Between 1450 and 1750 C. E. , Europeans entered Latin America and created new political structures, increased trade, and brought their religion. This happened because the Spanish conquered the Aztecs and Incas, while Portugal took over what is now Brazil. Hernando Cortes conquered the Aztecs while Francisco Pizzarro conquered the Incas. The Aztecs and Incas were two great Native American civilizations. In Latin America, slavery remained unchanged. These areas that the Spanish and Portuguese conquered later developed into their own self-governing states.
In 1494, the Treaty of Todesillas split the New World in two when Pope Alexander VI drew the Line of Demarcation. Spain received the majority of the land while Portugal received modern day Brazil. While Spain constructed a massive military, Portugal established many settlements on the east coast. In 1519, Hernan Cortes conquered the Aztecs by killing Montezuma, the Aztec emperor. In 1532, Francisco Pizzaro conquered the Incas by killing Atahualpa, the Inca emperor.
The Incas had such highly centralized government that they could not run without an empire. Because of guns, germs, and steel, Spanish conquistadors were able to conquer the Aztec and Inca empires. The Spanish also had an advantage in military technology, having steel swords, iron mail, and horses. Without domesticated animals, such as pigs and cows, the Aztecs and Incas had now immunity to European diseases such as smallpox, typhus, and influenza, which killed almost 95% of the indigenous population of Latin America.
In 1549, the first Jesuit missionaries arrived in Brazil to spread Catholicism. In the late 1500’s, there were no longer Native American slaves because of the large decrease in their population due to European diseases. Some Native American tribes forced there slaves to undergo human sacrifice, such as the Aztecs. There were now Black African slaves. While this was happening, the Portuguese switched from establishing trading posts to building an extensive colonization. 240,000 Europeans entered Latin America in the 16th century.
They imported millions of slaves to run their plantations. The Portuguese and Spanish royal governments expected to rule these settlements; collect 20% of all the treasure found, and tax as much as they could get away with. Silver soon became 20% of Spain’s total budget. During the end of the colonial period, it was very common for the Native Americans to intermix with the Europeans. The offspring were called “Mestizos”, which are people of mixed ancestry. They formed majorities in many colonies.
In the late 16th century, Peru participated in the Manila Galleon Trade. This was a trade where China gave Mexico porcelain, silk, ivory, spices and myriad other exotic goods in exchange for New World silver. Potosi, Peru became the fifth most populated city in the world by 1620 because of silver production. However, in the mid-17th century, silver production declined, but the decimated indigenous population in the central Andean region progressively begins to stabilize and free-wage labor replaces required labor in the mining regions.
The most significant continuity for the European settlement in Latin America was slavery. Slavery did however change from Native American slaves to Black African slaves, but the concept of slavery remained the same. The key changes were new political structures, increased trade, and Europeans brought over their religion. The Spanish and Portuguese royal governments conquered Latin America.
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