New Worlds: The Americas and Oceania The Spanish Caribbean



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Chapter 25

New Worlds: The Americas and Oceania

The Spanish Caribbean


  • Spanish mariners/explorers meet indigenous Tainos (Arawaks)

  • Originally from Orinoco River valley in South America, settled in Caribbean in late centuries BCE through 900 CE

  • Columbus established Hispaniola (Present day Haiti-Dominican Republic) as base for trading with Tainos

  • Spanish were disappointed that the Tainos had no spices or silks (no goods from the Orient)

  • The Spanish “recruit” the indigenous to mine gold instead

  • Encomienda: the Spanish forced labor system

  • Under the encomienda, the indigenous were made to work for the Spanish

Caribbean: From Mining to Plantation Agriculture

  • The Tainos occasionally rebelled against the Spanish, but were outgunned by Spanish military technology

  • Smallpox epidemics begin 1518- disease wipes out the indigenous Taino population

  • The Spaniards launch raids to kidnap and replace indigenous workers, spread disease to other Caribbean islands

  • Taino society disappeared by middle of 16th century (mid-1500s)

  • Limited gold production/mining caused new interest in exploiting the Caribbean for sugarcane production

  • Sugar production much more arduous (labor intensive) task than mining- sugar production required massive importation of African slaves (harder workers than indigenous)

  • Slaves also needed due to declining indigenous population

  • By 1700, African slaves made up the majority of the Caribbean population

  • Agricultural (cash crop) production made the Caribbean valuable to Europeans

Conquest of Mexico and Peru

  • After conquering the Caribbean, Spanish conquerors (conquistadores) explored other New World territories

  • Caribbean was the Spanish base of operations for New World explorations

  • Hernán Cortés and 450 men bring down the Aztec Empire in Mexico (1519-1521)

  • Smallpox destroyed the besieged Aztecs in Tenochtitlan

  • Francisco Pizarro and 600 men bring down the Inca Empire in Peru (1532-1533)

Spanish Colonial Administration



  • The conquests of Mexico & Peru were not the result of imperial policy

  • The Spanish conquistadors conquered these territories independently and at their own expense- the Spanish monarchs did not provide any support whatsoever (conquests made in name of Spain, however)

  • Nevertheless, these conquests inspired greater efforts to expand the Spanish Empire in the New World

  • Spanish administration created and based in New Spain (Mexico) and New Castile (Peru), extended to Florida and Buenos Aires

  • Mexico City built atop Tenochtitlan, Spanish founded Lima in Peru

  • Viceroys (vice-kings) rule in New World territories, but were supervised by local courts called audiencias designed to prevent the buildup of local power bases (audiencias meant to preserve the absolute power of the Spanish king)

  • Considerable disputes between Spanish-American colonists and the Spanish homeland- Spanish-American colonists desired to rule themselves rather than be ruled by a distant king

  • Spanish colonial administration, therefore, was weak & inefficient in the New World because of the extreme distance of the colonies from Spain

Portuguese Brazil

  • In addition to the Spanish, the Portuguese also colonized the New World

  • The 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas divided the entire (non-Christian) world between Spain and Portugal

  • Portugal claimed Brazil

  • Portuguese showed little interest in Brazil at first, but interest increased as other imperial powers take notice of Brazil

  • Similar to the Spanish in the Caribbean, the Portuguese exploited Brazil for sugarcane production

  • Portuguese import large numbers of African slaves for sugar production

Settler Colonies in North America

  • Spanish establish St. Augustine in Florida

  • Spanish establish Catholic Missions in California

  • The Spanish were dislodged from North America in the 17th century by French, English, Dutch mariners/explorers

  • Recall: the English, French, and Dutch came to North America in search of a North Atlantic passage to Asia

  • French, English, and Dutch establish permanent colonies in North America

  • France: Nova Scotia (1604), Quebec (1608)

  • England: Jamestown (1607), Massachusetts Bay Colony (1630)

  • Netherlands: New Amsterdam (1623)

  • English take it in 1664, rename it New York

North American Colonial Governments

  • North American colonies faced exceptionally difficult conditions

  • French & English private merchants invested heavily in the expansion of colonies

  • Initially, the French and English colonies did not have government support

  • Like Spanish conquistadors, French, Dutch, and English explorers, merchants, and joint-stock companies colonized the New World independently and at their own expense/risk

  • Thus, French and English colonies experienced greater levels of self-government (autonomy) than the Spanish and Portuguese colonies

European Relations with North American Indigenous Peoples



  • North American indigenous peoples were loosely organized and migratory (nomadic or semi-nomadic)

  • Unlike the Aztec & Inca Empires (more complex, organized, and settled civilizations)

