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The Collision Of Cultures

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Around the turn of the 15th century, Europe was in search of a direct water route to Asia. Christopher Columbus and his crew consisting of ninety men, set sail on the three ships, the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa María, in search of this westwardly route to the coast of Asia. Around mid October, the Spanish crew finally saw land out in the distance, this land they’d come upon, however, was not the Asian soil they sought out for. Not to their knowledge, these battered voyagers had stumbled upon the Americas; and little did they know, this discovery would change both the life of those in the Americas, and their own home of Europe forever.

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When Columbus first came across America, he had himself and his crew convinced that he’d completed his task; that he’d found his westward sea route to the East Indies on the continent of Asia. With this in mind, he went onto land to retrieve precious riches to bring back to Spain. He was greeted by the native americans who treated the crew with absolute kindness, but this treatment did not work both ways. Columbus explored the land with one mission: find gold. If tribes had no gold to offer to Columbus, they were enslaved and forced to mine for it. Treatment of the Native Americans by this group of explorers became very poor, very fast. Not long after Columbus found his share of wealth, other European countries caught word, and so began the flow of European conquistadors into the New World intending on getting their own hands on the newfound riches.

Immediately following Columbus’s voyage to the East Indies was the expedition of Hernán Cortés. Cortés and his crew set out for Española but instead stumbled upon Cuba, where he discovered the Aztec Empire. Immediately, Cortés intends to conquer this advanced and wealthy society. He takes emperor Montezuma hostage in the capital city of Tenochtitlan, completely overthrows the empire, and in little time the Aztec empire was in ruins. Raiding of the Aztec capital made Cortés very wealthy and brought more power to Europe. A beautiful society with advanced technologies, religions, and architecture had fallen at the hands of another European explorer with a strong sense of supremacy and no respect for the native societies or culture.

Hernan de Soto and Francisco Pizarro were both among the most well known European conquistadors to visit the Americas. De Soto was second in command to Pizarro on an expedition to the Americas. The expeditioners stumbled upon Peru, and the Incan Empire which resided there. They took over the capitol Cuzco. Once again, a story of conquest: the Incans were enslaved, arson committed, natives were slaughtered. Yet another city was completely destroyed by explorers thirsty for wealth and resources.

The final explorer that I shall mention who impacted the Americas is Jacques Cartier. Cartier was an explorer under France who was searching for gold in the West Indies. Cartier ended up in Canada where which he found was lacking all assets that he’d hoped to find, but he did, however, kidnap two sons of the Indian Chief Donnacona of the Stadacona tribe who would later act as guides on further exploration of the Americas.

The European countries became extremely wealthy upon claiming so much territory on the American continents. European countries with newfound power in the Americas flourished from the abundance natural resources, gold and silver, interesting new trade products, and new methods of farming. The discovery of the New World improved life in Europe, but at what cost? Native American societies were laid waste, strong empires taken, lives lost, and cultures forgotten. Some societies that were native to the Americas simply disappeared. Diseases and Illness had a large effect on native population, but yet the most potent of outbreaks are said to have been brought over from the Europe countries. There is always a great price to pay when the stronger are consumed by thirst for money and power. Someone has to lose, where others gain; but still all this was necessary in order to further develop technology and spread ideas. It is safe to say the New World was affected by the Old World, and the Old affected by the New. Despite whether or not the methods of conquest are agreeable, when the European explorers stumbled upon what they knew as the West Indies, the Americas and Europe changed phenomenally; and through these changes had shaped the way that our world is today.

15 April 2020

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