Unit three contact and Exploration "At dawn we saw people."

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Contact and Exploration

"At dawn we saw people."

from the log of Christopher Columbus

See page 141.

A European sea captain named Christopher Columbus wrote the words above about one of the most important meetings in history. On an October morning in 1492, Columbus arrived in the Americas and was greeted by the Taino people. The peoples of two hemispheres—east and west—were now in contact and neither would ever again be the same.

This meeting started a chain of events than would reshape lives around the world. European ships raced westward across the Atlantic Ocean. Their captains claimed Native American lands and new riches for their countries. Many of the Native Americans lost their freedom and their lives. Before the end of the 1500s, a different America—not quite Indian, not quite European—was beginning to take shape.



You sail across an uncharted sea and bump into a world unknown back home. You become one of the most famous men in history. Everyone remembers your face, right? Wrong. The only portraits we have of Columbus were painted after his death; the artists could only guess what he looked like. But we have a much better idea of what his ships looked like. Thanks to careful work by historians and shipbuilders, modern sailors now recreate Columbus's journey aboard reproductions of the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria.


Describe what you think it would be like to sail on one of the reconstructed ships.



Contact: East Meets West


The story of Chapter 6 begins in 1492, the year Christopher Columbus reached the Americas. Read the time line below. Notice the different ways in which Europeans interacted with the many peoples of the Americas. Europe had brought many changes to the Western Hemisphere. Out of these changes came the world we know today.




Focus Activity


How did the meeting of Columbus and the Taino people change the world?




Columbian exchange


Leif Ericson

Christopher Columbus

King Ferdinand

Queen Isabella


Bahama Islands

San Salvador


October 12, 1492. On this fall morning, three ships landed near a small island in the Western Hemisphere. The island was home to the Taino (TI noh) people. A sea captain named Christopher Columbus, who was sailing under the flag of Spain, waded ashore. Neither the Taino nor Columbus knew that their meeting would change the world.


As you have read, the 1400s was a time of human movement and exploration. In the Western Hemisphere the Aztec were conquering other peoples in what is today Central America and the country of Mexico. The Inca were building an empire in South America. In the Eastern Hemisphere, European explorers were searching for new routes to Asia's rich markets. Chinese sailors were exploring Africa's east coast. African traders were exchanging goods with people from Asia and Europe.

The people of one hemisphere hardly knew that people of the other hemisphere existed. In about A.D. 1000, the Vikings, led by Leif Ericson, came from northern Europe and started a small settlement in northeastern Canada. They called it Vinland. Vinland did not survive long, and memory of it soon faded.

Nearly 500 years later the worlds of the West and the East came together again, this time forever.



You read that by 1492 many peoples were living throughout the Americas. The Taino were one of the peoples living on islands in the Atlantic Ocean. Find the Taino's home islands on the map on this page.

On the morning of October 12, 1492, explorers from Spain arrived on one of the Taino's islands. We do not know what the Taino thought about their visitors. In fact, very little is known today about the Taino. What we know comes from artifacts the Taino left behind. Their stories of that first meeting with Europeans died with them.


The Taino were one of the major peoples living on islands in the Caribbean Sea in 1492.

1. What are some of the islands on which the Taino lived?

2. Between which continents was the Taino homeland located?

The Taino Language

Some of the words from the Taino language, however, have survived. By studying these words and by examining other clues and artifacts from their lives, we can learn something about how the Taino lived.

One Taino word that we use in English is canoe. The Taino made sturdy boats by hollowing out the centers of tree trunks with special tools. Since the Taino lived on islands, canoes were their lifelines. They used the boats to fish, to trade with their neighbors, and sometimes to make war.

Some Taino canoes could hold over 30 people and could travel for hundreds of miles over the open sea.

Another word from the Taino language is hamaca, or hammock. This simple bed was perfect for the Taino's tropical climate. Made from woven cot-on or other plant fibers, a hammock was easy to set up between two posts or trees. It did not take up much room in the Taino's small houses, and it was cool in the warm night air.

Taino hammocks might have looked like the one in this Spanish drawing (left). They have changed little since then.



Although we do not know what the Taino thought about the strangers who arrived that October morning in 1492, we do know who the strangers were and where they came from. They had left Spain two months earlier in three small ships, the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. This Spanish expedition was led by an Italian seaman named Christopher Columbus . An expedition is a journey made for a special purpose. Columbus's purpose was to find a sea route to the Indies, or the islands of Southeast Asia, by sailing west instead of east.

A Sea Route to the Indies

You read that Europeans were eager to trade for Asian spices, silks, gold, and jewels. But the cost of bringing Asian goods to Europe by land was very high. Columbus thought there might be a way to reach the Indies by sailing west across the Atlantic Ocean. Then the cost of trade with Asia would drop. In Europe, the price of spices from Asia would become cheaper.


