Spaniards and their successors


All European nations were infected with the disease of Eurocentrism. This was unfortunate because the inhabitants of the Old World and the New World had so much to learn from each other.

We in the west are familiar with the accomplishments of European civilization. They are profound. The European accomplishments in philosophy, science, politics, music, art, history, religion, economics, and technology are astonishing. All of this was entirely unknown to the Indigenous people of the Americas both North and South.

At the same time the Indigenous People of the Americans had an equally astonishing culture that they could have shared with the Europeans. This included an amazing knowledge of the natural world, including the animals, plants, and even skies. As well, they knew how to apply that knowledge to their relationship with people. Their spirituality was stunning. They could have offered a whole new attitude to nature that might have averted the desperate existential problems created by Europeans and their desire to impose their will over the natural world. We might all be in a much better world now, had the Europeans been willing to learn from their “equals.” The indigenous people had no doubt that they were at least equal to these strange people from the Old World.

The aggressive invaders from Europe were blind to what they might learn from those they assumed were inferior. Feelings of superiority gave the Europeans the false presumption that they had nothing to learn from these savages.

Of all the European nations, the Spaniards were among the most aggressive. They saw nothing good about Indigenous people who were so obviously their inferiors. At least so they thought. The Spaniards came with impressive weapons: firearms, steel blades fierce warhorses, and attack dogs. Even more effective were diseases that they brought with them and for which the Indigenous people had no immunity. Entire tribes were sometimes demolished.

Historian Alvin M. Josephy, Jr. described the attitude of the Spaniards and those who followed them into the New World this way:

“The arrant racism introduced by the Spaniards against the Indians in the Caribbean and the southern lands of North America was adopted in various forms by other European powers and spread throughout the continent, everywhere maiming and poisoning whatever chance there might have been for harmonious coexistence and mutual respect and understanding between Europeans and the indigenous peoples.”

Racism was the ideology of all European nations. It devastated the Indigenous people and hamstrung the Europeans. Because that racism has been around so long, often in unacknowledged forms, it has plagued relations between them ever since.

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