HIS the Portuguese king decided to reinforce stronger

 

 

HIS 127-07

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Mirela Lazic

 

1. Old World and New World

 

            The crusading mentality that led Spanish and Portuguese
people to reach the American continent had its origin in their history with the
Iberian Peninsula, a small part of a land that connected Europe and Africa. The
Moors, Muslim people from North Africa, crossed the Mediterranean Sea, invaded the
peninsula in the 700s, and had occupied almost the entire Iberia. Over the
following eight centuries the Iberia was the land on which the Christian and
Muslim people had become culturally and economically connected but also encountered
very often. Many of the conflicts between Moors and Christians took place in
small regions, and were not parts of huge battles. In the mid-1200s the Portugal
completed its reconquest, and Christian kingdoms in the next two hundred years took
the control of the majority of Iberian Peninsula, and had spread Christianity among
Jews and Moors. The reconquest was successful partially due to division among
Muslims and partially by Christians’ aggression which resulted that by the 14th
century only a small region in the south remained controlled by the Moors.

            In order to enrich their kingdoms, the Portuguese first exploited
Africa but then decided to do overseas explorations reaching Brazil in the 1500s,
while the Spanish Queens Isabel of Castile had a few years earlier approved
funds for Christopher Columbus expedition, which had reached San Salvador in
the “New World”. In Brazil, Portuguese established sugar plantations, exploited
the land of indigenous people, did a small trades with them and tried to avoid
any conflicts. Still, there was an increase in rebellions of indigenous people,
and in 1548 the Portuguese king decided to reinforce stronger the colonization
process. Enslavement accompanied by the diseases that Europeans brought to the
New World, caused that indigenous people were slowly disappearing and by1600 they
were replaced by the African slaves who were already immune to the diseases.

            The main countries that Spanish Crown exploited were Mexico
and Peru. Invaders sought fortunes, and with the help of objects, animals,
military technology and weapons that indigenous Americans never saw before, they
defeated them. Once the indigenous people were conquered, the Spanish
established a class system in the New World, where their noble class people (conquerors)
were rewarded with numbers of indigenous people (“encomienda”) to serve them as
slaves. They also established “encomiendas” inside the indigenous communities with
their own nobles ruling it, called “caciques”. The conqueror had an obligation
to Christianize them, which was the control system that Spaniards implemented
long ago in Iberian conquest. Missionaries from Europe were arriving to teach
Catholic religion, and systematic colonization wrote the bloody history of
Latin America.

3.  Hegemony crisis and
Independence

 

            By exploiting precious metals, labor, and by applying cultural
and social colonization processes, the Spaniards ruled Latin America for three
centuries. The colonial control of Latin America was also successful because Spaniards
implemented the form of political power based on voluntary consent, so-called hegemony. It was ideological and patriarchal
influence which convinced the people of the lowest class to accept their
inferior position. It was the ideological in a sense that Catholic Church was
pervading every aspect of daily life of colonial people, from the educational
system to the city and town’s name creations. In a sense of Patriarchy, the
hegemony represented laws and church hierarchy governed by male- fathers.

               At the end of 18th century the Spanish state faced financial problems and to avoid heavy bankruptcy, the Crown was raising taxes in Latin America, which affected poorest the most, and was selling high office positions often to the incompetent people. That has caused the discontent among the people. The different reasons for the independence movements in most of the countries of Latin America were highly influenced by the French Revolution and Napoleonic occupation. Besides that, the creoles, so-called native-born whites who owned the land and maintained social order in the cities, wanted more and more to take political privileges from their cousins Peninsulars. The Creoles took the approach, the “nativism”, which promoted the unity of all people born in Spanish America including indigenous, children of African slaves, mixed blood children. When the Spanish king was defeated by Napoleon, the idea of Spanish-American sovereignty became reality. All over the Latin America in the next few years the Spanish-American government Juntas were formed to protect the rights granted under Ferdinand VII and maintain independence.                Portugal had a little bit different path. By escaping from the Napoleon, the Portuguese Prince settled in Rio de Janeiro. He formed the royal court, attracted many rich Europeans to move to the city, and improved the city economy which benefited also the Brazilian elite. During the conflicts for independence, Brazil remained peaceful. After the wars, the independence did not repress colonialism, new republics were majority patriarchal and many states in Latin America were highly impoverished.