Why was Columbus confused about where he was in 1492?

One reason is that he thought Asia lay about 3,000 miles (4,827 km) west of Europe. Use the scale of miles on the world map in your atlas to figure out how great this distance actually is.

How much farther would Columbus lave had to sail to reach Asia if he lad not run into the Americas first?

This painting of Christopher Columbus was done in the early 1500s. No one really knows what he looked like because none of his portraits were painted during his lifetime.

Money for Columbus's Expedition

For years Columbus tried to raise money for an expedition across the Atlantic. The king of Portugal listened to Columbus's plan and turned him down. The distance to Asia sailing west, the king said, was much greater than Columbus thought. Next, Columbus took his plan to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. They made him wait six years before giving him money for his first expedition.

Reaching the Americas

On August 3, 1492, Columbus left Spain with three ships and sailed west into the unknown. Week after week dragged by with no sight of land. His men began to grumble, afraid they would never see home again. To calm their fears Columbus kept two records, or ship's logs. In the first he recorded


the actual distance sailed each day. In the second he recorded a shorter distance. He showed his crew the second log so they would not know how far they really were from Spain.

Still the men worried, demanding that he turn back. Columbus asked them to wait two more days. If no land was sighted by then, he would return to Spain. It was just enough time.

Early on October 12, 1492, a lookout shouted "ÁTierra! ÁTierra!" (Land! Land!). Ahead a small island rose out of the blue sea.

Columbus was certain that he was near the coast of Asia. Instead, his ships had sailed to the off the coast of North America.

Columbus Describes the Meeting

The next morning Columbus visited the island first seen the night before. In his log he wrote that he named the island San Salvador, or Holy Savior, and claimed it for Spain. Today many historians believe that Columbus may have landed at Watling Island. Read Columbus's description of his meeting with the Taino people. Believing he had reached the Indies, Columbus called these people "Indios," or Indians. What opinions did Columbus have about the Taino?

One of the tools Christopher Columbus used to guide him across the Atlantic Ocean was an astrolabe (above). It helped him to find his latitude and to sail a straight course. The hawks' bells that Columbus wrote about in his log looked like these (right).



Excerpt from The Log of Christopher Columbus, presented to Queen Isabella in 1493.

At dawn we saw . . . people, and I went ashore in the ship's boat. . . .

The people here call this island Guanahani (gwah uh HAHN ee) in their language, and their speech is very fluent, although I do not understand any of it. They are friendly . . . people who [carry no weapons] except for small spears, and they have no iron. I showed one my sword, and through ignorance he grabbed it by the blade and cut himself. Their spears are made of wood, to which they attach a fish tooth at one end, or some other sharp thing.

. . . They traded and gave everything they had with good will, but it seems to me that they have very little and are poor in everything. . . .

This afternoon the people .. . came swimming to our ships and in boats made from one log. They brought us parrots, balls of cotton thread, spears, and many other things, . . . For these items we traded them little glass beads and hawks' bells.

.. They ought to make good and skilled servants, for they repeat very quickly whatever we say to them. . . . I will take six of them to Your Highnesses when I depart.

fluent: smooth and rapid

ignorance: not knowing

hawks' bells: small bells that are attached to the legs of a captive hawk



Many historians believe that Watling Island is where Columbus first landed in 1492. It has been renamed San Salvador

1. On which voyage did Columbus sail along the coast of Central America? South America?

2. Calculate the shortest distance between La Isabela and the coast of Central America.

3. What other parts of the Americas would you predict would be first colonized by the Spanish? Why?


From San Salvador, Columbus sailed south to islands in the Caribbean Sea. A few months later he returned to Spain with parrots and plants unknown in Europe. He had also kidnapped six Taino and taken them back to Spain. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella were pleased. They asked Columbus to return to the Caribbean to found a colony. A colony is a settlement far away from the country that rules it.

The Columbian exchange brought American plants and animals to Europe, including chili peppers, tomatoes, corn, pineapples, and turkeys.


The Columbian exchange brought wheat and horses to the Americas. But as this drawing (above) by a Spanish priest shows, previously unknown diseases such as smallpox had a terrible effect on the Indians.

Contact Brings Change

In 1493 Columbus set off on his second voyage. You can trace his route on the map on page 142. With him were 17 ships full of colonists. The colonists brought horses, cattle, and sheep as well as seeds and cuttings for growing wheat, onions, sugar, and other crops from the Eastern Hemisphere. The colonists also unknowingly carried germs that caused smallpox, measles, and other diseases.

Columbus also took more American plants and animals back to Spain. Colonists loaded ships with turkeys, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, chili peppers, pumpkins, beans, peanuts, avocados, tobacco, and pineapples and sent them back with him.

Historians call this movement of people, plants, animals, and germs across the Atlantic Ocean the Columbian exchange. Historians often use a form of Columbus's name to describe events that happened in the Americas before and after his arrival. Why do you think his name is used in this way?