  • European colonists (especially the English) staked out (claimed) forested land & cleared it for agriculture

  • Increasing number of Europeans arrived in North America seeking ample land: 150,000 people migrated from England in the 17th century

European Conflict with Indigenous Peoples in North America

  • European (English) colonists displaced indigenous peoples from their traditional territories; Europeans also trespassed on indigenous hunting grounds

  • In short, Europeans disrupted traditional indigenous life

  • English settlers negotiate treaties, which were poorly understood by natives

  • Many of the treaties were unfair: they were created by the English and benefited them more than the indigenous

  • Military conflict frequent between Europeans and indigenous- the less advanced indigenous suffer as a result

  • Natives also devastated by epidemic disease

North American Populations

The Formation of Multicultural Societies in the New World



  • European & African migrants were primarily men

  • European & African relationships with native women form

  • Mestizo (mixed) societies formed

  • Process of racial mixing called mestizaje

  • People of Spanish and native parentage known as mestizos

  • Descendants of Spaniards and African slaves known as mulattoes

  • Descendants of African slaves and natives known as zambos

  • Mestizaje prominent in Mexico, the Caribbean, and Brazil; less pronounced in Peru

The Social Hierarchy in Spanish and Portuguese America

  • Hierarchy based on skin color

  • Top: peninsulares, i.e. (Spanish and Portuguese) migrants from the Iberian peninsula

  • Criollos (creoles), i.e. children of migrants

  • Criollos were American born Spaniards and Portuguese

  • Mestizos, mulattoes, zambos, other combinations of mestizaje

  • Bottom: conquered peoples (indigenous) & African (both free and enslaved)

North American Societies

  • Higher ratio of French & English female migrants than in Spanish and Portuguese America

  • In general, English and French colonists settled as family groups, while Spanish and Portuguese colonists settled individually

  • For French and English colonists, there was a higher social stigma attached to relationships with natives & African slaves

  • The French and English saw racial miscegenation (sexual unions) with Africans and the indigenous as a sign or symbol of dishonor

  • Europeans believed these people to be lower or less than themselves

  • French Fur traders had relationships with North American native women

  • Children of these relationships were known as métis (French for mixed)

Mining in the Spanish Empire

  • Hunt for gold and silver

  • After the conquest, Spanish conquistadores loot Aztec & Inca treasures and melt them down for their value as raw precious metals

  • Gold was not extensive in Spanish holdings, but silver was relatively plentiful, especially in Mexico and also Bolivia

  • The Spanish adopt the Inca mita system of conscripted labor

  • Mining produced dangerous and harsh working conditions

  • The indigenous eventually assimilate into Spanish culture

  • 1/5 of all silver mining was reserved for crown (known as the quinta or quinto) & was hugely profitable for Spain

  • Silver mining produced large revenues for the Spanish Empire

Global Significance of Silver

  • American or New World silver became the major resource of income for the Spanish crown

  • The Spanish Manila Galleons took American silver to the Pacific rim (Asia) for trading

  • American silver was very popular with Chinese markets

  • American silver was also popular in trade in the Atlantic basin (the Mediterranean/Europe)

Manila galleon route and the lands of Oceania, 1500-1800

Spanish America: The Hacienda



  • Haciendas were large estates (properties) that produced products of European origin

  • Wheat, grapes, meat, for example

  • Haciendas used the Spanish encomienda system of native labor

  • Rampant abuses of the indigenous by the Spanish, especially between 1520-1540

  • The exploitative encomienda system was gradually replaced by debt patronage

  • Peasants were forced to repay loans with cheap labor

  • Loans and interest on loans so great that peasants were forced to provide their labor for many years

An Hacienda in Chile

Indigenous Resistance to Spanish Rule


  • The indigenous were not passive actors- the actively resisted Spanish rule in various ways

  • Rebellion

  • The Pueblo Indians of New Mexico rebelled against Spanish rule and forced the Spanish out of their land for 12 years

  • 1780 Túpac Amaru rebellion

  • A large indigenous rebellion in Peru, led by the last Inca prince, Túpac Amaru- the rebellion lasted two years

  • Half-hearted work

  • Escape: the indigenous retreated into mountains and forests

  • The indigenous would also appeal to Spanish crown for help or protection- efforts were largely in vain

  • One such effort was a 1,200 page letter written by the indigenous man Guaman Poma de Ayala of Peru in 1615

Sugar and Slavery in Portuguese Brazil

  • Sugar mill: engenho, refers to the complex of land, labor, etc. all related to production of sugar (similar to the Spanish hacienda, but was used solely for sugar production)

  • At the engenhos, sugarcane was converted to molasses, or refined to sugar for export

  • Since sugar production was very labor and time intensive, engenhos produced low profit margins for Portuguese in Brazil

