The conquest of Mexico and Peru: Impact

The conquest of Mexico and Peru: Impact

Cultural Impact

  • Catholic Christianity was imposed on the indigenous populations of Mexico and Peru by Spanish conquerors.
  • Prominent ancient buildings and monuments, particularly religious structures of the Aztec and Inca civilisations, were often demolished or repurposed for Christian missions.
  • Native languages were suppressed and Spanish was enforced, leading to a significant reduction in the use of indigenous languages.
  • The intermixing of cultures resulted in a new hybrid ‘Mestizo’ culture, blending Spanish and native customs, arts, and folklore.

Societal Impact

  • The arrival of Europeans introduced new diseases, including smallpox, measles, and influenza, which devastated native populations as they had no immunity against them. This led to a dramatic decrease in indigenous populations.
  • The Spanish enforced a system of forced labour known as ‘encomienda’, where indigenous people were made to work in mines and plantations.
  • The casta system, a hierarchical system of race classification, was introduced by the Spanish, leading to a stratified society with Spanish-born whites at the top and native or African-descended slaves at the bottom.
  • The native populations were forcibly converted to Catholic Christianity, affecting their societal structure and traditions.

Political Impact

  • The conquest led to the abolishment of indigenous political structures such as the Aztec and Inca Empires, and their replacement with Spanish colonial administrations.
  • The centralization of power occurred, as the Spanish monarchy controlled the politics, economics, and social structure of the new world via their viceroyalties.
  • The so-called ‘discovery’ of the New World significantly enhanced Spain’s international prestige and influence.

Economic Impact

  • The Spanish exploited the rich mineral resources of Mexico and Peru, notably silver, which greatly enriched the Spanish economy and shifted the balance of global economic power towards Europe.
  • New agricultural products such as potatoes, tomatoes, maize, bean varieties, and cocoa were brought to Europe, transforming the continent’s agricultural and culinary landscapes.
  • Due to the conquest, Spain established a global trade network, which included the Manila galleons between Mexico and Asia, fostering a global economic system for the first time in history.