Landfall was expected. Birds and weeds were being spotted.
At 10 o'clock of the evening of October 11, 1491,
Roderigo de Triana, mariner, from his watch
aboard the caravel Pinta, sighted an uncertain
light dead ahead. At 2 o'clock, white cliffs loomed out of the
darkness. Their estimated distance was two leagues.
When a party went ashore, it came upon Indians,
who were friendly. But they were surprisingly uncouth and
under-supplied with the gorgeous stuff of the Indies.
Still, "Indians" they were to Columbus, and
no one was inclined to argue with him just yet.
Columbus was a typical Renaissance man in some ways.
He was self-taught, eager to learn, highly skilled,
self-confident, ready to fight for his ideas.
He was born in Genoa into a family in modest
circumstances; at least they possessed a small stone house that still
stands, to believe one's eyes and the Genovese authorities.
At the age of 12 he went to sea.
He worked at many jobs in 37 years of sailing,
yet remained full of ambition and cunning.
He was stubborn, an obsessive type.
He erred in regard to the girth of the Earth, and thus landed ahead of
himself. Seemingly he had done all research possible. He was an
excellent navigator; that wasn't the problem. He had in mind the
estimation by Ptolemy, the ancient Alexandrian astronomer, of the
globe's circumference, which was far too small. He had Marco Polo's
opinion, based upon travels across Asia over 200 years earlier, that
Asia was long across, too long, it appears.
There were no contradictory theories. No authoritative versions of an
extra ocean and a great body of land. No flat-Earth theorists held his
attention. So far as one knows, neither Norse not Celtic sagas,
chanting of the great western forested country, had reached his ears
on his visits to Iceland and Ireland. (He had also sailed to Madeira,
West Africa, England, Flanders, and Tunis. He had been
shipwrecked in the English Channel.)
Whatever input had come his way had not signaled the presence of a
land of great mass, prolific peoples, riches and sophistication.
Columbus was commanded by wishful thinking, yet he made a special
trip to calculate a minute of arc. He calculated and recalculated with
the incorrect data, always coming up with the wrong answer: 7000
nautical miles were missing. As computerites say:
"garbage in, garbage out."
That lands to the West existed was fairly certain; the Azores, the
Canaries were there, and probably the rest of it if one could sail far
enough and had the courage to persist against all obstacles, especially
the psychological ones. Gossip filled the waterfront cafés, year after
year, of fishermen and mariners returning from strange sightings -
lands, people, plants, animals, monsters of the sea; something might
be made of them. Columbus acted on the evidence.
He chose the right Royal Court, especially since the Portuguese had
rejected him. One cannot imagine that he would have gotten far in
Venice, Naples, London, Paris, or Amsterdam. The Spanish were all
wound up to go. The eviction of the Jews could relieve religious and
middle-class pressures for economic opportunity by providing many
estates and business openings. Still, something had to be done to get
rid of lower class energies also; luckily the Jews were expelled before
being put at the mercies of gangs of demobilized soldiers, together
with the tough chaplains who had been trying to save their souls.
(One respected writer has argued that Columbus himself was of Jewish
origin and converted to Christianity; his chief pilot was, too;
others say, wasn't it anti-semitic to beg support from the
very people who were leading this ruinous religious purging?
But a man obsessed will waive all other considerations.)
Three small ships were a start in the right direction.
The Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon were in a frenzy of nationalism
and unification in 1492. The Moors, who had given Spain some of its
intricate and rich culture by merging Romanic-Catholic culture and
the high Arabic Muslim culture of the Middle Ages, were now
wretchedly departing for Africa. The Cross supplanted the Crescent
(and the Star of David) everywhere on the Peninsula. Hand in glove
with the State, the Catholic Church was triumphant. Italy and
Germany were mostly geographical areas, with multitudinous ethnic
subdivisions. France and England suffered from internal dissension,
with respect to feudal barons and counter-claiming monarchs, and,
like Germany, were trending toward frightful religious struggles
within the coming century. In Spain, as will be seen, religion was a
united, supportive, and propelling force on behalf of the Crown.
No swifter, larger and more definitive expansion
has ever happened before or since: the newly
united Spaniards, within a single memorial generation,
from 1492 to 1550,
brought under their flags the peoples of nearly half the globe,
major nations of Europe, and sundry lands
like the Philippines elsewhere. They ruled
most of this empire for over three hundred years.
They explored most of the United States and
established the first settlements in its ultimate bounds -
in Puerto Rico straightaway, in the Southwest a little later,
and in Florida, within the living memory of
people who welcomed Columbus on his return
from his first voyage. How did they do it?
What was it like when it happened?
