The Conquest and Colonization of Latin America Global History and Geography I name

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The Conquest and Colonization of Latin America

Global History and Geography I Name: ___________________

E. Napp Date: ___________________
The Spanish conquest of Latin America brought many important changes to Latin American society. Spain sent royal governors or viceroys to rule the colonies in the king’s name. Gold and silver from the Americas were shipped to Spain, making it the strongest power in Europe in the 16th century. Conquered lands in the Americas were often divided among the soldiers. The conquerors used Native Americans to farm the land and work the mines. This system of forced labor was called the encomienda system. In areas where many Native Americans had died, captured African slaves were used to replace a dying Native American Indian population. Native American populations had declined rapidly in parts of Latin America due to a lack of immunity to diseases brought by the conquerors like measles and smallpox.
The European encounter with the Native American Indians led to an exchange of ideas, customs, and technologies. Global cultural diffusion increased. This cultural exchange between the “New World” and the “Old World” is often referred to as the Columbian Exchange. Because of the encounter, the European diet was greatly altered by the introduction of new foods like tomatoes, corn, potatoes, and chocolate. Western Europe became the center of a vast global trading network, with trade shifting away from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic coast. Raw materials obtained from the Americas hastened European economic development. Wealth from the “New World” enriched European merchants and their kings, especially in the states bordering the Atlantic – Portugal, Spain, England, France, and Holland. While Europeans benefited from the encounter, Native Americans Indians and African slaves suffered greatly. Native American Indians lost control of their lands and cultures while both Native American Indians and Africans were terribly mistreated and exploited by European settlers.


  1. How did Spain benefit from the conquest and colonization of the Americas? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  2. How were Native Americans harmed by the “encounter”? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  3. Describe the encomienda system. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  4. What was the Columbian Exchange? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  5. How did the “encounter” affect Africans? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Although mining was the most sought after source of wealth, most of the inhabitants of New Spain engaged in agriculture and livestock breeding. These activities produced food for the population and products for the trade with Europe and the East.

There were great differences between the agriculture of the Spaniards and the agrarian practices of the Native American Indians. The Spaniards exploited great extensions of land known as haciendas, which were purchased or received as gifts from the king. The great landowners used groups of Indians received under the Encomienda system (the right to use Indian labor) to work their lands. They were supposed to give the Native American Indians protection and a Christian education in exchange for tribute and free labor. When the Encomienda system was ended towards the middle of the 16th century, Indian slavery was also prohibited; nevertheless, land owners still obtained workers in exchange for very low wages.

Two characteristics of Mexican agriculture during the 19th and 20th centuries had their roots in the Colony: the concentration of land in the hands of a small number of owners, and the communal ownership of small parcels of land.


  1. How has Mexican agriculture been shaped by the conquest of the region by Spain? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  2. How did the encomienda system affect the Native American Indians? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The correct answer is number 1. Peninsulares were born in the Iberian peninsula. They had the most powerful jobs in the colonial government and owned vast tracts of land. They were politically and economically powerful. The creoles were born in the Americas but were descended from Europeans. They too were very wealthy but they could not hold the most important government jobs. Mestizos had Indian and European ancestry as Mulattoes had African and European ancestry. Finally, Native American Indians and Africans were terribly exploited and forced to labor under brutal conditions.

  1. What conclusions can be drawn from the colonial hierarchy? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  2. Is this a fixed social class system? Explain your answer. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

One reason the Spanish conquistadors were able to conquer the Aztec and Inca Empires rapid is that

  1. these empires had no standing armies

  2. the Spanish had better weapons than the Aztecs and Incas did

  3. the Spanish greatly outnumbered the Aztecs and Incas

  4. the Aztecs and Incas joined together to fight the Spanish

Which was a characteristic of the policy of mercantilism followed by Spanish colonial rulers in Latin America?

  1. the colonies were forced to develop local industries to support themselves

  2. Spain sought trade agreements between its colonies and the English colonies in North America

  3. the colonies were required to provide raw materials to Spain and to purchase Spanish manufactured goods

  4. Spain encouraged the colonies to develop new political systems to meet colonial needs

Which statement best describes a result of the scarcity of native Indian labor in Latin America during the colonial period?

  1. unskilled laborers were imported from Asia

  2. many people from Spain and Portugal immigrated to the region

  3. Native American Indians from the British colonies went south to work

  4. large numbers of African slaves were imported

In many Latin American nations, a major effect of colonial rule has been the

  1. concentration of power in a small group of landowners

  2. minor political role of the military

  3. equal distribution of wealth among social classes

  4. economic control held by the Indian population

Spain’s colonial policy of mercantilism affected the development of Latin American nations by promoting

  1. the production of raw material and cash crops

  2. free and rapid trade with Asia and Africa

  3. respect for the rights of indigenous people

  4. isolationism as a response to international political issues

In colonial Latin America, the main purpose of the encomienda system was to

  1. insure that the Indians were humanely treated

  2. provide a steady labor supply for early colonists

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