Spanish Explorers in the New World

Spanish Explorers in the New World



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Spanish Explorers in the New World

Columbus views the people known as “Indians” as friendly and hospitable. When they saw the ship approaching, they all went to them to great them and welcome them to their land. They are also people who are ignorant and could be taught new thing. Columbus says that, “I should take them with me to Spain so that they can learn our language and religion.”

As the “Indians” made advances to the ship, Columbus noticed that almost all the women were naked. Only those who were a little bit older wore cotton clothes. The people here were poverty stricken and when they saw a ship approach, they quickly made their way to meet the ship using canoes. In other cases, other swam so that they could sell the things they had to the people in the ship. They were so desperate that they were willing to exchange their cotton, birds and other things for anything that Columbus and the others had to offer.

The “Indians” were governed by a king who did very little for the development of the land yet it had beautiful sceneries and fertile land. The king was possessing gold which was the most precious commodity that was inaccessible to the locals. The Indians looked like they had no definite religion and could be transformed to Christianity.

According to Zinn in his Book “History is a Weapon”, Columbus could have by no means reached Asia which was miles away than he had anticipated. He called the people he met Indians due to their physical appearance. The women were beautiful with curly hair while the men were well built, handsome with straight hair. When Columbus say the people wearing golden jewelry on the hands and on the nose, he was certain that he was now in Asia. The other thing that made him refer to the people there as Indians, was due to the spices they had and the nature of their land.

Columbus is generous to the “Indians” when he first meets them as documented in his letter published in the journal “Columbus in his Voyage, 1492”. His only interest was to know where he could find the most precious commodity- gold which was the reason for his trip. He ordered that those he had taken on board be served with food and drink so that they could show his the way around and how he could get the gold. The “Indians” on the other hand treated him as a very powerful person. Others even awarded him gifts because they thought he was from heaven due to their ignorance. The story that Columbus with the help of his men turned violent in order to acquire gold is closer to the truth as opposed to what is portrayed in his letter. The most important reason for his expedition was to find gold. He was so determined and could stop at nothing before acquiring that precious commodity as discussed by Zinn in his book “History is a Weapon”. He was ready to part with any amount just to pay for the gold if he could find it. The facts stated by Zinn seem to be more believable than those in the letter by Columbus. This is because of the determination portrayed by Columbus in his adventure to find the gold. He had convinced the king and the queen of Spain to fund his expedition to the Far East through the Atlantic Ocean to obtain gold.

The letter written by Columbus was meant to record all the findings of his trip to the King in Spain so as to make sure he did not miss any details. He recorded the happenings of each day taking key interest of the places he visited, the nature of the land and the economic activities in the area.

Cortes was awed by what he discovered in Tenochtitlan as he described in his second letter to Charles V, 1520. He found it well designed in terms of size vis-à-vis infrastructure. He described the city as being as large as Seville or Cordova and stated that its streets were very wide and straight, of which some were half land and half water thus allowing them to be accessed by canoes as well as foot. He praised its construction with its many public squares that served as markets, which in themselves he found amazing since they were a source of any kind of merchandise one could need ranging from foodstuffs, jewels, metals, stones, bricks, timber, birds of all variety, game animals, herbs, medicines, wood, coal, mats and so forth. He found a sense of fairness and justice in the city in that magistrates were present who ruled on all controversies arising in the markets and ordered crooks to be punished. Cortes was impressed by the temples in the great city, especially by their architecture, and for one he described it as having architectural grandeur no human tongue could describe.

The Spanish would have been most shocked by the practice of human sacrifices; this including not only the shedding of human blood but also the barbaric practice of removing hearts from breasts of living people. The Aztecs’ faith and confidence in idols as Gods with the ability to grant prosperity in all they wished for would also be shocking to them. Cortes removes the idols from the temples, and replaces them with images of Mary and the Saints. He introduces the concept of monotheism, belief in one God, the universal Lord of all. Cortes was justified in the actions he took. By introducing Christianity to the Aztecs he succeeded in changing their barbaric custom of sacrificing human beings. During his stay in the city no human being was seen to be killed or sacrificed. His actions were hypocritical; even though he prevented human sacrifice, the Spanish did put to death natives who refused to accept Christianity.

Cortes and his men destroyed the Aztec culture. They fought a long battle with the Aztecs which eventually led to them capturing Tenochtitlan. They entered the city and burnt all of the Aztec buildings until hardly a trace remained of the Aztec civilization and culture.


Oliver, J. Thatcher, ed. The Library of Original Sources (Milwaukee:

University Research Extension Co., 1907), Vol. V: 9th to 16th Centuries,

pp. 317-326.

Columbus, C. Medieval Sourcebook. Columbus in his Voyage, 1492.

Cortes, H. Modern History Sourcebook. Second Letter to Charles V, 1520.

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