Like Portugal even earlier, the Spanish began
by taking territories within the limits of a familiar world. The Canary
Islands were hardly a discovery, for they had long been known to
sailors. Still, there suddenly seemed a reason to contend with the
French and Portuguese, and the Spaniards finally acquired them,
annihilating, with the help of their aforesaid rivals, the
autochthonous Guanche people, who were inoffensive except for
being in the way of absolute foreign mastery of the Islands.
Once unleashed upon the Otro Mondo, Spain's expeditions followed
one upon another, then in multiples at the same time. A score of
prominent mariners by sea were operative, while the parties of
approximately one hundred conquistadors scouted, pillaged, mapped
and organized the islands and interiors. This amounts to an
incredibly small force for such a large task.
However, their fantasies and greed were boundless, and
their energy and capabilities were most extraordinary.
A year after Columbus set sail on his second voyage to America,
Amerigo Vespucci sailed in the expedition of Alonso de Hajeda,
which sighted the Atlantic Coast, explored it to the South and turned
Northward to return to Spain via the Bahamas. Ponce de Leon,
Alvarez de Pineda, Francisco de Gordillo, Esteban Gomez, and Pedro
de Quexos explored and mapped the coastal areas from West Florida
up to Nova Scotia between 1513 and 1525. Across the North
American continent, Francisco de Ulloa, Hernando de Alarcon, Juan
Rodriguez Cabrillo, and Bartolome Ferrelo sailed the length of the
North Pacific Coast from Mexico to Oregon, including the Bay of
California. Sebastian Vizcaino followed in 1596, firming up the
Spanish claims. In 1527, not long
after the return of Magellan's expedition, A. de Saavedra
sailed from Mexico to Manila, opening up communications
around the world for the Spanish Empire.
On the land, we confine ourselves to expeditions
striking upon territory later to be incorporated by the United States.
Following upon the seizure and consolidation of Spanish rule in
Puerto Rico, Ponce de Leon began to explore the
coasts of the mainland and in April of 1513
landed below present-day Daytona Beach.
It was Easter Sunday, the holiday of the Feast of the Flowers,
Pascua Florida, that, together with hosts of
magnolias in bloom, suggested
he name the region Florida.
He journeyed North and fell upon the marvelous
Gulf Stream. This would soon then become the regular
route of Spanish vessels upon voyaging to Spain.
The Stream came to benefit ships of all flags.
Motivated in part by reports of springs affording eternal life
to those who drank deeply of them, Ponce again set out for
Florida from Cuba with 200 men in 1521 and
landed near today's Charlotte Harbor. He was wounded in a
fight with a Seminole tribe and died; his men returned
without carrying out the idea of a settlement.
On the Atlantic side of the continent, Vasquez de Ayllon
touched upon Cape Fear (now in North Carolina);
the year was 1521. Then, seven years later, he returned,
possessed of a royal commission to found a colony
and claim all lands for the Crown, but explicitly and
primarily to instruct the inhabitants in religion and to
convert them to Catholic Christianity. He was ordered to
take along priests, and so he did, one of them being
Antonio Montesanos, who inspired the great Las Casas
in the latter's life-long struggle against the
mistreatment and enslavement of Indian nations. They
settled near the later Jamestown on Chesapeake Bay,
but after several trying years, 150 survivors
of the original 600 returned to Hispaniola.
Fourteen years later, De Soto found
rosaries at their settlement site.
However, in 1528 a group of 500
would-be colonists appeared at Tampa Bay,
led by Panfilo de Narvaez. These roamed as far as
Tallahassee looking for gold, found none, and
set sail for Mexico, but were shipwrecked.
A survivor, Cabeza de Vaca, worked his way westward to the
Gulf of California, arriving finally at Mexico City,
eight years later, bringing a full account
of the peoples he met en route,
of how he was at one time slave,
at another time a healer and fakir,
then nearly cannibalized, while
often hearing tales of fantastic cities of gold.
Hernando de Soto, Governor of Cuba,
himself led an expedition of 600
soldiers to West Florida in 1539.
They went up the Savannah River and explored
the Blue Ridge Mountains, and cut down to the Gulf
where Mobile stands today. The next year they marched
North to near present-day Memphis where they crossed the
Mississippi and headed westward through the Ozark Mountains
into present-day Oklahoma where they wintered.
Returned to the Mississippi, Hernando took sick and died.
Led by Luis Moscoso de Alvarado, the
company hiked West to the upper Brazos River and
wintered near the juncture of the Mississippi
and Arkansas Rivers. The following summer they built boats to
sail down the Mississippi River, thus returning to base.
A strong Spanish claim was established to what came
later to be the Louisiana Territory and West Florida.
The Florida territory was not neglected, but offered
disasters to all who would come. A 1513
expedition failed. After 1550
there were several that languished, beset by Indians,
plague, hurricanes, and the swamps. Missionaries were killed, a
settlement at Pensacola Bay died, and an
approach that reached Cape Hatteras (N.Ca.) by sea
failed to land a permanent party.