The Columbian exchange changed life around the world. It affected the population of five continents. Some of these changes were welcome. American foods, for example, improved the diets of people in the Eastern Hemisphere. New crops from the Americas grew so well in the Eastern Hemisphere that they increased food supplies in Europe, Africa, and Asia. As a result, the population of those continents increased more rapidly than before.

For the peoples of the Americas, the Columbian exchange had both good effects and bad effects. The horse, as you have read, changed the lives of Native Americans on the Great Plains. But diseases that were brought unknowingly by Europeans killed millions of Caribbean Indians, who had not built up a strong resistance to such diseases.



Among all of the items included in the Columbian exchange, five were especially important. Once planted on distant shores, they changed the lives of countless people. All five still have an effect on our lives today. For this reason they have been called the "seeds of change." Look at the chart on this page to find out what effect the seeds of change had on the peoples of the world.


The Columbian exchange was a major event in the worldwide movement of living things.

1. Which seeds of change moved from east to west? West to east?

2. Which seeds of change moved to the Caribbean? To Europe, Asia, and Africa?

3. How did the introduction of sugar affect the lives of Africans and Spanish colonists in the Americas?

4. Why did the Indians have no resistance to European diseases?



When Christopher Columbus brought six Tainos back to Spain, people in Europe thought that he had "discovered a new world." They began calling the Americas the "New World." But people had been living in both the Western Hemisphere and the Eastern Hemisphere for thousands of years. A new world did begin when Columbus and the Taino met. It was the new world created by a joining of two old worlds, west and east.

Columbus was determined to take great risks to cross the Atlantic. He knew of shipwrecks, drownings, and storms. But he faced them and showed Europe the way to the Americas. People from Spain-and other European countries soon began sailing to the Americas. In the next lessons you will read about some of the people who followed Columbus. You will also find out what happened to the native peoples of the Americas.


How did the continents of North America and South America get their name?

They were named for Amerigo Vespucci (uh MAIR uh go ves PY00 thee) an Italian seaman. Vespucci, hearing about Columbus's voyage, joined an expedition in 1499. He was one of the first to think that the lands Columbus had reached were part of two huge continents almost unknown to Europeans. On a new map of the world made in 1507, a German geographer labeled this land "America," in honor of Amerigo Vespucci.

Reviewing Facts and Ideas


• In both the Western and Eastern hemispheres people were moving into and exploring new lands.

• In 1492 the Taino lived on many islands between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. That same year Christopher Columbus left Spain to sail west across the Atlantic. After two months at sea his ships reached the Bahama Islands, home to the Taino people.

• The Columbian exchange of people, plants, animals, and diseases changed life west and east of the Atlantic Ocean forever.


1. What do we know about the Taino way of life, and how do we know it?

2. What was the Columbian exchange? Why is it called this?

3. FOCUS How did the meeting between the Taino and Christopher Columbus change the world?

4. THINKING SKILL Compare the effects of the Columbian exchange on the peoples of Europe, Africa, and the Americas.

5. WRITE Suppose you were there at the first meeting of Columbus and the Taino. Describe the meeting from the point of view of a Taino.




This painting by John Vanderlyn, The Landing of Columbus, hangs in the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. Painted in 1846, it shows Columbus as discoverer of the Americas, a view that was common at the time.


Christopher Columbus went to the royal court of Spain in 1486. He wanted to ask Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand to pay for a voyage of exploration. Columbus spread out his map of the world. He spoke of the riches and fame his voyage to Asia would bring to Spain. Knowing of Queen Isabella's deep Catholic faith, he also said his voyage would bring Christianity to distant parts of the world. The rulers listened carefully. When Columbus finished, the rulers decided they needed to study seriously whether or not to support him.

Isabella and Ferdinand asked a committee of learned men to examine Columbus's proposal. The leader of this group was an official in the Catholic Church named Fernando de Talavera. The group became known as the Talavera Commission. As you will read in the third viewpoint, the commission advised the rulers to reject Columbus's project. Other advisers believed that Columbus offered the rulers an opportunity that should not be missed. Read and consider the three viewpoints. Then answer the questions that follow.


Three DIFFERENT Viewpoints


Duke of Medina Celi

Excerpt from Letter to the Grand Cardinal of Spain, 1492

For some time I had staying in my house Christopher Columbus, who came here . . . to get the king's backing for a voyage in search of the Indies. Having three or four caravels available, I was minded to take a chance on this myself, . . . but it occurred to me that the Queen . . . might be interested, so I wrote to Her Highness about it. . . . She wrote back telling me to send Columbus to Her, so I did.


