Graded Paper #3
“Structures of Spanish America and the Forms of Agency That Challenged Them”
When the Spanish were firmly settled in the America’s they needed to establish themselves with legitimacy and structure to obtain the goals of the colonists and the crown. Some of these structures were policies they tried to enforce to maintain authority over the natives. Some were to maintain the social hierarchy with Spanish Catholics at the top. Some were to provide the ability to harness the resources that they were searching to harvest in the new world. But with every structure that the Spanish tried to maintain, there were always people who tried to challenge that structure that was trying to control them, some directly and some passively. I will examine and discuss some of these structures and explain who challenged them and what forms of agency they used in order to challenge them. The first 3 structures of this paper will discuss the different forms of controlling the labor that the Spanish needed to acquire from the Indians for their efforts to be successful. The first is the involuntary labor system of the encomienda, the second is the government sponsored labor draft of the repartimiento, and the third being the adoption of tribute policies in Mexico, in regards to the textiles and cotton garment weaving by women. The next structure we address is the Spanish’s policies against magic, witchcraft, and superstition and how it was used by natives to improve their own personal lives. Lastly, we will discuss the groups that rebelled against Spanish Imperialism and were even able to make gains against the Spanish.
To address my first structure, we first have to discuss the reasons that the Spanish felt like their actions against the Indian people were justified and legitimate. Patricia Seed explains why the Spanish felt justified and entitled to invoke these against the Indians in her book, American Pentimiento: The Invention of the Indians and the Pursuit of Riches. Seed explains that the Spanish Catholics believed that God had placed natural resources, like gold and silver, under the Earth so that his “true believers” would be able to use and benefit from them. This stemmed from Muslim beliefs in the Iberian Peninsula along similar lines.1 Because of this shared belief, it was god’s plan for the Spanish to obtain these resources because they were his people carrying out his will. When the Spanish arrived in the America’s they noticed what they considered devilish, evil, uncivilized, and primitive practices among the natives like cannibalism and sodomy. They also noticed them worshiping many different idols and primitive gods. Since the Indians were not believers in God, they had no claim to the resources he had left beneath the surface of the Earth for his followers to be able to use. This also gave the Spanish the justification that it was their destiny that they were drawn to the New World so that they could save the Indians from their primitive and evil ways and Christianize them and deliver them to god. The gold, silver, and other resources that they found in the New World would serve as the resources necessary in order to fulfill God’s plan. One way of looking at the motives of the Spanish in the new world could simply be put, that the Spanish came to the new world for Gold and for God. From here the Spanish needed to be able to establish structures to enable the use of Indians as labor to harness the resources of the new world. This leads us to the first structure that the Spanish Crown would establish. In order to use Indians for labor purposes to extract the resources of the land, without enslaving them, the crown instituted the Encomienda. This entitled Spanish colonists, who had control over a certain area and royal approval, to rights to obtain labor from the community of natives they had dominion over. Queen Isabel was adamant about the fact that the...
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