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Clendinnen: Book Review Of Ambivalent Conquests

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Book Review

Ambivalent Conquests: Maya and Spaniard in Yucatan, 1517-1570

Inga Clendinnen book, Ambivalent Conquests: Maya and Spaniard in Yucatan, 1517-1570 is centered on the Spanish incursion of the Yucatan Peninsula, affects on Mayan civilization, and the Spanish struggles in controlling these people. In the beginning, Clendinnen focus here attention on the initial attempts and then eventual success of the Spaniards to solidify themselves within the Yucatan Peninsula. She goes into a detailed backdrop of why many Spaniards were financially forced to look for new lands and peoples to conquer, how they came into the Yucatan, and then eventually their initial disappointment and failure. However, the Mayan victory was short lived as strict determination and new idea's to make profit off resources in this region aside from gold pushed the Spaniards to a point of no return within the Yucatan Peninsula and the eventual Mayan defeat. Secondly, Clendinnen touches on the changing ways of life amongst the native societies due to their new Spanish masters. She focuses more on Mayan changes and the forced acculturation to the Spanish ways of life. Furthermore, she comments on Spanish struggles to utilize commercial opportunities due to the poor agricultural, unsuitable grazing land, lack of labor, and the eventual collapse of the encomienda system. Lastly, Clendinnen touches on the divine front, mentioning the friars initially trying to psychologically discern Mayan behavior and sequences to pinpoint the reasoning's behind Mayan beliefs. Then using what they infer as ammunition toward their constant struggle to convert the native peoples to Christianity and squash any sources of idolatry or anything representing the native religion.

The strengths of Clendinnen's book begin with her detailed explanation of the Spanish failure then success in the Yucatan. The book does a good job showing how the Spanish learned from their many mistakes to having many advantages. With the failed expeditions of Grijalva and the successful expeditions of Cortes, as a member of both parties Montejo and his son used what he learned to engrain himself within the area. The book shows how Montejo struggles badly at first with the environment; the constant rains, vegetation, bugs and wildlife, and the flakey alliances he forges with natives, all posed large problems. Yet what's good is Clendinnen tells the reader how Montejo began to take note of tribe reactions when he claimed to be from another section of the peninsula. Montejo learned mock boundaries of potential provinces and used these to forge alliances and pit rival Mayans factions against each other and supports this claim by directly references Montejo taking this tactic from CortÐ"©s's method in Central Mexico. In addition, Clendinnen expresses the Spaniards hardships through this campaign, mentioning several times their desperate attempts to find water and struggles with the natural environment, on top of facing an enemy in their own backyard, dealing with boogie traps and ambushes on a regular basis. Clendinnen makes it a main point that the Spaniards first were looking for riches and all these hardships would be suitably ok if they could just find some gold. This is such a great point to articulate to the reader, to show how determined and desperate these young conquistadors were in finding a promising fortune in these lands to go through all of this strenuous adventure and work for something that isn't even granteed. Then concludes it all up discussing the Spaniards "European Cultural Superiority" or just being more efficient and consenenscious with your men and materials and "Technical Superiority" and being more technologically advanced than your opponent. Finally, Clendinnen does a great job in telling the reader the psychological effect of the natives. How population decline, small pox invasion, and forced migration due to destroyed villages challenged every facet of the native's way of life to a point were all customs were altered.

Another strongpoint in Clendinnen's hits on is telling the reader how dedicated the friars were in transforming the religions in the America's and the course of a changing relationship between friars and noble Spaniards. She discusses how the Spaniards at first welcomed the friars as a tool for stability within the area and then she does a good job showing the steady of the relationship as friars attempt to control more and more of the natives lives, while the settlers believed the natives were their property.

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