King Ferdinand's Treasurer and Chief Tax Collector

Excerpt adapted from Conversation recorded in The Life of Christopher Columbus by His Son Ferdinand in the 1500s

Queen Isabella has always shown bravery and firmness in matters of great importance. Why should she lack it now for a project of so little risk, yet which could be of such great service to God and the glory of Spain? Columbus's project is so important that if any other ruler agrees to do what Columbus offers the Queen, it will greatly hurt her Crown, disappoint her friends, and cause her enemies to criticize her.


Excerpt from Report of the Talavera Commission, made public about 1490

We can find no justification [reason] for their Highnesses' supporting a project that rests on extremely weak foundations and appears impossible to translate into reality to any person with any knowledge, however modest, of these questions.


1. What was the viewpoint of each person? How did each support his opinion?

2. In what ways did some of the viewpoints agree? In what cases did they disagree?

3. What other viewpoints might people have had on this issue? What are some cases in which the issue of paying for explorations might be discussed today?


Discuss why groups such as the Talavera Commission might have argued against supporting Columbus while others might have favored helping him. Write a letter to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella describing the risks and possible rewards of paying for Columbus's voyage.




Focus Activity


How did the battle for Tenochtitlan change the Americas?





Hernando Cortes

Dona Marina


Francisco Coronado

Francisco Pizarro

Ferdinand Magellan

Hernando De Soto

Juan Ponce de Leon

Vasco Nunez de Balboa

Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca



New Spain


On a bright November day in 1519, two men faced each other at the entrance to Tenochtitlan, one of the world's great cities. Moctezuma (mahk tuh ZOO muh) II, the ruler of Mexico's mighty Aztec empire, looked into the eyes of Hernando Cortes, the leader of a small Spanish army. Their meeting was the painful joining of two civilizations.


In the 20 years after Christopher Columbus's meeting with the Taino, Spain claimed most of the islands in the Caribbean Sea. Its soldiers, who hoped to find gold and other riches, conquered new lands for Spain. They were known as conquistadors (kahn KEES tuh dohrz), from a Spanish word that means "to conquer."

During this time, Spanish and Portuguese explorers also began traveling to other parts of the Americas. The conquistadors claimed lands throughout present-day Mexico and explored what is now the southeastern United States. The Portuguese reached South America and landed at present-day Brazil. You can locate the areas of Spanish exploration on the Infographic on pages 152-153.

In the 1400s, as you have read, Spain and Portugal led the way for European exploration of Asia and Africa. Now, in the 1500s, Spain was beginning to take the lead in exploring the Americas.



Tenochtitlan had been the capital of the Aztec empire since the early '1300s. Under Moctezuma I, who ruled from 1440 to 1468, the Aztec conquered their neighbors to the south and east. Under the following three rulers, the empire expanded to include most of present-day Mexico.

Ruling an Empire

In '1502 the great-grandson of Moctezuma I was chosen emperor. A strong leader in his own right, he was called Moctezuma II, or Moctezuma the Younger. In Aztec tradition the title of emperor was not passed on from father to son to grandson. Nobles chose from the royal families one male thought to be best suited for the job.

Early in his rule Moctezuma II faced challenges to his power. People inside the empire were beginning to rebel against those in control. They no longer wanted to pay tribute or give up prisoners to the Aztec.

Moctezuma also had enemies outside his empire. The Aztec were bitterly hated by the Tlaxcalan (tlahs KAH Jahn) people, who lived less than 100 miles east of Tenochtitlan. For years the Tlaxcalan had been fighting to keep from being conquered by their powerful neighbors. Despite these problems, however, Moctezuma was still firmly in control of his empire.

News of Strangers

Early in 1519 over 500 Spanish troops landed on the east coast of Mexico. Rumors of gold had brought them here. From the moment the Spaniards landed, Aztec messengers began reporting their movements to Moctezuma.

Moctezuma sent the Spaniards two disks of solid gold and silver. He did lot know whether they were enemies be feared or friends to be respected. In either case Moctezuma hoped that his gifts would persuade the Spaniards to return home. This was a mistake. Moctezuma did not know the men were looking for gold. Nothing would keep he Spanish from trying to reach Tenochtitlan now.

Moctezuma probably wore a headdress like this one made from feathers of the quetzal bird. The Spanish melted down Aztec artworks like the gold mask and made them into coins.



After Hernando Cortes's troops landed on the coast of Mexico in 1519, they had to find their way to Tenochtitlan.

1. Upon which coast did Cortes first land?

2. To which route does the red dotted line refer?

3. What effect might geography have had on Cortes's expedition to Tenochtitlan?


At the age of 19, Hernando Cortes came from Spain to the Caribbean island of Cuba. Cortes was given land to farm. But he had other ideas. "I don't want land," he wrote. "I came for gold." When the governor of Cuba asked Cortes to lead an expedition to Mexico, he jumped at the chance.

Hernando Cortes and other Spanish soldiers at Tenochtitlan probably wore suits of armor like this one.

