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The Colonial Heritage of Latin America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1970. Burns, E. Bradford. ... 1681 Recopilacion de Leyes de las Indias. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Latin%20America

Latin Americas Colonial Foundations
  • Maxwell A. Cameron

Conquest as Clash of Cultures

The Encounter
  • The conquest, discovery, encounter brought
    cultures together that had never been previously
    exposed to one another.
  • In 1492 100 million people lived in the New
    World, 1/5th of the human race.
  • Catastrophic population collapse through disease
    was one immediate result - 95 percent of Central
    Mexico wiped out.

The Capture of Atahualpa
  • The requerimiento (1512-1542) The document
    exhorted the Indians to acknowledge the Church,
    the Pope, and the King and Queen of Spain, and
    warned them that failure to do so would bring
    harm and damage, and spilt blood.

The Capture of Atahualpa
  • Friar Valverde read from the Requerimiento to
    Atahualpa Atahualpa attempted to listen to the
    book, and then threw it aside saying What, why
    doesnt this book talk to me?
  • Pizzaro attacks, takes Atahualpa hostage.
    Demands ransom, then kills Atahualpa.


What do we Know about Spain?
  • Advanced technology
  • WMD small pox, flu, measles, yellow fever,
    plague, cholera, malaria
  • Technical skill and weapons navigation, gun
    power, cavalry.

Economic Base
  • 2. Spain was mercantilist, seeking new
    opportunities for trade, not very
    entrepreneurial. Great apparent material wealth
    ie. had the resources to colonize yet moribund

  • 3. Possessed a sense of mission and desire for
    conquest (little social mobility for non-nobles).
    Religious intolerance. Also, a warrior culture
    expelled Moors Spain (Isabellas Castilia and
    Ferdinands Aragon) unified under a powerful
    crown. Nobility weak. Absolutist state.

  • A highly legalistic culture
  • Three types of law
  • Divine law Gods will
  • Natural law Divine law embodied in nature
  • Human law Fallible approximation of divine law
  • E.g. The requerimiento

What do we Know about the Indigenous Peoples?
  • Three important civilizations Mayan, Aztec,
  • Diverse forms of political organization

Bartolome de las Casas
  • they had properly organized states, wisely
    ordered by excellent laws, religion, and custom.
    They cultivated friendship and, bound together in
    common fellowship, lived in populous cities in
    which they wisely administered the affairs of
    both peace and war justly and equitably truly
    governed by laws that at very many points surpass
    ours, and could have won the admiration of the
    sages of Athens.

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The Mayans(Classic Period 200-900 AD)
  • A diverse cluster of small monarchic or
    oligarchic polities.
  • Brilliant architects, advanced art, astronomy,
  • Had a more accurate solar year than Europe until
    the late 16th century. Calculated the lunar month
    to within seconds.

Mayan Literacy
  • Literate Fully developed writing system
    combining phonetics and ideographs. Used stone
    and parchment.
  • Compared sometimes with Egypt in terms of (glyphs
    and hieroglyphic script) but not the centralized
    political organization. The Mayan civilization
    was a loose system of querulous states, not
    unlike the Hellenic world, or Renaissance Italy.

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The Incas
  • Incas were masters of political organization.
    They created an empire that covered territory
    from contemporary Chile and Argentina to Ecuador.
  • At time of conquest, they had just undergone a
    civil war over succession.
  • Their leader The Inca. Political system
    hierarchical and personalist. Last Inca,
  • Basic unit of society Ayllu, or local village
    and kinship groups.
  • Inca empire (3 million by conservative estimates)
    was organized by means of oral communication.

Inca Proto-Literacy
  • Means of accounting Quipu.
  • Quipu officials called quipucamayoc

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Conquest and Culture
  • The Spaniards deliberately destroyed the cultural
    products of the Amerindians.
  • The recognized that their products embodied the
    principles of their social organization, which
    they sought to disrupt.
  • This was a more radical kind of conflict that
    anything to which the Indians have previously
    been exposed. It was, in a word, genocidal.

Colonial Vandalism
  • The destruction of artifacts fulfilled two
  • - undermined resistance social organization
  • - created the conditions for Christianization.
  • Mayan glyphs, codices, Inca quipus, were
    destroyed with ruthless thoroughness, as well as
    efforts to transcribe Mayan hieroglyphics into
    alphabetic text.

Denial of Access to Text and Literacy
  • The early debate over literacy among Indians
  • Why did Indians learn to write? Indian nobility
    sought to retain status and power.
  • The counter-reformation (late 16th Century).
  • Absence of tradition of customary law.
  • Destruction of indigenous culture the cultural
    effects of colonialism.

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No Legislation
  • 1542 New Laws 1681 Recopilacion de Leyes de
    las Indias.
  • No legislature
  • No checks and balances
  • Close links between church and state

Challenges for the Colonial System
  • Crown (peninsulares)/colonizers (creoles) split
  • Encomienda Entrusting of a community to the
    Spanish colonist for tribute, protection, and
  • I obey but do not comply (obedezco pero no

Upward Accountability
  • King or queen, in alliance with the Pope.
  • Council of the Indies
  • The council of Indies appointed the Viceroys
  • Answered to audiencias
  • corregidores and alcaldes
  • caciques, clerical authorities, Indian communities

  • At the end of all terms of office, each
    administrator could expect a residencia, a
    judicial inquiry into his public behavior. All
    those checks required an immense amount of
    paperwork, a characteristic abundantly evident in
    all Iberian bureaucracy. A multitude of lawyers,
    scribes, and notaries in all the major cities
    testified to the fascination with and importance
    of legal and bureaucratic matters. Thanks to that
    legal obsession elaborate law codes were drawn up
    in the Old World to govern the New. (Burns 1972

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The Scriptural City
  • A gap developed between the prescriptive minutia
    of the laws and codes and the anarchic
    confusion of the societies over which they
    legislated, a gap filled by lawyers and
    scribes, clerks, and bureaucrats.

Ciudad Escrituraria
  • The language of colonizers, impregnated with the
    courtly norms of the peninsula, was ceremonial,
    ritualistic, baroque, and diplomatic and it stood
    in sharp contrast with the everyday, popular
    language of private and social relations with its
    variegation, informality, clumsiness, and
    incessant invention.
  • In the diatribes of the literate elite, the
    latter was vilified as corrupt, ignorant, and
    barbarous Angel Rama.

Conclusions What did Latin America Inherit from
  • Gap between pais real and pais oficial
  • A tradition of non-compliance with formal rules
  • Social exclusion, especially of indigenous

Further Reading
  • Rama, Angel. The Lettered City. Durham, NC Duke
    University Press, 1996.
  • Wright, Ronald. Stolen Continents. Toronto
    Penguin, 2003.
  • Restall, Matthew. Seven Myths of the Spanish
    Conquest. New York Oxford, 2003.
  • Huntington, Samuel P. The Clash of Civilizations.
    New York Touchstone 1996.
  • Stein, Stanley J. and Barbara H. The Colonial
    Heritage of Latin America. New York Oxford
    University Press, 1970.
  • Burns, E. Bradford. Latin America A Concise
    Interpretive History. New Jersey Prentice Hall,

Key Concepts
  • Scripturalism or scriptural city
  • Encomienda
  • Requerimiento
  • Types of medieval law