  • Unlike the Spanish system of forced native labor (encomienda), the Portuguese relied more on imported African slaves

  • Natives continually evaded Portuguese forces

  • Large-scale importing of slaves begins in the 1580s

  • Working conditions poor for African slaves: 5-10% died annually

  • Approximately one human (slave) life per ton of sugar

Fur Trading in North America



  • The indigenous peoples or North America traded pelts (skins) for European goods such as wool blankets, iron pots, firearms, and alcohol

  • Beaver hunts by the indigenous peoples caused frequent incursions into neighboring territories, which resulted in indigenous conflicts

  • European settler-cultivators also displaced natives from their traditional lands

  • Albeit the Europeans were initially dependent on native assistance, as European grains did not grow well in many areas

Development of Cash Crops in North America

  • Products developed/grown for European markets

  • Tobacco

  • Rice

  • Indigo

  • Cotton

  • The development of cash crops in North America increased the colonists’ demand for imported slave labor

  • European indentured servants initially used as a labor source

  • Indentured servitude or labor: a wealthy merchant or land owner agreed to pay for a poor European’s passage and stay in the New World; in return, the poor European agreed to provide his labor to the merchant or land owner, typically 4-7 year terms

  • European indentured servants were usually the chronically unemployed, orphans, political prisoners and criminals

Export of Tobacco from Virginia

Slavery in North America



  • In addition to indentured servitude/labor, North American English colonists increasingly utilized enslaved Africans

  • African slaves used in Virginia from 1610

  • African slaves increasingly replace European indentured laborers in the late 17th-early 18th centuries

  • African slaves were less prominent in northern English colonies due to the weak nature of the cash-crop industry

  • Both the land and climate in the north were unsuitable for growing cash crops

  • Land and climate of the south much better for cash crop production- thus, enslaved Africans more prominent in the southern colonies

  • Slave trading, then, was an important part of the North American economy

  • Also, many products were made through slave labor

  • Rum, for example, which is based on sugar from plantations

Missionary Activity in the Americas

  • Franciscan, Dominican, Jesuit missionaries present in the Americas from the 16th century (Spanish missionaries)

  • Missionaries taught Christian doctrine & literacy to the indigenous

  • Spanish missionaries also created monasteries, churches, and parishes in the Americas to instruct the indigenous

  • The California Missions

  • Religious missionaries often accumulated (learned) indigenous cultural knowledge to better communicate their message

  • Bernardino de Sahagún learned many indigenous languages so that he could communicate with the indigenous in their native language and teach them Christianity in their native language

Missionary Activity in the Americas

  • In the fringe areas of the Spanish Empire (and also the Portuguese Empire), indigenous ways of life persisted

  • In these areas, Spanish (and Portuguese) settlers adopted to indigenous ways of life

  • Due to conquest and plague, many natives in Spanish America concluded that their gods had abandoned them and converted to Catholicism

  • Yet often retained elements of pagan religion in Christian worship

  • Creation of hybrid indigenous-Catholic religions in the Spanish Americas

The Virgin of Guadalupe


French and English Missionary Activity

  • French and English missionary activity was less effective than Spanish efforts

  • Spaniards ruled the native populations more directly than the French or English

  • Migration patterns of North American natives made it more difficult for French and English priests to conduct missionary activity

  • English colonists had little interest in converting natives

  • English colonists much more concerned with land and trade

Australia, the Pacific, and the Larger World

  • The indigenous of the Pacific had broadly similar experiences to the natives of the Americas

  • Conquest by Europeans

  • Forced labor

  • Suffer due to European diseases

  • Dutch sailors make the first recorded sighting of Australia in 1606

  • The Dutch VOC surveys Australia & concludes that it is of little value

  • The Dutch had limited contact with indigenous peoples

  • The natives of Australia were nomadic, fishing and foraging societies

  • The British Captain James Cook lands at Australia (Botany Bay) in 1770

  • The English begin to colonize Australia in the late 18th century- convicts were initially shipped to Australia & they outnumbered free English settlers until 1830

Australian Aborigine

Pacific Islands and the Larger World



  • The Spanish Manila Galleons were interested in quick trade routes (due to the extreme distance between Mexico and the Philippines) and thus had little interest in exploring the Pacific

  • Islands of Guam and the Marianas were significant, the islands resided on the trade routes of the Manila Galleons

  • During the 1670s-1680s, the Spanish took control of these islands

  • Smallpox destroyed the local population

  • James Cook visited Hawai’i in 1778

  • Had a good relationship with Hawaiians

  • English sailors spread venereal disease to natives of Hawai’i

  • Cook was not welcomed back by the indigenous in 1779 & was killed in a dispute over petty thefts


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