Heading for Tenochtitlan

Cortes came upon several Indian cities as he made his way inland from the coast to Tenochtitlan. You can trace his route on the map above. The people of these cities were enemies of the Aztec. At one city Cortes met an Indian woman who was called Dona Marina (DOHN yah mah REE nah) by the Spanish and Malinche (mah LEEN chay) by the Indians.

Dona Marina was the daughter of a chief but had been sold as a captive after her father died. She knew several languages including those of the Aztec and Maya. Dona Marina helped Cortes convince many Indians to join him. Soon his small army grew into a force big enough to challenge the Aztec.

When the two leaders finally met in 1519, Moctezuma welcomed Cortes to Tenochtitlan. The Spaniards could hardly believe their eyes when they first saw the city. One of them wrote:

We were amazed because of the huge towers, temples, and buildings. . . . We were seeing things which had never been heard of or seen before, nor even dreamed about.


For reasons that are not understood today, Moctezuma did not resist the Spaniards. Cortes took Moctezuma prisoner and gained control of the city. Then the Aztec fought back. In a furious attack they drove the Spaniards out of their city. Moctezuma was killed during the fighting.

Tenochtitlan Falls

Cortes returned to Tenochtitlan in 1521 with more soldiers. His goal was to recapture the city. A young man named Cuauhtemoc. (kwah TAY mahk) was now ruler of the Aztec. He led them in the battle for Tenochtitlan. But again Cortes was helped by the Aztec's enemies. The Spaniards and their Indian supporters blocked all the entrances to the city. No food or water could be taken inside. An Aztec who survived this battle later reported that

[m]any died of hunger. . . . The people ate anything—lizards, barn swallows, corn leaves, saltgrass. They gnawed . . . leather and buckskin, cooked or toasted; or . . . adobe bricks. Never had such suffering been seen.

After 75 days Tenochtitlan fell to Cortes. Cuauhtemoc was captured and later killed. Then the Spaniards and their Indian allies destroyed Aztec temples and pulled down statues of Aztec gods. They also burned the Aztec sacred books. The Spaniards had conquered a great city. They then set out to control a vast empire. They called heir new colony New Spain.

How the Spanish Won

How was a small group of Spaniards fighting in a strange land able to conquer an empire? One important reason was the thousands of Indian supporters who fought with the Spanish.

Another reason for the success of he Spaniards was their deadlier weapons. The Aztec fought with wooden spears and arrows tipped with stone points. They used wooden shields and wore armor made of thick, tightly woven cotton. These weapons were no match for Spanish steel and gunpowder. Study the drawing below. What were some differences between Spanish and Aztec weapons?



Drawing by an unknown artist, created during the late 1500s.

As the drawing of the battle for Tenochtitlan shows, the Spanish musket, or rifle, was one of the main weapons used by the Spanish.



Spanish Explorers and Conquistadors

After Columbus's voyage in 1492, other Spanish explorers and conquistadors sailed across the Atlantic Ocean. Some came in search of routes to Asia. Others came to seek gold or to achieve glory for God. Study the Infographic to learn about the expeditions of the Spanish explorers and conquistadors in the Americas.


With a small group, he began to explore the American Southwest in search of the rumored Seven Cities of Gold.


He led an expedition from Cuba to Mexico that ended with the conquest of Moctezuma and the Aztec.


His forces conquered the Inca empire ruled by Atahualpa.



He led an expedition through the American Southeast in search of gold. He became the first European to see the Mississippi River.


Stories of a fountain of youth led him to sail north from Puerto Rico. He reached a land he called Florida.


Sailing under the flag of Spain, he reached a group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean while seeking a route to Asia.


Sailing for the Spanish, he set out to find a route to the Indies by sailing around the southern tip of South America. Although he was killed, some of his crew returned to Spain, completing the first known voyage around the world.


By the middle of the 1500s, the peoples of the Western and Eastern hemispheres were bonded together in many ways. Spaniards and other Europeans explored and conquered much of the Americas. They forever changed the land and the peoples they met. But they, too, were changed. The king of Spain became the ruler of New Spain. And Tenochtitlan became known as Mexico City. As you will read, from all of these changes a very different culture was born.


• Other European explorers and conquerors soon followed Columbus to the Americas.

• By the 1500s the Aztec had built a large and powerful empire in Mexico.

• In 1521 the conquistador Hernando Cortes conquered the Aztec empire.

• After the Aztec's defeat, Mexico became a colony called New Spain.


1. In what way did Dam Marina help Hernando Cortes?

2. How did Moctezuma and Cortes treat each other when they met? What other options might Moctezuma have chosen?

3. FOCUS How did the fall of Tenochtitlan change the Americas?

4. THINKING SKILL Predict how Mexico might be different today if Moctezuma had defeated Cortes.

5. GEOGRAPHY Use the map on page 150 to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of other routes Cortes might have taken to Tenochtitlan.



