The Iberian Powers in Colonial Empires

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The Iberian powers were able to establish and maintain colonial empires in the Americas for so long based on luck. There was no way to foresee the outcome of each conquest. There were a few times that the battles could have gone either way. It is commonly argued that the Iberians were able to colonize easily because they were “civilized men” while the natives were “barbarians”. (Restall 132) The real culprits were military prowess, strategic thinking, Iberian disease, and lack of a unified community. In Matthew Restall’s book Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest, he addresses the myth of superiority regarding the Indigenous peoples of Latin America. It was thought that because Colonial Latin America was conquered in the name of the Church, God was on the side of the Iberians. “The succession of bulls (proclamations) issued by Pope Alexander VI in 1493 grandly, if vaguely, ceded to Ferdinand and Isabella the right to occupy “such islands and lands…as you have discovered or are about to discover.”” (Mills, Taylor, Lauderdale Graham 64) The Spanish Crown had the blessings of the church on their side. When you listen to the topical versions of accounts from that time period, they reveal a one sided account of events. However, Restall’s in depth look at the colonization of Latin America, specifically Mexico, shows a different side of the story. In Mexico and Peru, the Iberian advantage was less about God and more about superior military technology. The indigenous peoples had not been exposed to the caliber of weapons the Iberians brought with them when they came to Latin America. As a result the Indigenous people’s weapons were antiquated and were offered no aid in fighting off the resistance. The indigenous people fought “with slings, spears, two-handed swords edged with obsidian, and bows and arrows”. (Burkholder and Johnson 54) The Iberians were mounted. They were equipped with “mobility, the firepower of artillery, steel swords and armor”. (Burkholder and Johnson...
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