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Discovery Of The Americas

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The Discovery of the Americas Ð'- Truth and Myth

The discovery and conquer of the Americas in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries single-handedly changed the course of the world. History books have taught us that experienced Spanish conquistadors used brilliant insight and unique military strategies to conquer hundreds of thousands of American natives with only a handful of men. We have been taught that prominent conquistadors such as Columbus, Cortes, and Pizzaro were great visionaries whose main goal in life was to serve their King by increasing the Spanish empire, by spreading the Catholic religion, and by returning vast amounts of wealth to Spain. We have also been taught these few great men changed history and are remembered because they were indeed selfless individuals, exceptional conquerors, and unique strategists Ð'- but in all reality, this is not exactly the truth! In all reality, the conquistadors were selfish, violent, back stabbing individuals who slaughtered thousands of innocent people and destroyed native cultures in order to achieve titles, governorships, and riches for themselves. This is the true nature of the men we now recognize as being responsible for changing the course of the world.

A long time before any of these long remembered conquistadors explored and conquered the Americas, a well-defined Conquest plan had already been developed. These procedures were widely used and were standard practices that ALL Spanish conquistadors used during this period of time. These procedures included provisions for legalizing the conquest, petitioning the King

for conquest licenses, searching for precious metals, making allies of the natives, acquiring interpreters from the native population, engaging in theatrical violence as a means of subduing the natives, and seizing the native ruler.

At first glance the actions of Cortes, Pizzaro, and other conquistadors reek of brilliance; but when we compare their actions to the already developed Conquest plan, we can begin to dissect these actions and fit them neatly into the seven aspects of the existing Conquest plan. We realize there was nothing unique about their actions. Most of the strategies they used in conquering the Americas had already been used many times before they used them.

There was nothing unique about Cortes' actions when he founded the imaginary Vera Cruz and petitioned the King for a license to explore and conquer. He was merely following the first two aspects of the Conquest plan. When Cortes and Pizzaro rigorously searched for gold and silver, they did so in order to pay debts, remain in good faith with the Spanish rulers, and to provide funding to finance additional explorations Ð'- thus fulfilling the third aspect. Although Cortes' use of Malinche as an interpreter and his making of allies with the natives in the midst of a civil war appears to be the logic of a brilliant strategist, it was actually standard conquistador military strategy. For many years, explorers had been using this strategy as a way to supplement their outnumbered troops. Although we regard both Cortes and Pizzaro as brutal killers because they seized the native rulers and killed scores of innocent and unarmed natives, they were actually following documented military strategy. They did this to inflict terror and to convince the natives it was in their best interest to cooperate. These actions fulfilled the final two aspects of the conquest plan.

Another myth surrounding the conquistadors was the fact that they were reported to be highly educated Spanish soldiers. Again, this was not entirely true. In a military sense, they were a troop of armed men on horseback and foot. Although most of them had some combat experience, they had no formal strategic military training. These men had gained experience from fighting natives in prior expeditions. The men who made up the troops were actually armed artisans, farmers, horse owners, etc. instead of professional soldiers. These men were not acting on orders from their Spanish rulers nor were they paid a salary. Most expeditions were not funded by their governments. The troop members were individuals who had put up their personal funds and banded together to follow leaders such as Cortes and Pizzaro in the hope of conquering wealthy lands in order to achieve a greater personal wealth.

So when did society begin referring to these men as soldiers and why did this happen? It certainly was not because Cortes or Pizzaro referred to their troops as soldiers. It happened in the decades and centuries that followed the conquest. As nations began to develop the type of specialized armed forces that we are familiar with today, society began to relate the troops of the earlier conquistadors with these more modern armies. This myth benefited the royal Spanish state because they are given almost exclusive credit for Spanish expansion.

Although conquistadors were normally significantly outnumbered, they were very successful during the conquests. However, their success was not achieved alone. It was not achieved because they were superior warriors with superior battle experience and superior weapons. It was because they used a vast amount of native allies and African slaves. In some cases, the conquistadors took advantage of the internal native problems and the civil unrest that was transpiring between the natives when they arrived. They used these problems to conspire

with some of the native tribes and were able to convince them to join forces in over throwing the rulers. In other cases, the Spaniards increased by their troops by using natives and Africans from prior conquests.

Although there are some reference made in historical documents to their contributions, the importance of their contributions have been significantly downplayed during the last few centuries. Even more significantly, the fact that the natives used the Spaniards to help them achieve their own personal goal appears to be often overlooked. The importance of the contributions of approximately six thousand Indians in the invasion of Guatemala, the joining of Tlaxcalans with the Spaniards to destroy the capital city of the Mexica empire, and the native support of Pizzaro's troops in the Andeas appears to have been forgotten. The myth that troops of a few hundred Spanish troops won battles against thousands and thousands of natives doesn't give justice to the thousands of others that did battle along side them. This myth led the world to believe the Spanish achieved conquest by themselves and it fueled the Europeans thought of supremacy. Although this myth over rated the experience and expertise of the conquistadors, it did create a desire for additional exploration in the decades following



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