Empire Building: Spain Builds an American Empire

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This booklet helps students to learn about the empire-building and the voyages of Columbus that prompted the Spanish to establish colonies in the Americas, throughout the Americas, Spanish culture, language, and descendants are the legacy of this period.
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Spain Builds an American Empire
EMPIRE BUILDING The voyages Throughout the Americas, • Christopher • conquistador
of Columbus prompted the Spanish culture, language, and Columbus • Francisco
Spanish to establish colonies in descendants are the legacy of • colony Pizarro
the Americas. this period. • Hernando • Atahualpa
Cortés • mestizo
• encomienda
SETTING THE STAGE Competition for wealth in Asia among European
nations was fierce. This competition prompted a Genoese sea captain named
Christopher Columbus to make a daring voyage for Spain in 1492. Instead of
sailing south around Africa and then east, Columbus sailed west across the
Atlantic in search of an alternate trade route to Asia and its riches. Columbus
never reached Asia. Instead, he stepped onto an island in the Caribbean. That
event would bring together the peoples of Europe, Africa, and the Americas.
The Voyages of Columbus TAKING NOTES
Following Chronological
The Niña, Pinta, and Santa María sailed out of a Spanish port around dawn on Order Use a diagram to
August 3, 1492. In a matter of months, Columbus’s fleet would reach the shores trace the major events in
of what Europeans saw as an astonishing new world. the establishment of
Spain’s empire in the
First Encounters In the early hours of October 12, 1492, the long-awaited cry Americas.
came. A lookout aboard the Pinta caught sight of a shoreline in the distance.
“Tierra! Tierra!” he shouted. “Land! Land!” By dawn, Columbus and his crew Columbus arrives
were ashore. Thinking he had successfully reached the East Indies, Columbus in Americas,
s 1492
called the surprised inhabitants who greeted him, los indios. The term translated
into “Indian,” a word mistakenly applied to all the native peoples of the Americas.
In his journal, Columbus recounted his first meeting with the native peoples:
I presented them with some red caps, and strings of glass beads to wear upon the
neck, and many other trifles of small value, wherewith they were much delighted, and
became wonderfully attached to us. Afterwards they came swimming to the boats
where we were, bringing parrots, balls of cotton thread, javelins, and many other
things which they exchanged for articles we gave them . . . in fact they accepted
anything and gave what they had with the utmost good will.
Columbus had miscalculated where he was. He had not reached the East Indies.
Scholars believe he landed instead on an island in the Bahamas in the Caribbean
Sea. The natives there were not Indians, but a group who called themselves the
Taino. Nonetheless, Columbus claimed the island for Spain. He named it San
Salvador, or “Holy Savior.”
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Columbus, like other explorers, was interested in gold.
Finding none on San Salvador, he explored other islands,
staking his claim to each one. “It was my wish to bypass
no island without taking possession,” he wrote.
In early 1493, Columbus returned to Spain. The reports
he relayed about his journey delighted the Spanish
monarchs. Spain’s rulers, who had funded his first voy-
age, agreed to finance three more trips. Columbus
embarked on his second voyage to the Americas in
September of 1493. He journeyed no longer as an
explorer, but as an empire builder. He commanded a fleet
of some 17 ships that carried over 1,000 soldiers, crew-
men, and colonists. The Spanish intended to transform the
islands of the Caribbean into colonies, or lands that are
controlled by another nation. Over the next two centuries,
other European explorers began sailing across the
Atlantic in search of new lands to claim.
Other Explorers Take to the Seas In 1500, the
▲ Portrait of a Portuguese explorer Pedro Álvares Cabral reached the
Man Called shores of modern-day Brazil and claimed the land for his country. A year later,
Christopher Amerigo Vespucci (vehs•POO•chee), an Italian in the service of Portugal, also trav-
eled along the eastern coast of South America. Upon his return to Europe, he
(1519) by
Sebastiano del claimed that the land was not part of Asia, but a “new” world. In 1507, a German
Piombo mapmaker named the new continent “America” in honor of Amerigo Vespucci.
In 1519, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan led the boldest exploration
yet. Several years earlier, Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa had marched
through modern-day Panama and had become the first European to gaze upon the
Pacific Ocean. Soon after, Magellan convinced the king of Spain to fund his voy-
age into the newly discovered ocean.
With about 250 men and five ships, Magellan sailed around the southern end of
South America and into the waters of the Pacific. The fleet sailed for months with-
out seeing land, except for some small islands. Food supplies soon ran out.
