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Mexico: Growing Corns, Native Population

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Maize originated from highland Mexico when hunter-gatherers domesticated wild plants into a sustainable crop. This crop quickly became the foundation that allowed the Aztec and Inca empires to flourish. The practice of growing corn spread slowly from Mexico and into the Americas, where it was adopted by the native people inhabiting those areas. At the time the inhabitants of the Americas were nomadic hunter-gatherers. The agricultural practice of growing corn allowed and encouraged these groups to settle on one location, and therefore form complex societies reminiscent of the great empires that reigned throughout central Mexico.

These three societal groups used the agricultural practice of growing corn as encouragement to settle down. Since these groups were previously hunter-gatherers, they were nomadic. This is because hunting and gathering are not sustainable practices, so they would exhaust the resources available in a specific location and therefore they were forced to move. This is where agriculture comes in: Growing crops allowed these groups to settle themselves in an area, which in turn allowed them to spend less energy gathering food and more energy building impressive architecture and complex societies that are still studied by historians to this day. Growing corn also meant that these societies had to innovate constantly invent new technology to cultivate their agricultural practices. For example the Pueblo people invented an intricate irrigation system to water their crops. This and similar technological advances are why the cultivation of corn was essential to the development of the impressive societies of native america.

It was easier for the Europeans because at the time, the native people were very spread out, both in a geographical sense but also in a social sense. Not only were they living far away from each other but they didn’t have the complex and unified societies that Mexico had (by way of the Aztec and Inca empires). This meant that it was harder to fight back and defend yourself as a single small group against an imposing force of european explorers. in the sense that maize had been used to build the great empires and complex societies that these groups lacked when the europeans arrived. Explain some of the factors that led to European exploration and conquest of Africa and the Americas between the 14th and 16th centuries. In your response, be sure to reference the following terms: compass, caravel, printing press, national state, Christianity, and Asia.

One factor that motivated european exploration and conquest was the europeans’ hunger for the exotic goods that Asia had to offer. These were of course very promising to wealth hungry europeans, however the means by which these goods were transported were costly and required lengthy and dangerous journeys. This is because european merchants would half to travel by land, either by camelback or by foot, or they had to take even longer journeys by sea on unreliable and unsafe ships. In addition to this tolls added an additional fee, meaning that by the time the products made it to european traders, it was no longer worth what it needed to be sold for. So clearly the inefficiency of this system motivated europeans to find a better way to trade with Asia. Another factor that motivated this expansion was christianity. For hundreds of years, christian warriors launched military efforts to take the holy land back from it’s muslim inhabitants.

Although their efforts were in vain, the military power they acquired motivated them to venture into asia and search for exotic goods. For much of european history up until this point, sailing around the western side of Africa had been rarely attempted and considered impossible because of the sheer danger of the weather. This changed with Portugal’s invention of the caravel, which was a small ship that could sail around the continent of Africa without staying too far away from the coastline, therefore faring the weather more safely and reliably. This allowed the Portuguese to explore further into the southern part of Africa. After the portuguese reached and attempted to conquer the tip of the African coastline, their caravels pushed further towards their initial goal: Asia. Spain had recently ended an internal conflict while this all was going on so Spain had the desire to outdo, or at least match Portugal in its efforts to secure the indies. In addition to this, Spain was at a new high point in the development of its national-state and the next necessary step was exploration and a goal of conquest. Seeing that Portugal controlled much of the coastline of Africa, Spain turned its attention to the west, not knowing the implications of such a journey.

Finally, two crucial pieces of technology aided in the european “discovery” of the new world. These would be the printing press and the compass. The printing press allowed information to be reliably and uniformy shared. This meant that maps and scientific knowledge could be printed without human error, making exploration safer and more efficient. The compass, which was borrowed from the arabs rather than invented by europeans, allowed sailors to plot their courses with much more accuracy than was previously possible. Spain claimed much of what is now Mexico, and the western coastline of South America. This isn’t surprising since the countries located in those areas speak spanish, or a modern adaptation of it. Portugal claimed much of what is now Brazil and the eastern coast of South America. Again, this is not surprising considering Brazil speaks portuguese in the modern day. Define the Columbian Exchange (click here for a map). (Map not working) The Columbian Exchange, as the name suggests, was a mass-exchange of plants, animals, food, and diseases between the historic old world and the already inhabited but newly advertised new world.

The europeans discovered that the caribbean climate is ideal for growing and sustaining sugarcane, which fueled the sugar industry in europe. The so called “sugar revolution” drastically changed the average european diet, since it now included large amounts of sugar. In addition to this the precious metals found in the americas were perfect to be used to trade with Asia. Explain how the Columbian Exchange harmed Native American populations. When the europeans arrived in native america they brought with them two deadly plagues that would spell out a disaster for the indigenous societies. The first is a plethora of deadly diseases. These were so common in europe that over centuries the europeans had developed antibodies that made them immune from contracting these diseases again. However, the native americans did not have these antibodies, so the diseases brought a scourge upon them that killed the majority of their population. The other deadly force brought to the americas in 1492 was the Europeans themselves. It may seem trivial to state this since it is a widely recognized fact, but the Europeans killed and enslaved the much of the remaining native population that had not died to disease and pestilence.

