. </li></ul>Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest Monument of Columbus and Queen Isabella in Madrid, Spain built in the 1880s.
“ neither paid nor forced” <ul><li>This chapter focuses on the myth that the Spanish Conquistadors were made up of soldiers who were a part of a developed Spanish army. In reality, however, the modern view of what a soldier is was not yet formalized when the conquest of the Americas began and those in the Americas were not apart of the development of a formalized national army. </li></ul><ul><li>In fact, the Conquistadors were able to go to the Americas based on their own wealth, family ties, and political connections and took the physical and financial risks in hopes of gaining wealth in the “New World”. </li></ul><ul><li>They would act according to their own personal gain, like Francisco de Montejo who was ready to change sides between Cortés and Velázquez and even married a wealthy widow to use her money to fund his company in the Americas. </li></ul><ul><li>Most of them were professionals or tradesmen who gained their military training by experience in American conflicts and not formal instruction (like soldiers would have had). </li></ul>Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest A painting of the conquest of the Aztec Empire credited to Miguel Gonzales on display in Mexico.
“ invisible warriors” <ul><li>This chapter looks at the often overlooked role of the other groups who played a part in the Spanish conquest of the Americas, the blacks and Native Americans. By pointing out the roles that these groups played during the conquests, two myths are disbanded: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>1) the idea that those of Spanish descent were the only conquistadors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2) that the Spaniards won besides being grossly outnumbered. In actuality, they were accompanied by many allied Native Americans and blacks who greatly out numbered the “Spaniards” on the same side. This means that many of the battles were more equal than many statistics imply. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>There are records today of several black men who not only were conquistadors but had achieved some wealth and power as a result of their success. Some, like Juan Valiente, were slaves who were supposed to turn over their achieved wealth to their owners. Others, like Juan Beltrán, were given jurisdiction over a developing fort and 500 Native Americans. </li></ul>Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest Image of Aztec Warriors.
“ under the Lordship of the King” <ul><li>This chapter analyzes the “myth of completion” (as it is referred to by Restall) in the sense that the Spanish considered themselves to have successfully completed their conquest of the New World. </li></ul><ul><li>He argues that by referring to the Spanish conquest as such, a sense of the inevitability of Spanish avail is implied. Having originated in the 16 th century with accounts from the conquistadors, this name and its ideology have persisted through the centuries giving a false sense of Spanish destiny. This ideology had a two fold reason: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>1: The Spanish society emphasized the notion of contractual fulfillments and rewards </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2: To justify their actions in the Americas by proclaiming them to be God’s destiny for the Spanish. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>In reality, however, the “conquest” was in many ways never a “completed” affair, especially from the Native American view point that observed the colonial aspects of the interaction as well as the elements of conquest. While some elements of Spanish cultures made its ways into the lives of the native peoples, they did not consider themselves to be complete subjects to the Spanish king because they maintained some of their own culture as well. </li></ul>Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest Spanish Royal Shield
“ The Lost Words of La Malinche” <ul><li>In this chapter, Restall looks at the various myths surrounding the communication between the Spaniards and the Native Americans. Once again, Restall notes that these myths come from extremes in interpretation: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>1) On the one hand, it can not be assumed that the communication between the Spanish and Native Americans was perfect, especially at first, because they were speakers of different languages (they would have to speak through translators, like La Malinche). However, it is indicated that the Spaniards would be skeptical of interpreters as demonstrated by the Spanish statement, “We thought the interpreter was misleading us.”. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2) On the other hand, it can not be said that the Native Americans had no understanding of what the Spanish were doing or of their intentions resulting in the Spaniards being the sole beneficiaries of miscommunication. (While initial leaders were killed, the civilizations perished more from disease and disunity than from miscommunication with the Spanish). </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The differences in culture should not be overlooked as a means for misunderstandings, as illustrated by the greetings exchanged by Cortés and Montezuma. </li></ul>Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest Image portraying an alliance between the Spanish and the Tlaxcalteca
“ The Indians are Coming to an End” <ul><li>In this chapter, Restall looks at the commonly taught idea that the culture of the Native Americans was completely destroyed as a result of the European contact. This is often accompanied by one of the following contrasting myths: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>1) The Native Americans were too pure in their societies to be able to handle the realities of the European conquest and were unable to hold on to their culture. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2) The Native Americans were uncivilized and benefited from the Spanish conquest and the complete adoption of Spanish ways. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Restall argues, however, that the Native American civilization should not be viewed through either romanticized or racist eyes as done in the two examples above. Instead they should be viewed as a civilization equal to that of the Europeans in their own way, with their own successes and faults and just as eager to preserve their own civilization. </li></ul><ul><li>The Native Americans should also be looked at as diverse civilizations each with their own reactionary course to deal with the Spanish. </li></ul><ul><li>In the end, it is clear that elements of their culture and people did not die out with the “conquest” but found a way to survive. </li></ul>Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest “ The Funeral of Atahualpa”, a ruler of the Incan civilization. It was considered to be a major step in the “conquest” over the Incan peoples.
“ Apes and Men” <ul><li>In this chapter, Restall looks not only at why these myths were originally created (many dating back to the 16 th century) but also at why they have been perpetuated through the centuries since. To explain this, Restall explores what is called “The Myth of Superiority”. </li></ul><ul><li>According to this idea, people transform conquests into myths in order to justify their actions against other cultures. By making themselves superior to the “others”, it makes their actions necessary and even noble in some cases. This helps not only those at the time of the conquest justify what they did, but it also helps those studying history later handle what they learn. This openly divides people into groups of the “superior” and the “inferior”. </li></ul><ul><li>Some Spaniards took this ideology to the extreme as seen in the words of Sepulveda who said that the Native Americans “hardly deserve the name of human beings”. While his words did not speak for every Spaniard at the time, it illustrates how this ideology was used as a mechanism for justifying complete dominance over another people. </li></ul>Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest A picture illustrating the “White Man’s Burden” during the Age of Imperialism. This particular image was used in support of the American colonization of the Philippines, but the same ideology can be seen during the 16 th century Spanish conquest.
Work cited <ul><li>Restall, Matthew. Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest . New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2003. Print. </li></ul><ul><li>All images from www.wikipedia.org </li></ul>Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest Matthew Restall