Reasons behind the test sample of the Spanish conquest of Mexico.
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Sample test of the reasons behind the Spanish conquest of Mexico.
During the early years of the 16th century, as the Spanish conquistadors prepared to drop anchor on the shores of the “New World,” a myriad of different circumstances began to unfold that would allow this small group of ambitious conquerors not only to discover, but to conquer. the two main civilizations in the area. Although a main reason cannot be cited as the cause of the tremendous Spanish victory, several small factors combined to formulate this monstrous conquest. Diseases, military technology, religious beliefs and internal warfare were some of these factors that allowed a few groups of only a hundred Spanish soldiers to massacre the Aztecs and the Incas, whose populations number in the millions.
Possibly the most important reason behind the ease of the Spanish to conquer the New World was the ignorance and the welcoming nature of the natives. The Spanish were seen as divine visitors at the time of their initial arrival, especially in the case of Hernán Cortés and the conquest of Mexico. Regardless of whether Cortés was believed to be the returning Aztec god, Quetzalcoatl, the Spanish were still viewed with great respect and dignity for their advanced ways of life. The Aztecs made offerings to the Spanish and welcomed them to their city, which Cortés used to outline his plan of attack on the city. He used the unknown generosity of the Aztecs, religious superstition, and ingenuity as a facade for his master plan of conquest. The Aztecs, who were a generally passive group, were baffled by the ferocity of the Spanish. In “Lanzas Rotas”, after the Spanish massacred a town on their way to Mexico, “The people were downcast; they went around with their heads bowed and greeted each other with tears.”
Another primary factor in the conquest of the New World was the introduction of European diseases, such as smallpox, in the areas surrounding the Aztec and Inca Empires. This disease, which was nothing more than a childhood disease in Spain, served as one of the deadliest weapons of the Spanish, decimating large numbers of native warriors and leaving the defenses of the cities severely weakened. Introduced in the New World several years before Cortés’s arrival, Columbus’s travels to the area and the subsequent intertribal contact, smallpox, unknowingly with other bacteria native to Spain, was one of the main causes of the fall of the two great civilizations of the New World.
A clear advantage that Spanish troops had over indigenous peoples was their advanced weapons technology and military training. The Aztecs and Incas had a developed army, trained for inter-tribal warfare, but it was minuscule compared to the Spanish cannons, armor, horses, weapons, and years of refined military tactics. As the Spanish marched over the different cities of the New World, they encountered little resistance from the primitive weapons of the natives, which provided them with bows, arrows, and spears. Spanish horses were like tanks in comparison and thus allowed for a quick and effortless victory, although the Spanish were drastically outnumbered. Furthermore, Spanish knowledge of navigation was a huge benefit, especially in the case of Cortés’s attack on Tenochtitlan, when he faced near-defeat, but regrouped and built a fleet of ships that he used to finally crush the Aztec capital.
The small number of the Spanish invaders was increased in part by their alliances with neighboring tribes that held the Inca and Aztec empires in contempt. On their respective trips to the capitals of the two empires, both Cortés and Pizarro began recruiting native warriors whose tribes were involved in the civil war with the empire. This tactic had several beneficial factors because it not only increased the size of the Spanish force, but also provided knowledge of the land that they otherwise would not have had. Pizarro’s conquest of the Incas was the main example of this advantage, since he was able to conquer an empire that covered much of South America with a crew of only two hundred men, simply reaching a time of great civil war between the empire. “In what is now Peru, the conflict between two claimants to the throne and their supporters played directly into Pizarro’s hands.”
The final reason behind the Spanish’s ability to overwhelm an entire civilization was the strong hierarchy that existed among the nations of the New World. Because of this, as soon as the capital and the king fell under Spanish control, the rest of the empire fell soon after. This made the conquest much easier, as it was not necessary to seize each individual tribe, the Spanish simply needed to strike at the heart and the rest would naturally take its courses. Furthermore, New World Indians were familiar with being ruled, so the implementation of the Spaniards in the position of King was not a big change for them.
Whether by chance or by destination, the Spanish arrived on the shores of the New World at just the right time. It seemed that everything was going well for the Spanish conquerors, since somehow they were able to overcome a civilization that outnumbered their fleets by the millions. Although some of their tactics may have been deceptive and unrelenting, the Aztecs and Incas were subject to some of the best military feat ever seen.