Reading Historical Maps


historical map


When Hernando CortŽs marched to Tenochtitlan in 1519, a Portuguese sea captain named Ferdinand Magellan was beginning a different expedition. With help from the king of Spain, Magellan's crew made an unforgettable voyage around the world.

One way to study an historical event, such as Magellan's expedition, is by using an historical map. Historical maps show information about the past or where past events took place. For example, the map below traces a voyage that took place nearly 500 years ago. Use the Helping Yourself box on the next page to guide you in reading historical maps.


Study the map on this page. What is its title? What clues help you to know that it is an historical map? In September Magellan started out with 250 men and 5 ships. He hoped to find a route from Europe to Asia


that was shorter than the route around Africa. Magellan believed that he could sail south around the tip of South America and then sail west until he reached Asia.

At the southern tip of South America, Magellan reached a strait, or narrow waterway. This stormy passage, which caused one of his ships to sink, is now named for Magellan. Find it on the map.

His tiny fleet traveled for almost four more months before it reached land. Food and water ran low. One of the men, Antonio Pigafetta, wrote in his journal:

We ate only old biscuits turned to powder, all full of worms.... And we drank water impure [dirty] and yellow.

Finally Magellan reached the Philippine Islands. He thought his expedition had failed He had not found a shorter route to Asia. But Magellan had proved that a ship could circumnavigate (sur kum NAV uh gayt), or entirely circle, the world. What happened to Magellan in the Philippines?

Magellan's death did not end the first known voyage around the world. In September 1522 a single ship with 18 men finally returned to Spain.


You have practiced reading an historical map about Magellan's expedition. Try reading this one about the Spanish conquest of the Inca. In 1531 the conquistador known as Francisco Pizarro (pih ZAH roh) set out to capture the Inca's riches in South America. He met and defeated the Inca ruler Atahualpa (ah tuh WAHL puh), who was travelling to the Inca's capital city, Cuzco.

Pizarro and his 180 men were lucky. Fighting between Atahualpa and his brother had weakened the Inca. Atahualpa, the victor, was heading to Cuzco to be crowned when Pizarro captured him. In what city did Pizarro and Atahualpa meet? In time Spain controlled all of the Inca empire.


• An historical map shows places or events from the past.

• Study the title, date, and map key.

• Look for other information on the map.


1. What is an historical map?

2. Where was the Inca empire located? How do you know?

3. In what direction did Atahualpa's forces travel? Pizarro's? How do you know?

4. Who traveled part of the way by water? Why do you think he used a water route?

5. What are some ways in which reading historical maps can be useful to you?




Focus Activity


What was life like in New Spain?






Fray Marcos de Niza

Bartolome de las Casas



New Spain

Mexico City


On an October night in 1521, Spaniards destroyed the city of Tenochtitlan. A large and powerful empire had come to an end. What would take its place? What would life be like for the conquerors and the people they now ruled?


In the early 1500s the colony of New Spain included the lands of the Aztec, the Maya, and other peoples of the Americas. Mexico City, the new name for Tenochtitlan, was the capital of the colony.

New Spain covered much of the Caribbean islands, Central America, and the present-day country of Mexico. It stretched north into what are now the southwestern United States and the state of Florida.

As a way of settling and controlling this huge region, the government of Spain began granting encomiendas (en koh mee EN duz) to certain Spanish colonists. An encomienda was a very large piece of land that often included several Indian villages. The encomienda system helped New Spain to grow and its colonists to prosper. It also caused much suffering to the Indians who lived there and to the Africans later brought by force from their homes across the Atlantic Ocean. As you read the lesson, you will also find out what kind of life the Spanish colonists made for themselves in New Spain.



After Spain's defeat of the Aztec empire, conquistadors spread through much of North America and South America to win more land and find more riches for Spain. The map on this page shows which areas became part o New Spain. As they traveled north and south of Mexico City, the Spanish brought more Indian cities and villages into the colony.

Spain Conquers the Maya

About five years after Tenochtitlan fell, Spanish soldiers headed southeast to the Yucatan peninsula to find Maya treasures. You read about the Maya in Chapter 3. Their determined fighters and the thick rain forest environment helped the Maya to defend parts of their land for 20 years. But by 1546 the Maya, like the Aztec, fell under Spanish rule.

To the Maya's horror the Spanish burned their valuable collection of books—books that contained their knowledge of history, math, and science. In one act much of Maya civilization went up in smoke. Only three Maya books written before the Spanish conquest survive today.

Francisco Coronado Searches for Gold

In 1540 the young conquistador Francisco Coronado led a group of Spaniards, Africans, and Indians on a search for gold in what is now the southwestern United States. For two years Coronado looked for the rumored Seven Cities of Gold. An African scout, Estevanico (ays tay VAH nee koh), and a Spanish priest called Fray Marcos de Niza had heard stories about the golden cities during an earlier expedition. But before they could find the cities, Estevanico was killed.

