Chapter 19. Early Latin America


 Theme 2: Development and Interaction of Cultures

Chapter 19 presents the ongoing development and interaction of cultures as Spanish and Portuguese conquest changed the native cultures of what would be Latin America.  During the Middle Ages, the lands of the Spaniards and Portuguese were the "cultural frontier" between Christianity and Islam.  Being so, conflicts created a tradition of military conquest and rule over other peoples beliefs and customs.  This tradition was carried out as the Spanish and Portuguese explored the New World, overtook and changed the native cultures, and created an entirely new society.

Distinctive features of Iberian societies included the aspect of urbanization.  The Spanish and Portuguese were heavily urban - urban centers surrounded by small towns and villages of peasants - and established this pattern in America, where Europeans lived in cities and towns surrounded by a rural native population. Among other aspects of diffusion of Iberian society to the New World include commoners coming to America, seeking the status of nobles holding Indian-worked estates.   The New World was also introduced to the political pattern of centralization and, as far as religion is concerned, dominance of Roman Catholicism.

The Iberian tradition of slavery was brought to the New World. Exploitation of the native population was beneficial to the Spanish - native institutions being maintained to serve Spanish goals.  Enslavement of natives in times of peace was prohibited by the mid 16th century. However, Patriarchal ideas were present in family life based on encomiendas which also continued through Indian labor.

The Spanish conquest of many of the newly discovered lands in the Americas did not come without resentment. Throughout the Spanish dominance of these lands, they were met with war and rebellion. Ultimately the rebellions failed due to the superior Spanish numbers and weaponry, but this proves that the Spanish were not welcome to simply colonize the lands without consequences. The Spanish largely failed in any attempts to live peacefully with the native inhabitants. 

Interaction Between Humans and the Environment 

When the Spanish and Portuguese colonized the Americas they started to purge the environment for its lucrative and highly valued resources. The most lucrative Spanish colonies were at Potosi in upper Peru and Zacatecas in Mexico. These places produced a vast amount of silver. Likewise, the Portuguese also established colonies to gain wealth. There biggest one was in Brazil where they set up huge sugar plantations. By the end of the seventeenth century their slave population numbered upwards of 150,000 slaves to accommodate these huge plantations. 

Theme 3: State-Building, Expansion, and Conflict

The spanish nobility was in charge of labor and tax demands, and enslavement was prohibited. The government issued encomiendas, which were land grants to citizens who would use the Indians as workers. In 1620, these grants were repealed due to fear that a new nobility would form. Many Indians tried to escape and work for landowners. Despite the spanish dominance, the Indians maintained a sense of culture and identity, but resistance was largely futile.

Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile

  • Monarchs of largest Christian kingdoms in Iberia
  • Ferdinand's marriage to Isabella created a united Spain
  • Responsible for reconquest of Granada and initiation of exploration of New World (supported Columbus' expedition)
  • They carried out a program of unification that sought to eliminate the religious and ethnic diversity in their kingdoms.
  • The cross triumphed throughout the peninsula
  • Isabella ordered the Jews of her realm to convert or leave the country. As many as 200,000 people may have left, severely disrupting some aspects of the Castilian economy.


  • Grants of Indian laborers made to Spanish conquerors and settlers in Mesoamerica and South America
  • Basis for earliest forms of coerced labor in Spanish colonies
  • Framework for relations based on economic dominance


  •  Santo Domingo
  • First island in the Caribbean settled by Spaniards
  • Settlement founded by Colombus on his second voyage to the New World
  • Spanish base of operations for further discoveries in the New World

Hernán Cortés

  • Led expedition of 600 to coast of Mexico in 1519  
  • Was able to enlist the defeated peoples (Aztec) support against their overlords       
  • Conquistador responsible for defeat of Aztec Empire
  • Captured Tenochtitlan in 1521 after disease, starvation, and battle overwhelmed the resistance. Tenochtitlan was replaced with Mexico City.

Mexico City

  • Capital of New Spain
  • Built on ruins of Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan 

Francisco Pizarro

  • 1535: began the conquest of the Inca Empire, then weakened by civil war
  • Cuzco fell in 1533
  • The Spanish built their capital at Lima, and by 1540, most of Peru was under their control

Pedro de Valdivia 

  • Spanish conquistador
  • Conquered Araucanian Indians of Chile
  • Established city of Santiago in 1541


Colombian Exchange

  • Biological and ecological exchange that took place following Spanish establishment of colonies in New World
  • Peoples of Europe and Africa came to New World
  • Animals, plants, and diseases of two hemispheres were transferred



  • Location of greatest deposit of mercury in South America
  • Aided in American silver production
  • Potosi and Huancavelica became the "great marriage of Peru" and the basis of silver production in South America.



  • Merchant guild of Seville
  • Enjoyed virtual monopoly rights over goods shipped to America and handled much of the silver received in return
  • A board of trade controlled commerce with the Indies. The board often worked with the consulado in Seville that had extensive rights over American trade.
  • Linked to branches in Mexico City and Lima, the consulados kept tight control over the trade and were able to keep prices high in the colonies.