After exploring the island of Guam, Magellan and his crew eventually reached
the Philippines. Unfortunately, Magellan became involved in a local war there and
was killed. His crew, greatly reduced by disease and starvation, continued sailing Making
west toward home. Out of Magellan’s original crew, only 18 men and one ship
What was the
arrived back in Spain in 1522, nearly three years after they had left. They were the significance of
first persons to circumnavigate, or sail around, the world. Magellan’s voyage?
Spanish Conquests in Mexico
In 1519, as Magellan embarked on his historic voyage, a Spaniard named
Hernando Cortés landed on the shores of Mexico. After colonizing several
Caribbean islands, the Spanish had turned their attention to the American mainland.
Cortés marched inland, looking to claim new lands for Spain. Cortés and the many
other Spanish explorers who followed him were known as conquistadors (con-
querors). Lured by rumors of vast lands filled with gold and silver, conquistadors
carved out colonies in regions that would become Mexico, South America, and the
United States. The Spanish were the first European settlers in the Americas. As a
result of their colonization, the Spanish greatly enriched their empire and left a mark
on the cultures of North and South America that exists today.
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European Exploration of the Americas, 1492–1682
Hudson Hudso 09
Bay n 16 10 16
Cabot 1497
Cartier 1534–3
lower 1620
te 07, Mayf FRANCE
AMERICA ith 1606–
Plymouth Sm
40˚ N al l e
Coronado LaSDe Soto Jamestown
1540–42 1539–42 ATLANTIC
Santa Fe
1542–43 Ponce de León CANARY MADEIRA
St. Augustine 1512–13 ISLANDS
Gulf HISPANIOLA Verrazzano 1524
of Mexico Colum
bus 1 AFRICA
Cabeza de Vaca 492
s 15 CUBA
1535–36 r té 1
Veracruz 5
Santo Domingo 3–9
Tenochtitlán 149
(Mexico City) m b us
PACIFIC Caribbean Sea C olu 03
b us
C olu
al 15
n 15
e ll a
lu m
Pizarro bu
1530–33 s1
ll a
0˚ Equator
1499 52
0 1,000 Miles 2
0 2,000 Kilometers Explorers’ Routes AMERICA
M a g e ll a n
1 519
120˚ W

40˚ S
1. Movement How many different voyages did Columbus make to the Americas?
2. Region Which general region did the Spanish and Portuguese explore? Where did the
English, Dutch, and French explore?
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Cortés Conquers the Aztecs Soon after landing in Mexico,
Native Population of
Cortés learned of the vast and wealthy Aztec Empire in the
Central Mexico, 1500–1620
region’s interior. (See Chapter 16.) After marching for weeks
30 through difficult mountain passes, Cortés and his force of
1519: 25.3 million
roughly 600 men finally reached the magnificent Aztec capi-
tal of Tenochtitlán (teh•NAWCH•tee•TLAHN). The Aztec
emperor, Montezuma II, was convinced at first that Cortés
Population (in millions)
was a god wearing armor. He agreed to give the Spanish
1523: 16.8 million explorer a share of the empire’s existing gold supply. The con-
quistador was not satisfied. Cortés admitted that he and his
comrades had a “disease of the heart that only gold can cure.”
1548: 6.3 million
In the late spring of 1520, some of Cortés’s men killed
many Aztec warriors and chiefs while they were celebrating
1605: 1.0 million
a religious festival. In June of 1520, the Aztecs rebelled
against the Spanish intruders and drove out Cortés’s forces.
The Spaniards, however, struck back. Despite being
1500 1540 1580 1620 greatly outnumbered, Cortés and his men conquered the
Year Aztecs in 1521. Several factors played a key role in the stun-
Source: The Population of Latin ning victory. First, the Spanish had the advantage of supe-
America: A History rior weaponry. Aztec arrows were no match for the
SKILLBUILDER: Interpreting Graphs Spaniards’ muskets and cannons.
1. Drawing Conclusions By what Second, Cortés was able to enlist the help of various
percentage did the native population native groups. With the aid of a native woman translator
decrease between 1519 and 1605? named Malinche, Cortés learned that some natives resented
2. Making Inferences How did the sharp
decline in the native population, due
the Aztecs. They hated their harsh practices, including
greatly to disease, affect the Spaniards’ human sacrifice. Through Malinche, Cortés convinced
attempts to conquer the region? these natives to fight on his side.
Finally, and most important, the natives could do little to
stop the invisible warrior that marched alongside the
Spaniards—disease. Measles, mumps, smallpox, and typhus were just some of the
diseases Europeans were to bring with them to the Americas. Native Americans had
never been exposed to these diseases. Thus, they had developed no natural immu-
nity to them. As a result, they died by the hundreds of thousands. By the time Cortés
What factors
launched his counterattack, the Aztec population had been greatly reduced by small- enabled the
pox and measles. In time, European disease would truly devastate the natives of cen- Spanish to defeat
tral Mexico, killing millions of them. the Aztecs?
