A bunch of prominent events mark each period in the history of Latin America. The sixteenth century is the time of Spanish and Portuguese early colonialism. Europeans brought the traditions of the West with their rules and religion. However, the contacts with Europeans provoked the extermination of the traditions of indigenous people and the peoples themselves. The European colonization became a unique wave of new lands exploration and development of world trade, leading to profound changes in the life, traditions, and customs of its population.
At the end of the fifteenth century, looking for new trading routes to India and China, the Portuguese explored the west coast of Africa. At the same time, the Spanish made their routes to the west. They accidentally found the new world and proclaimed it the land for the Spanish crown (“Conquest, warfare and Spanish early colonialism in the Americas”, n.d.). The further expeditions explored the coast of the new continent and transported new plants and animals to Europe. Potatoes, sunflower seeds, chilies, pineapples, and chocolate became treasures for traders. Gold and silver from the mines of the “New World” filled the treasuries of European kingdoms. The unarmed indigenous people became slaves for work in the mines and export to Europe. The Spanish conquered the territories of the Aztec and Inca Empires and controlled the western part of South America and Central America. The Portuguese occupied much of eastern South America, which is the area of modern Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay. The exploration of new lands provided great possibilities for Europeans.
Native American civilizations did not have the possibility to fight against the armed conquerors. Moreover, Europeans brought a lot of epidemic diseases to Latin America such as smallpox, typhus, diphtheria, influenza, and measles. The epidemics killed approximately 60 percent of the indigenous American population and caused the mitigation of its forces to oppose the European conquest. Together with the slavery and military clashes, it decreased the number of Native Americans from 70-100 million to approximately 12 million people within a 100-year period (“European colonization of the Americas“, 2015). Great civilizations such as the Aztecs, the Mayans, the Miskitos, and Sumus disappeared together with their cultural heritage, deep knowledge, and philosophy. Instead, a significant number of Europeans immigrated to the Americas in the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries. They brought Christianity to the “New World”. The further wave of Genocide took place under the slogan of spreading the Catholicism among pagans and killed thousands of obstinate Americans. Europeans transported more submissive African slaves to Latin America to clear the forest areas and build settlements and roads. Those slaves became the first African Americans. The intensive deforestation and mining increased damages to the lands as well as the subsequent destruction of communally-based native cultures. This particularly relates to those who lived on subsistence agriculture. The sixteenth century became the period of replacement the indigenous American population by Europeans and African slaves.
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European kingdoms gained a lot of benefits with the colonization of Americas. New territories for settlements, new food products, slaves, rich deposits of gold and silver encouraged new expeditions and exploration to the American continent. The idea to bring civilization to the wild world of Latin America inspired many explorers. Roads and modern settlements became the indicators of such progress. The European colonization and exploration of the Latin America in the sixteenth century transformed the world and added 31 new nation-states to the map of global communities (“European colonization of the Americas”, 2015). The process provided excellent opportunities for the number of settlers to achieve their ideas of equality, justice, and freedom. Some of the most stable modern democracies of the world launched their existence as a result of this transcontinental exchange.
The exploration of Latin America was the beginning of the Old World’s transformation. It gave new chances for Europeans and rebuilt the world map. However, it started the period of destruction of great civilizations of Americas.