Myths and Perspectives on Colonialism

Context

Colonialism was a revolution that lasted for 3 centuries. It was radical because it changed everything: culture, language, technology… Since Pangea divides into the “old world”; Europe, Asia and Russia, and the “new world” into America, life is developed with differences. We can see colonisation as the encounter between two worlds.

In both worlds there was people dedicated to agriculture, with a sendentary and even civilised life. Europe was in an expansion period though. This expansion required of precious metals that were believed to come from the “Indies”. On top of this, the ideology of that time was that of going back to an Universal Empire. Religion also backs this up with the concept of “humanity” and the belief that every single human being can save their humanity as long as they follow their terms and if they receive the message.

From an evolution's point of view...

The transition to agriculture was 1000 years later in America, thus, the transition to a more “civilised” life was later.

Technologically both worlds were different and it is a decisive point in terms of the conquest and its effects. This difference does not mean that Europe was superior or inferior. Objectively, it does not make anyone more intelligent or morally superior. The faculty of being happy does not reside in technology, after all.

It arrived later because Americans arrived later to America, and they had plenty of animals to hunt. They did not need the sedentary life until later on. 

From a bacteriological point of view...

Due to the division of the continents, different bacteries were developed in the different continents. It is often assumed that the Spanish brought their illnesses to America. However, the same way indigenous people did not have the required defences against Spanish’ illnesses, the Spanish were not used to America’s bacteries either.

It was not that the Spanish went to kill indigenous people, the illnesses they carried with them did kill a lot of people.

From an economical point of view...

There is an accelerated change from the 16th century due to the transition to capitalism. In Spain, they wanted to maintain a feudal society. This protected America in a way because the Indigenous also had their own class system. 

When America gained the independence, it was opened to capitalism, so the change is relentless towards poor people and the Indigenous. This changed is seen as independence, revolutions and reforms. 

From the myths' point of view...

 

“Conquerors were extraordinary men”

We know about these people because of what they wrote about themselves. Cortés wrote to the Royal Household highlighting what he did to ask for favours and titles. Someone who had money did not go to America nor risked their life to do so.

We have to take into account that there was a legalist system in Spain. Everything had to be legal, but legality could be flexible. “I did not want to attack, but you did not respect the pact we made”. This was backed up by religion with the idea of a fair war: “We are freeing the savages”.

 

“Columbus and the King’s army”

Carlos V created a multicultural army when he loots Rome. However, the people who actually go to America are people who believe in Historical stories about a soldier who lives adventures and rescues the princess and liberates a village from the evil powers. They also did not have lands or money. There were 100 men (tops) in the first boats.

 

“Conquerors were the Spanish”

Most of them were form Andalusia, but there were Greeks, Italians, Portuguese… Also, black people (slaves) who would defend themselves and their owners. Indigenous people also helped the conquest. There were tribes that disagreed with each other, so it was convenient for them to have the Spanish conquest those lands.

 

“Immediate success”

It was a process of 3 centuries. At the beginning it was a military and pacts conquest. After that it is colonised (land and indigenous people distribution) and finally it is converted to Christianism. There was also regions that were tougher to be conquered. Each region has its history.

 

“Communication was effective”

Each tribe has its own linguistic variant. There are a lot of stories about “Malinche” (on the one hand a traitor, on the other a saviour of the tribes). During the process of conversion, the interpreters could commit treason for their own benefit…

 

“Devastation and extermination”

This is normally seen from the point of view of the Indigenous people, form what the children at that time saw. All civilisations live through devastation, they both conquer and are conquered. The least convenient thing for the Spanish was the death of Indigenous people, because the conquerors wanted to use them to work for them. Devastation came from the bacteries, both from the Spanish as well as from the Indigenous. 

“Spanish superiority”

The Spanish brought:

  • Fire weapons (add the gunpowder, light it on… It was not as simple as put in a bullet and shoot)

  • Cannons (fire balls and thunder-like noise)

  • Horses and dogs

The Indigenous people realised very soon that if you cut them, they would bleed. They, too, were human. It was more the separation among the Indigenous villages. They did not live in an Utopian world. There were slaves and issues among them too.

The sources that we have are from that period, but we cannot believe everything that the source is saying. Why does it say it? What’s the purpose? How is it said? It is important to contrast the sources, both the Spanish and the Indigenous. It is the only way to get somewhat close to what actually happened. We will never know what really happened.

Sources (in Spanish):

Reflexión de la Conquista – Rodrigo Martínez

Mitos de la conquista – Dr Antonio Rubial García

“Malinche” – Dra. Margo Glantz

La conquista de América contada para escépticos – Entrevista entre Juan Eslava Galán y Pérez Reverte

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.