Response #1

Alexandra Troiano

Professor Alvarez

English 255

11 February 2012

Colonization and Expansion in the Americas

                 Spain’s colonization of the Americas greatly affected the natives that occupied the lands.  History has depicted the colonization of the Americas through the eyes of the Europeans, but there is another side to the story. The Spaniards, in an effort to gain more land, violently invaded the land, killing most of the natives and forcing their culture upon the rest.  Fray Bartolome de Las Casas provides a primary source of the treatment of the natives by the Spaniards:

It should be kept in mind that their insatiable greed and ambition, the greatest ever seen in the world, is the case of their villainies. And also, those lands are so rich and felicitous, the native peoples so meek and patient, so easy to subject, that our Spaniards have no more consideration for them than beasts. And I should say this from my own knowledge of the acts I witnessed. But I should not say “than beasts” for, thanks be to God, they have treated beasts with some respect; I should say instead like excrement on the public squares. (De Las Casas 17)

De Las Casas clearly contrasts the “greed and ambition” of the Americans with the meekness and patience of the natives. This contrast highlights the weakness of the native people compared to the strong, greedy Spaniards who “subject” the natives as a mere means to more land, control, and power.  This contrast also highlights the unfairness of the situation; the Spaniards take over the defenseless natives deprive them of the rich land that they laid claim to first. De Las Casas also emphasizes the notion that the Spaniards consider the natives “beasts.” This statement implies that the Spaniards do not see them as people, but primitive animals. Clearly, in the eyes of De Las Casas, the Spaniards dehumanized the natives; the Spaniards treat “beasts” with more respect than the natives. De Las Casas retracts his insufficient comparison and states that the Spaniards treated the natives with the amount of respect they would pay to “excrement on the public squares.”  Once again, this implies the cruel, dehumanizing treatment of the natives during the colonization by the Spaniards.

In 1848, two years after the Unites States invaded Mexico, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was established which annexed Texas, plus 500,000 square miles of land, into the Unites States. The Mexicans who resided in these areas were given a year to return to Mexico or become American citizens. Most rural areas did not receive this message until the time limit expired and, consequentially, most Mexican families became American citizens by force. These Mexican families’ land grants were also taken away from them during this process. Ilan Stavans addresses the effect of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on the Latino’s. He states, “Among the majority of Latinos, the agreement fostered a feeling of usurpation, fragmentation, and resentment. The educated elite found that the coordinates of its world had suddenly changed. The old Spanish way was suddenly replaced by an Anglo approach” (Ilan 167). Stavans describes that the Latinos felt usurped, fragmented, and resentful.  They felt usurped by the Unite States because they were forced to become United States citizens.  They felt fragmented because they held a Mexican identity, yet they were thrown into the “Anglo” way of life and forced to identify as a United States citizen.  The Latino population also resented both Mexico and the United States; they felt betrayed by the Mexican government because they were sold to the Unites States. They resented the United States for forcing their citizenship and their way of life upon them.  As Stavans states, the culture of the emerging American super power replaced the culture of the “old Spaniards,” the original colonizers of the Mexicans. The colonizers deprived the Mexicans of both their choice of identity and their property.

Stavans, Ilan. “Annexations: 1811-1898.” The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature. Ed. Ilan Stavans, Edna Acosta-Belen, Harold Augenbraum, Maria Herrera-Sobek, Rolando Hinojosa, Gustavo Perez Firmat. New York: W.W Norton & Company, 2011. 165-167. Print.

De Las Casas, Fray Bartolome. “From The Devastation of the Indies: A Brief Account.” Trans. Briffault, Herma. The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature. Ed. Ilan Stavans, Edna Acosta-Belen, Harold Augenbraum, Maria Herrera-Sobek, Rolando Hinojosa, Gustavo Perez Firmat. New York: W.W Norton & Company, 2011. 15. Print.

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