Spanish Conquests in Peru
In 1532, another conquistador, Francisco Pizarro, marched a small force into
South America. He conquered the Incan Empire, as you learned in Chapter 16.
Pizarro Subdues the Inca Pizarro and his army of about 200 met the Incan ruler,
Atahualpa (AH•tuh•WAHL•puh), near the city of Cajamarca. Atahualpa, who com-
manded a force of about 30,000, brought several thousand mostly unarmed men for
the meeting. The Spaniards waited in ambush, crushed the Incan force, and kid-
napped Atahualpa.
Atahualpa offered to fill a room once with gold and twice with silver in
exchange for his release. However, after receiving the ransom, the Spanish stran-
gled the Incan king. Demoralized by their leader’s death, the remaining Incan force
retreated from Cajamarca. Pizarro then marched on the Incan capital, Cuzco. He
captured it without a struggle in 1533.
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As Cortés and Pizarro conquered the civilizations of the Americas, fellow con-
quistadors defeated other native peoples. Spanish explorers also conquered the
Maya in Yucatan and Guatemala. By the middle of the 16th century, Spain had cre-
ated an American empire. It included New Spain (Mexico and parts of Guatemala),
as well as other lands in Central and South America and the Caribbean.
Spain’s Pattern of Conquest In building their new American empire, the
Spaniards drew from techniques used during the reconquista of Spain. When con-
quering the Muslims, the Spanish lived among them and imposed their Spanish
culture upon them. The Spanish settlers to the Americas, known as peninsulares,
were mostly men. As a result, relationships between Spanish settlers and native
women were common. These relationships created a large mestizo—or mixed
Spanish and Native American—population.
Although the Spanish conquerors lived among the native people, they also
oppressed them. In their effort to exploit the land for its precious resources, the
Spanish forced Native Americans to work within a system known as encomienda.
Under this system, natives farmed, ranched, or mined for Spanish landlords. These
landlords had received the rights to the natives’ labor from Spanish authorities. The
holders of encomiendas promised the Spanish rulers that they would act fairly and
respect the workers. However, many abused the natives and worked many laborers
to death, especially inside dangerous mines.
The Portuguese in Brazil One area of South America that remained outside of
Spanish control was Brazil. In 1500, Cabral claimed the land for Portugal. During
the 1530s, colonists began settling Brazil’s coastal region. Finding little gold or sil-
ver, the settlers began growing sugar. Clearing out huge swaths of forest land, the
Portuguese built giant sugar plantations. The demand for sugar in Europe was
great, and the colony soon enriched Portugal. In time, the colonists pushed farther
west into Brazil. They settled even more land for the production of sugar.
Francisco Pizarro Atahualpa
1475?–1541 1502?–1533
Pizarro was the son of an Atahualpa was the last ruler
infantry captain and a young of the Incan empire in Peru.
peasant woman. His parents After Atahualpa was
never married. Raised by his captured and held for
mother’s poor family, he ransom by the Spanish, the
never learned to read. Incan people throughout the
Ambitious, brave, and empire brought gold and
ruthless, he determined to make his fortune as an silver that the Spanish then had melted down
explorer and conqueror. into bullion and ingots. They accumulated 24 tons
Embarked on a voyage of conquest down the of gold and silver, the richest ransom in history.
west coast of South America, Pizarro was ordered The Spanish executed Atahualpa despite the
by the governor of Panama to abandon the ransom paid by his people. As he was about to
expedition to prevent the loss of lives. Pizarro took be burned at the stake, the Spanish offered him a
his sword and drew a line in the dust, inviting more merciful death by strangulation if he agreed
those of his followers who desired wealth and to convert to Christianity, which he did. Thus died
fame to cross the line and follow him. Thus began the last emperor of the Inca.
the conquest of Peru.
Pizarro founded the city of Lima, Peru’s capital,
in 1535. He became governor of Peru and INTERNET ACTIVITY Create a poster about the
encouraged settlers from Spain. ransom paid by the Incan people to rescue
Atahualpa. Go to classzone.com for your research.
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This U.S. postage

stamp was
issued in 1940
to celebrate the
400th anni-
versary of the
Spain’s Influence Expands
Spain’s American colonies helped make it the richest, most powerful nation in the
world during much of the 16th century. Ships filled with treasures from the
Americas continually sailed into Spanish harbors. This newfound wealth helped
usher in a golden age of art and culture in Spain. (See Chapter 21.)
