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Mexican History - Term Paper Example

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Reign and Revolution in Mexico: The Political and Social Complexities of Spanish Rule Name Professor Class Date The ancient Aztec civilization that had established itself in the Valley of Mexico before 1200 fell prey to a mixture of circumstance, internal politics and military inferiority before the Spanish forces led by Hernan Cortes…
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Mexican History
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Download file to see previous pages Of course, the Spaniards’ military superiority is well documented. Moctezuma’s warriors were bewildered by the firepower Cortes’ men brought to bear and the Aztec population was decimated by the smallpox pandemic. It all happened with shocking speed: Cortes made landfall at the Gulf of Mexico in 1519; two years later, he and his men entered the smoking ruins of Tenochtitlan, masters of Mexico.1 In so short a time, the Aztec empire was completely shattered. “Conquered by Cortes, the Indians of central Mexico had to come to terms with a radically new society.”2 What would follow was a cauldron of ethnic, social and political change. The conquest of the Aztecs was the great drama that raised the curtain on Mexico’s colonial epoch. The Spaniards had adroitly forged alliances among the peoples of Central Mexico, yet these fared little better than their Aztec victims. The Tarascans, among others, benefited in the short term from the conquest of Tenochtitlan, but they were no more impervious to the ravages of smallpox than their ancient oppressors. They didn’t have long to wait before discovering that the Spanish, who had promised so much, were to become their new oppressors. 2 The first Audiencia, established by decree in 1527, established a pattern of corruption that would become a hallmark of the Spanish occupation. It was also illustrative of the struggle between church and government over a number of issues, not the least of which was the treatment of the natives. Juan de Zumarraga, first bishop of Mexico, wrote a letter to King Charles V of Spain complaining of the depredations committed by the administration of Nuno de Guzman. Zumarraga’s letter addressed everything from illegal land grabs to outright murder. He writes that since the Audiencia was established, “they have declared vacant many and very good encomiendas of Indians, more than thirty of them, either by exiling those who held them, or by confiscation”3 Zumarraga proceeded to list the encomiendas the Audiencia itself had bestowed on the native population. It got worse: Zumarraga went on to list breathtakingly immoral behavior by Guzman and his cronies. On one occasion, “the lords of Tlateloco of this city came to me weeping so bitterly that I was struck with pity for them; and they complained to me saying that the president and oidores were demanding of them their good-looking daughters, sisters, and female relatives.”4 Things had gotten so bad, Zumarraga reported, that an Audiencia official demanded that the Indians provide what amounted to a personal harem for Guzman. The president had also wasted little time engaging in a slave trade at the expense of the natives. Zumarraga reached the end of his rope when the Audiencia forced him to desist from acting in the capacity of defender of Indian rights. Eventually, Zumarraga’s complaints and the opposition of Guzman’s 3 political enemies, such as Cortes, were enough to convince the authorities of Guzman’s guilt. In 1538, he was arrested for treason and for abusing the government’s subjected Indian populations. One may question the veracity of some of Zumarraga’s charges, but there can be no doubt that Guzman and the oidores of the Audiencia had been told to treat the natives with respect and ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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