The European Expansion and Its Impact on Indigenous People Essay
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15th and 16th century European conquest in Africa and Latin America was significant for global expansion. Important areas such as the West African coast and Mexico were explored, making this period of time momentous. However, what was even more noteworthy were the similar methods that the Europeans used while intruding upon both the foreign lands. The Europeans showed little respect towards African and Native American people and their values; they resorted to inhumane tactics such as a creating a slave trade through Africa and committing a massacre to decolonize the indigenous people of Mexico.
The exchange of slaves from Africa quickly became an essential part of commercial trade between Europe, Africa, and the European colonies. The new colonies had a large economical void that could easily be filled through slave labor. The buying and selling of slaves was an inhumane process; not only were slaves taken from their families and forced to work away from their homelands, they were treated extremely cruelly and sold like mere objects in trade.
A prime example of how little the traders cared for the well-being of slaves comes from Phillips’ excerpt, where he describes how slaves would often “[leap] out of the canoes, boat and ship, and [were] kept under water till they were drowned” (Thomas Phillips, “Buying Slaves in 1693,” 625), and the traders would move about their business like nothing had happened at all. The slave trade was essential to the growth of European colonies, but it is also remembered for the cruel treatment of the slaves involved.
The exploration of Mexico can be characterized as a brutal and bloody journey, especially for the indigenous people. At first, the encounters between the Spaniards and Aztecs were respectful and friendly. According to Diaz, Hernan Cortes implied to Montezuma when they first met “that [they were] his friends” and that “there is nothing to fear…we love him well and that our hearts are contented” (Bernal Diaz, “The Conquest of New Spain,” 609). However, the excerpt later reveals the greed that would overtake the Spaniards and force them to commit inhumane acts to the Aztecs. Upon being introduced to the city’s gold and Montezuma’s treasures, the Spanish “seized those treasures as if they were their own, as if this plunder were merely a stroke of good luck” (Bernal Diaz, “The Conquest of New Spain”, 610).
Because they finally confirmed the city had a cesspool of riches and gold, the Spaniards decided they wanted to overtake it. They planned to attack the Aztecs while they were celebrating the fiesta of Huitzilopochtli. The excerpt reveals just how cruel and inhumane this massacre as the Spaniards began the slaughter by targeting a drummer and “[cutting] off his arms. Then they cut off his head….attacked all the celebrants, stabbing them, spearing them, striking them…split their heads to pieces” (Bernal Diaz, “The Conquest of New Spain”, 613). The Spaniards then “ran everywhere and searched everywhere; they invaded every room, hunting and killing” (Bernal Diaz, “The Conquest of New Spain”, 614). Their greed had morphed them into savages.
As one can see, European explorers committed inhumane and cruel acts to both the Africans and the Mexican Aztecs. A slave trade was set up through Africa, and the indigenous people there were considered to be uncivilized. The traders treated the Africans as mere objects to be sold. The explorers thought the same of the Aztecs; intruding upon their territory, raiding their treasures, and proceeding to massacre the indigenous people after their greed for gold prompted their desire to rule the city. The Spaniards had no respect for the values and traditions of the Aztecs and proceeded to start their own agenda to drive the people out of their homeland. Much like the African slaves, they considered the Native Americans to be inferior human beings.
In conclusion, European explorers in the 15th and 16th century had no respect for indigenous people and their values. The Africans were forced to be products of a slave trade set up by Europeans, while the Spaniards intruded upon Aztec soil, proceeding to raid their treasures and massacre their people. Because the Europeans considered the Africans and Aztecs to be uncivilized and unworthy, they felt they had the power to decolonize them and claim the land as their own. The treatment of these indigenous people by the Europeans had a lasting influence for hundreds of years. Native American people and their values continued to be considered inferior by explorers while slavery continued to prosper into the 19th century.