Treaty of Tordesillas

  • Signed in 1494 between Castile and Portugal
  • Clarified spheres of influence and rights of possession in New World
  • Reserved Brazil and all newly discovered lands east of Brazil to Portugal
  • Granted all lands west of Brazil to Spain 

Council of the Indies

  • Body within the Castilian government that issued all laws and advised king on all matters dealing with the Spanish colonies of the New World


  • University-trained lawyers from Spain in the New World; juridical core of Spanish colonial bureaucracy
  • Exercised both legislative and administrative functions




  • Two major divisions of Spanish colonies in New World
  • One based in Lima; Other in Mexico City
  • High ranking nobles who were direct representatives of King
  • The viceroyalties of New Spain and Peru were then subdivided into 10 judicial divisions controlled by superior courts.

Bartolomé de las Casas

  • 1484-1566
  • Conquistador turned priest

  • Dominican friar who supported peaceful conversation of the Native American population of the Spanish colonies
  • Opposed forced labor and advocated Indian rights
  • Expeditions that went from island to island showed that natives were more resilient, but contact was similar.

Moctezuma II

  • 1480-1520
  • Last independent Aztec emperor
  • Captured and killed during Hernán Cortés’s conquest of Tenochtitlan 

New Spain

  • Spanish colonial possessions in Mesoamerica
  • Included most of central Mexico
  • Based on imperial system of Aztecs

Francisco Vazquez de Coronado

  •  c. 1510-1554
  • Leader of Spanish expedition into northern frontier region of New Spain
  • Search of mythical cities of gold
  • Penetrated modern southwestern United States as far as Kansas


  • Labor extracted for lands assigned to the state and the religion
  • All communities were expected to contribute
  • An essencial aspect of Inca imperial control



  • Mine located in upper Peru (modern Bolivia)
  • Largest of New World silver mines
  • Produced 80% of all Peruvian silver
  • In the early 17th century, 160,000 people worked in the mines and lived in the town.



  • Rural estates in Spanish colonies in New World
  • Produced agricultural products for consumers in America
  • Basis of wealth and power for the local aristocracy in many regions.


Port of Seville


  • Large heaviliy armed ships useed to carry silver from New World oclonies to Spain
  • Basis for convoy system utilized by Spain for transportation of bullion



  • Body of laws collected in 1681 for Spanish possessions in New World
  • Basis of law in the Indies



  • Royal court of appeals established in Spanish colonies of New World
  • Ten in each viceroyalty
  • Part of colonial administrative system
  • Staffed by professional magistrates

 Pedro Alvares Cabral

  • Portuguese leader of an expedition to India
  • blown off course in 1500 and landed in Brazil


  • Strips of land along Brazilian coast granted to minor Portuguese nobles for development
  • Enjoyed limited success in developing the colony due to the lack of capital needed to carry out colonization, and some had problems with the native population.


  • Backwoodsmen from Sao Paulo in Brazil
  • Penetrated Brazilian interior in search of precious metals during the 17th century

Minas Gerais

  • Region of Brazil located in mountainous interior where gold strikes where discovered in 1695
  • Became location for gold rush
  • 5000 immigrants came each year from Portugal

Rio de Janeiro

  • Brazilian port
  • Close to mines of Minas Gerais
  • Importance grew with gold strikes
  • Became colonial capital in 1763
  • Local wealth was sponsor to building churches


 Sociedad de Castas

  • American social system based on racial origins
  • Europeans or white at top, black slaves or Native Americans at bottom, mixed races in middle


  • People living in the New World Spanish colonies but born in Spain


  • White born in the New World
  • Dominated local Latin American economies and ranked just beneath peninsulares

 Amigos del pais

  • Clubs and associations dedicated to improvements and reform in Spanish colonies
  • Flourished during the 18th century
  • Called for material improvements rather than political reform

War of the Spanish Succession

  • Resulted from Bourbon family's succession to Spanish throne in 1701
  • Ended by Treaty of Utrecht in 1713
  • Resulted in recognition of Bourbons, loss of some lands, grants of commercial rights to English and French

Charles III

  • Spanish enlightened monarch
  • Ruled from 1759 to 1788
  • Instituted fiscal, administrative and military reforms in Spain and its empire


Jose de Galvez (1720-1787)

  • Spanish minister of the West Indies and chief architect of colonial reforms
  • Moved to eliminate Creoles from upper bureaucracy of the colonies
  • Created intendants for local governments


Marquis of Pombal

  • Prime minister of Portugal from 1755 to 1776
  • Acted to strengthen royal authority in Brazil
  • Expelled Jesuits
  • Enacted fiscal reforms and established monopoly companies to stimulate the colonial economy


Comunero Revolt

  • Resulted from popular complaints against the government's control of tobacco and liquor consumption, as well as rising prices and increased taxes.
  • Happened in 1781
  • Almost took the capital in New Granada (present day Columbia)
  • Suppressed as a result of divisions among rebels


Tupac Amaru (1738-1781)

  • Mestizo leader of Indian revolt in Peru, who was in direct link to the family of Incas.
  • Supported by many among lower social classes
  • For almost three years the whole viceroyalty was thrown into turmoil while more than 70,000 Indians, Mestizos, and even a few creoles joined in rebellion against the worst abuses of the colonial regime.
  • Revolt eventually failed because of Creole fears of real social revolution in 1783



  • First area of Spanish exploration and settlement
  • Served as experimental region for nature of Spanish colonial experience
  • Ecomiendo system of colonial management initiated here



  • The holder of a grant of Indians who were required to pay a tribute or provide labor
  • Was responsible for their integration into the church


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