The columbian exchange also brought over horses, which were quickly adopted by the native people of the plains. Describe the impact of New World gold and silver on the economies of Europe. The sudden influx of silver and gold to europe caused three main effects. The first is that it caused the cost of goods to increase as much as 500% in the century following the european “discovery” of the new world. The second effect was that from this tremendous wealth came the system we now know as capitalism. The third effect is that any amount of gold and silver that was tasted by europe just made it crave more, thereby funding more and more expeditions to the americas to search for more precious metals. It also fueled trade with Asia with kept the european economy in rotation.

The encomienda system was a system that the spanish used to enslave the native people by giving them to a colonist in return for converting them to christianity. To what extent were these efforts successful? They were temporarily successful due to the degree of the brutality exacted on the pueblo people, but eventually they fought back in the Pope’s Rebellion, which burned the missions and churches that the spanish had set up in that area. The caste system was a legal system of rankings based on race that gave certain privileges to certain people (occupying a higher class in the caste system) and deprived certain people of those privileges (occupying a lower class in the caste system). To what extent was it possible to move up or down on the caste system ladder? Explain using specific historical evidence. There were a few ways to move up in the caste system. The first is to officially buy an exemption that would allow a person to obtain “legal whiteness,” thereby giving them access to the privileges given to those at the top of the caste system (people of spanish descent who were born in spain). Another way to move up in the caste system is by marrying up, or by marrying someone with a lighter skin color than your own. This was a less official means of obtaining a higher place in the caste system, however it did encourage race mixing which would be known as a large contributing factor to the culture in that area to this day.

Juan Gines de Sepulveda presented two main points in his argument. The first was blatantly belittling the native americans (who are referred to as “indians” due to the time from which these texts were written) by calling them things such as barbarians or animals. His second point was that the native people at the time, specifically referring to the complex societies of the Aztec and Inca empires, did indeed have a complex and impressive society, though they had nothing for their own and they bent to the will of their rulers. He used this to his advantage relating to european colonization by saying that the natives would not be opposed to changing masters, especially when their new masters (the spanish) were a much more benevolent and christian people. Here is a quote from Sepulveda affirming this view (taken from the reading): “To take advantage of the death of a king in order to obtain a freer state and one more favorable to their interests; by not doing so, they have stated quite clearly that they have been born to slavery and not to civic and liberal life. Therefore, if you wish to reduce them, I do not say to our domination, but to a servitude a little less harsh, it will not be difficult for them to change their masters, and instead of the ones they had, who were barbarous and impious and inhuman, to accept the Christians, cultivators of human virtues and the true faith.” In this quote (taken from the reading), Sepulveda expresses that by liberating the native people from their original “masters” and replacing them with the spanish, they were doing them a favor

Bartolome de las Casas made the point that the native people were a very advanced, skilled, and intellectual race, and that they did not deserve to be unfairly belittled by Sepulveda in a public spectacle. He argues that the aboriginal people had a complex and functional society and nation-states before even hearing of the europeans. He also made a comparison between the natives and the spaniards and the spaniards and the romans, wherein the romans represented the spanish oppression in new spain. He used this example to illustrate the horror of the black legend in terms that were understandable by the spanish citizens of that time. An excerpt from his comparison is as follows (as is stated in the assigned reading): “Do you think that the Romans, once they had subjugated the wild and barbaric peoples of spain, could with secure right divide all of you amongst yourselves.”

His final point was that the indians were not a barbaric people and did not deserve to be murdered and tortured, though they did have a tendency towards learning christianity with relative ease. He states, “I do not know whether there is any people readier to receive the gospel,” perfectly illustrating his intentions with the new world. This quote also came from the assigned reading. The Pueblo Revolt, or what might be more accurately referred to as the “Great Southwestern Revolt,” was the combined efforts of many of the indigenous tribes of the southwest to break free of spanish control around the year 1680. A close relationship between horticultural people such as the Pueblo people and nomadic groups such as the Ute people, and their ability to spread information to each other quickly and efficiently, contributed to a successful revolt.

The main success of the pueblo revolt is obvious: the pueblo people and other indigenous groups gained 12 years of freedom from spanish rule. Although a number of these groups were eventually recaptured by the spanish in 1692, some remained independent, such as the Hopi people, who had indeed been contributors to the large uprising. The revolt was briefly successful in purging spanish and christian influence from the areas. This was accomplished by the destruction of churches and other religious items. Of course this eventually turned to failure when the spanish returned with a greater military presence to take back the people they had lost over the course of the 12 year revolt. One failure of the revolt was to reinstate the way of life that the pueblo people had lived for countless centuries before. This is a failure because the full extent of the influence of the spanish could not be properly and completely wiped out from the lives of the pueblo people and the land surrounding them. Another success was that the revolt brought various groups in the area closer together, despite language and cultural barriers.

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Mexico: Growing Corns, Native Population. (2019, Jun 27). GradesFixer. Retrieved October 25, 2021, from
“Mexico: Growing Corns, Native Population.” GradesFixer, 27 Jun. 2019,
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