Spain and the Americas (16th century)

Figure 1.-- This magnificent mural by Diego Rivera dominates the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City. It depocts the violent colission between the Spanish and Amerindian people that gave birth to the modern Mexican mestizo nation. Notice the gold and silver money bags at the center of the work. This collision would doiminste Latin American history. Less well known is the extent to which it would impact European history.

Building massive naval fleets is an expensive undertaking. The Ottomans were technologically backward, but a huge, rich empire, far more powerful than any Christian state. Thus they could afford to build a massive fleet, but one without the latest technology. Spain in contrast was was not a rich country. Large areas of the Iberian Peninsula are arid and of only limited agricultural value. And at the time, agricultural was the principal source of wealth. Spanish conquests in the Caribbean following Columbus' voyages did not significantly change the European balance of power. They were small islands without significant resources. The Conquistadores that crossed over the mainland were a very different matter. Spanish conquets of the Americas, both Mexico (1520s) and Peru (1530s), was a game changer. Mexico was not rich in gold, but Peru/Bolivia had significant quantities. Subsequent discoviers of silver would have a major impact on the world econmomy. Vast quantities of gold and silver began to flow into Spain. This wealth gave Spain the ability to build a major battle fleet, not only the one that defeated the Ottomans at Lepanto (1571), but the Armada (1588) sent against England a decade latter. Also important at Lepanto was the Venetian fleet. The riches from the America also financed Spanish and Austrian Hapsburg actions against the the Protestants (16th and 17th centuries). Spanish armies would be a major factor in the European religious wars. And it would be primarily financed by the Spanish Empire primarily constructed in the Amnericas.


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Created: 2:57 PM 10/4/2018
Last updated: 2:57 PM 10/4/2018