Fray Marcos lived to tell what had happened and went on to join Coronado on his expedition. Coronado did not find the golden cities either. The Seven Cities of Gold did not really exist. But during their expedition, Coronado's men gazed down the cliffs of the Grand Canyon.



For the Indians who stayed on their homelands after New Spain was formed, life became very harsh. The harshness began with the encomienda system. This system was similar to slavery, but it had an important difference. In exchange for the Indians' work, the colonists agreed to care for the Indians and to teach them about Christianity.

Whether constructing buildings, tending cattle, or growing corn, Indian worked from dawn to dusk. Sometimes they were whipped. Often they went hungry. When the Spanish found silver in the mountains of northern Mexico, Indians were put to work in the mines. The silver the Indians mined helped to make Spain one of the richest and most powerful countries in Europe.

"Protector of the Indians"

One of New Spain's strongest defenders of Indian rights was a Catholic priest named Bartolome de las Casas. Las Casas came to New Spain to run an encomienda. A few years after becoming a missionary to the Indians in the early 1500s, Las Casas was given his own encomienda in Hispaniola in 1513. A missionary is a person who teaches his or her religion to others who have different beliefs. Although Las Casas treated the Indians in his encomienda well, he saw how cruelly other encomienda owners acted. He knew that thousands of Indians were dying from disease and overwork.

In 1514 Las Casas gave up his encomienda. As you read this excerpt from one of his books, identify some reasons that Las Casas gives for opposing the encomiendas.



Excerpt from History of the Indies, completed by Bartolome de Las Casas in 1563.

Tell me, by what right or justice do you hold these Indians in such a cruel and horrible servitude? On what authority have you [tried to destroy] these peoples, who dwelt quietly and peacefully on their own land? . . . Why do you keep them so oppressed and exhausted, without giving them enough to eat or curing them of the sicknesses they [get] from the excessive labor you give them, and they die, or rather, you kill them, in order to extract and acquire gold every day?

And what care do you take that they should be instructed in religion, so that they may know their God and creator, may be baptized, may hear Mass, and may keep [observe] Sundays and feast days? Are these not men? . . . Are you not bound to love them as you love yourselves? Do you not understand this? Don't you feel this?

servitude: slavery

oppressed: cruelly, or unjustly, controlled


For the next 50 years Las Casas devoted himself to ending the encomiendas. He soon became known as the "Protector of the Indians" and later met with the king of Spain.

Because of Las Casas's work, the king passed the "New Laws of 1542," which said that Indians could no longer be made to work without pay. New Spain's colonists strongly protested the New Laws. The encomienda system lasted until about the end of the 1700s.

Slavery in New Spain

Scholars disagree about the number of Indians that were living in Mexico in 1519. Their estimates range from about 8 to 30 million. By 1568 the population had dropped to less than 3 million. Much of this human tragedy was due to disease as well as overwork. Enslaving Africans became the cruel solution to the desire for workers.

African captives had been a part of Spain's empire since its earliest days. Yet enslaved Africans were not brought to New Spain in large numbers until the Indians began to die out. By 1570 over 200,000 Africans had been bought and taken to New Spain. Most were brought to such Caribbean islands as Cuba and Hispaniola to grow sugarcane.

Enslaved Africans also worked in the mines. At the ports of Veracruz and Acapulco, they loaded silver and other goods onto the treasure ships bound for Spain.

Some Captives Break Free

By law, enslaved Africans in New Spain could make money in their spare time to buy their freedom. But African captives also escaped. In the 1560s and 1570s, Africans and Indians rose up against the Spanish.

In 1609 about 600 Spanish soldiers were sent to the mountains around Veracruz to recapture an elderly African slave named Yanga and over 80 of his followers. After 30 years the Africans still had not been captured. The government then left Yanga and his followers alone. They later established a town, San Lorenzo de los Negros.

Diego Rivera, a Mexican artist, painted Disembarkation of the Spanish at Vera Cruz in 1951. Many captive Indians and Africans were held in shackles such as those shown above.



In addition to working on farms and ranches and in mines, Indians were also forced to build New Spain's capital, Mexico City. In early 1522 Hernando CortŽs decided that "it was well to rebuild" Tenochtitlan. In the process almost all the Aztec features of the city were destroyed.

Upon the rubble where the Great Temple had stood, CortŽs began building a cathedral, or huge church. Most cities in Spain had a cathedral and government buildings arranged around a central plaza. CortŽs saw to it that Mexico City also had these buildings. Wide streets fanned out from the Great Plaza. At first only the streets on which conquistadors, lawyers, and merchants lived were paved.

