Monday, October 6, 2008
Prompt Numbah 1
The first and most important motivation for European countries to sail out across the Atlantic may have come from Gold, however, in the long run the most consequential motivation came from God. The Spanish, who sent Columbus out to sea (in 1492) were hoping that by sailing across the Atlantic (a.k.a. The Ocean Blue), a new route to Asia would be discovered. At the time, imported goods from Asia (like spices) had to be brought to Europe by land and were heavily taxed at each stopping point along the way. Were an effective water route to Asia to be opened, the prices would drop drastically, which is exactly what happened when Vasco da Gama rounded Africa. However, when Columbus hit land he thought he'd found Asia when he'd really found what we know today as America. He didn't find much valuable ore, (unlike Cortés and Pizarro) but did find people and new cultures. Around thirty years later Cortés in Mexico and Pizarro in Peru (both Spanish expeditions) found a wealth of culture as well. Neither the Aztecs in Mexico nor the Incas in Peru had ever heard the name of christ though they did have their own form of gods and worship. This gave the Christian religion the oppurtunity of a century to expand it's followers. Missionaries began pouring into the New World educating the native pagan population to their "high" way of living. The Spanish were and still are an intensely religious culture what with the Inquisition and Wars of Religion. However, not all things religious in Spain were violent. When the missionaries reached America they tried to protect theit new converts from oppresseion and overwork; the natives had sometimes previously been enslaved, tortured, and even used as human sacrifices by their own people. This is not to say that the Spanish were anything but insensitive to the natives (for example Cortés's swindling and slaughtering of the Aztec king and his people who had thought him to be the prophecized pale-skinned god quetzalcoatl). The Americas gave Christianity a place to turn, being that the Old World had been pretty well divided by then. The natives were plentiful and ready for the conversion, providing a prime sight upon which The City of God might be rebuilt. With the reconquista in southern Spain just finished and later on the Protestant Reformation rearing it's ugly head and the militant Jesuits appearing, Catholicism was up and about at home as well as in the New World. However, the biggest evidence of God's importance in the New World is the way it is today. Peru is over 80% Roman Catholic and Mexico is over 75% Roman Catholic. Not to mention the two countries' primary language is Spanish. There were just as many missionaries traveling to the Americas as there were merchants and businessmen. Within the last 200 years many of these New World countries have gained their independence from their colonial parents, including Mexico, Peru and Cuba. In the end it was religion that lasted. While the initial idea was to use the America's as a means for trade with Asia, which then became gold and silver exchange with Asia across Mexico, it's most important and longest lasting consequence was that of religion.