Throughout the 16th century, Spain also increased its military might. To protect
its treasure-filled ships, Spain built a powerful navy. The Spanish also strengthened
their other military forces, creating a skillful and determined army. For a century
and a half, Spain’s army seldom lost a battle. Meanwhile, Spain enlarged its
American empire by settling in parts of what is now the United States.
Conquistadors Push North Dreams of new conquests prompted Spain to back a
series of expeditions into the southwestern United States. The Spanish actually had
settled in parts of the United States before they even dreamed of building an
empire on the American mainland. In 1513, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León
landed on the coast of modern-day Florida and claimed it for Spain.
By 1540, after building an empire that stretched from Mexico to Peru, the
Spanish once again looked to the land that is now the United States. In 1540–1541,
Francisco Vásquez de Coronado led an expedition throughout much of present-day
Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. He was searching for
another wealthy empire to conquer. Coronado found little gold amidst the dry
deserts of the Southwest. As a result, the Spanish monarchy assigned mostly priests
to explore and colonize the future United States.
Catholic priests had accompanied conquistadors from the very beginning of
American colonization. The conquistadors had come in search of wealth. The
priests who accompanied them had come in search of converts. In the winter of
1609–1610, Pedro de Peralta, governor of Spain’s northern holdings, called New
Mexico, led settlers to a tributary on the upper Rio Grande. They built a capital Contrasting
called Santa Fe, or “Holy Faith.” In the next two decades, a string of Christian mis- How did
Spain’s colony in
sions arose among the Pueblo, the native inhabitants of the region. Scattered mis-
New Mexico differ
sions, forts, and small ranches dotted the lands of New Mexico. These became the from its colonies in
headquarters for advancing the Catholic religion. New Spain?
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Opposition to Spanish Rule
Spanish priests worked to spread Christianity in the Americas. They also pushed
for better treatment of Native Americans. Priests spoke out against the cruel treat-
ment of natives. In particular, they criticized the harsh pattern of labor that
emerged under the encomienda system. “There is nothing more detestable or more
cruel,” Dominican monk Bartolomé de Las Casas wrote, “than the tyranny which
the Spaniards use toward the Indians for the getting of pearl [riches].”
African Slavery and Native Resistance The Spanish government abolished the
encomienda system in 1542. To meet the colonies’ need for labor, Las Casas suggested
Africans. “The labor of one . . . [African] . . . [is] more valuable than that of four
Indians,” he said. The priest later changed his view and denounced African slavery.
However, others promoted it.
Opposition to the Spanish method of colonization came not only from Spanish
priests, but also from the natives themselves. Resistance to Spain’s attempt at dom-
ination began shortly after the Spanish arrived in the Caribbean. In November of
1493, Columbus encountered resistance in his attempt to conquer the present-day
island of St. Croix. Before finally surrendering, the inhabitants defended them-
selves by firing poison arrows.
As late as the end of the 17th century, natives in New Mexico fought Spanish
rule. Although they were not risking their lives in silver mines, the natives still felt
the weight of Spanish force. In converting the natives, Spanish priests and soldiers
burned their sacred objects and prohibited native rituals. The Spanish also forced
natives to work for them and sometimes abused them physically.
In 1680, Popé, a Pueblo ruler, led a well-organized rebellion against the Spanish.
The rebellion involved more than 8,000 warriors from villages all over New
Analyzing Causes Mexico. The native fighters drove the Spanish back into New Spain. For the next
Why did the 12 years, until the Spanish regained control of the area, the southwest region of the
natives of New
Mexico revolt
future United States once again belonged to its original inhabitants.
against Spanish By this time, however, the rulers of Spain had far greater concerns. The other
settlers? nations of Europe had begun to establish their own colonies in the Americas.
TERMS & NAMES 1. For each term or name, write a sentence explaining its significance.
• Christopher Columbus • colony • Hernando Cortés • conquistador • Francisco Pizarro • Atahualpa • mestizo • encomienda
2. Which of these events do you 3. What process did Columbus 6. ANALYZING PRIMARY SOURCES Reread the primary
think had the greatest impact? and his followers begin? source on page 553. How might Columbus’s view of the
4. Why were most of the Spanish Taino have led the Spanish to think they could take
Columbus arrives advantage of and impose their will on the natives?
in Americas,
s 1492 explorers drawn to the
Americas? 7. COMPARING What might have been some similarities in
5. Which country was the richest character between Cortés and Pizarro?
and most powerful in the 16th 8. CLARIFYING Through what modern-day states did
century, and why? Coronado lead his expedition?
which a Native American and a conquistador debate the
merits of Spain’s colonization of the Americas.
Use library resources to compile a database of places and geographical features
in the Americas named after Columbus. Display your list in the classroom.
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