A Walk Through Mexico City

Beginning at dawn, Mexico City was full of activity. Through the morning mist Indians paddled across Lake Texcoco in long boats loaded with goods. They carried vegetables, hay for horses, pottery, firewood, and other goods to the markets and shops. Most of the local goods were sold at the market on the Great Plaza together with goods from Spain, China, and the Netherlands. "[E]verything that is best in Spain comes to this square," wrote one Spaniard.

Spaniards first arriving in Mexico City marveled at the fine houses and wide streets. These sights were often found on Calle del Reloj (KAH yay dayl RAY loh), or Clock Street, and on La Moneda (lah mohn AY dah). Moneda means "coin" in Spanish. La Moneda is a place where coins are made. Look at the map of today's Mexico City on page 161. Find the Great Plaza. Today Mexicans call it the Zocalo (ZOH kah loh), an Aztec word for "plaza."

By 1554 Mexico City had many of the features of a European city. Spaniards of the time compared it to Venice, Italy, because it, too, had been built on water. There were mansions, flowering parks, schools, and a university. Mexico City also had a theater, post office, and printing press. The city's most widely published books had to do with Catholic teachings.

The National Palace is one of the buildings the Spanish erected during colonial times. It is located on the Zocalo on the former site of Moctezuma's palace.



The Historic Center of Mexico City surrounds the largest plaza in the Western Hemisphere.

1. What are the names of the government buildings surrounding the Zocalo?

2. Which side of the Zocalo is next to the Metropolitan Cathedral?

Mexico City contained schools and many other buildings owned by the Catholic Church. Within the walls of the convents, nuns cared for lemon, orange, and apple orchards. To many colonists, as a Catholic friar wrote, Mexico City was "the noblest and most imposing [city] in New Spain."


From the ashes of the Aztec empire arose a different civilization—New Spain. Spain built an empire in the Americas, and the cost in suffering way high. The Indian land and people gave way to much of the culture of Spain. But as you will read in the Legacy on pages 162-163, Indian ways can still be found in Mexico City today.

Reviewing Facts and Ideas


• As the conquistadors searched for land and gold, they helped to expand New Spain to include the Caribbean islands, Central America, the land now called Mexico, and those areas now part of the southwestern and southeastern United States.

• The government of Spain began the encomienda system in which thousands of Indians died from overwork The priest Bartolome de Las Casas called for the end of the encomiendas. Thousands of African captives were brought to New Spain to replace the dying Indians.

• Colonial Mexico City was built to resemble cities in Spain. Some buildings and streets from this time can still be found today.


1. Who benefited the most from the encomiendas? Who was hurt? Why?

2. How did enslaved Africans contribute to life in New Spain?

3. FOCUS What was life like in New Spain for the Indians, their Spanish conquerors, and the Africans brought as slaves?

4. THINKING SKILL What effect did Las Casas have on life in New Spain? What else could have been done by him or others to help the Indians? Give reasons for your answer.

5. WRITE Suppose that you are Las Casas, a colonist running an encomienda, or an Indian working of one. Write a letter to the king of Spain explaining what you think about the encomienda system.




Number a paper from 1 to 5. Beside each number write the word or term from the list below that matches the description.


Columbian exchange




1. A soldier who conquered lands for Spain

2. A journey made for a special purpose

3. A settlement that is ruled by another country

4, A huge piece of land, often including several Indian villages, that the Spanish government gave to its colonists

5. The movement of people, plants, animals, and germs across the Atlantic Ocean that began after Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas


1. Who were the Taino? What had happened to them by the 1500s?

2. How did Christopher Columbus get the money he needed for his journey?

3. Why do people remember Christopher Columbus today?

4. What was one good effect of the Columbian exchange for the peoples of the Americas? What was one bad effect?

5. What were the Spanish troops looking for in Mexico?

6. How was Hernando Cortes able to conquer the Aztec on their own land?

7. What lands made up New Spain?

8. What is a missionary?

9. Why did Bartolome de Las Casas come to New Spain? What did he do there?

10. What events shown on the time line occurred in 1519?




Write a paragraph comparing Columbus's meeting with the Taino to Cortes's first meeting with Moctezuma.


Suppose that you are either an Aztec or a Spanish soldier at the battle for Tenochtitlan. Write an entry in your journal in which you describe the experience.


Suppose that you are an Indian living in New Spain. Write a letter to the king of Spain describing the cruelty you believe your people have suffered under the Spanish colonists. Explain why you think the encomienda system should be ended.



To practice your skill in reading historical maps, answer the following questions about the map on page 155.

1. How do you know that the map on this page is an historical map?

2. What does the map key tell you?

3. Across which ocean did Pizarro travel to reach the Inca empire?

4. Where is Cuzco? Why is this an important city?

5. What makes historical maps useful?

Summing Up the Chapter

Copy the main-idea map on a separate piece of paper. Review the chapter to complete the blank sections. When you have completed the map, use the information to write a paragraph that answers the question "What changes came to the Americas in the 1500s?"


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