After a Huguenot group from France built a
colony near Fort Caroline in Florida,
the Spanish built one farther South, at St. Augustine,
with 1500 settlers, in 1565.
By September 8, Pedro Mendenez de Aviles,
its leader, was able to proclaim the founding there of the
first permanent European Settlement in the continental United States.
The at-first-friendly Seloy Tribe of the Timucuan Nation
burned the place down within a year,
another was built, which was destroyed in a mutiny, and
finally a new settlement was built nearby.
In the next couple of years, the French and Spanish exchanged
massacres, the French retired after a naval defeat in 1580, and the
Spaniards established military and missionary posts
as far up as Chesapeake Bay, losing in
several encounters with the Indians but at other times winning.
In 1586 Francis Drake of England happened by
and destroyed St. Augustine, which was rebuilt by the turn of the
century. Priests under Friar Juan de Silva were able to
convert hundreds of Indians, but the Gualeans finally
forced the cessation of proselytizing.
A Dutch-Spanish map of Florida was published in 1625,
displaying the names of many Indian towns networked throughout the region,
resting mainly on rivers, as well as St. Augustine
and numerous other Spanish points of settlement and exploration,
including Cape Canaveral (Punta del Cannaveral).
The De Soto and Coronado expeditions could have met,
as they had planned to do, if they had some means of communicating.
Francisco Vasquez de Coronado set out from
Mexico for the North in 1539, and
seized a large Zuni pueblo at Hawikuh that had been
chanced upon the year before by a Franciscan missionary friar,
Marcos de Niza. He proceeded to present-day
Albuquerque, wintered there, and journeyed
to Kansas before turning back in 1541.
Meanwhile there were two spin-offs from the Hawikuh pueblo, with
one party reaching Grand Canyon, another the Texas Panhandle. A
supporting group sailed from Acapulco (Mexico)
up the Gulf of California, into the Colorado River
(today a mere puddle at this point)
which it pursued by boat and afoot to the Gila River.
A great trek was accomplished in 1598
up the Rio Grande into the heart of the Pueblo country.
The Onate expedition of hundreds of men, with
scores of wagons, herds of horses and thousands of cattle,
marched seven hundred miles beyond the
Santa Barbara mines of Northern Mexico.
Upon arrival in the designated area, it built villages,
established churches and missionary centers, and seized land for
Spanish settlers. The New Spain cultural system,
by this time well-developed, emplaced itself directly
on top of the Pueblo and nomadic systems.
In 1609 the town of Santa Fe was founded in New Mexico.
It, and all other towns, were laid out according to
specifications contained in 38 chapters of the
Royal Ordinances called "The Law of the Indies."
Only one village today remains manifestly faithful
to the Code, Chimayo, in the Santa Cruz Valley,
North of Santa Fe, a walled village surrounded by
small settlements using irrigation systems
for farming the land around.
The Code required a central rectangular plaza, with ecclesiastical
buildings at one end and governmental buildings at the other.
A grid of streets crossing at right angles worked out from the plaza.
An arcade of shops and houses surrounded the place and
marched outward to the town walls. These all were to be
built in a uniform style "for the sake of the beauty of the town."
Beyond these came common pastures and woodlots, and
fields to be assigned to each family.
Finally came the open range and Indian country.
Indian relations were, off and on, comfortable.
In the later 1600's, a radical
independence movement was organized by Indians of several
tribes under the leadership of the charismatic leader,
Hope', who sought to extirpate Christianity in the Southwest.
He succeeded in breaking the control of Mexico for a time.
In 1696 a second revolt broke out,
but was also suppressed. Still, some
tribal elements of the Zuni and the Moqui of Arizona
maintained their freedom in the mountainous region
for a long time afterwards.
The Southwest region was too dry to support heavy European
settlement without extensive irrigation projects. About
fifty thousand Indians, a few thousand Hispanic
settlers, and a number of missionary priests managed to carry on
a tidy society there for some 200 years,
until in the goodness of time - or was it "the badness"? -
Eastern American farmers and stockherders arrived.
These tried to exploit the area like a humid zone and
suffered a great many failures before devising
by hit and miss an accommodation with nature. The
sinking of deep wells awaited our century of
keen bits and high power.
At the start, the campaigns against the Moors had given Spain myriad
seasoned warriors who were all too ready to cause trouble or,
knowing little else, to go to war again. It became absurdly easy to find
competent soldiers, both officers and men, who were ready to take a
50-50 chance on surviving an ocean voyage, combat, and disease
while struggling with the aborigines of America.
Promise of immediate riches was implicit in every undertaking; an
assurance of old age pensions was unnecessary.
Loot, rape, enslavement and slaughter;
travel through new and exotic lands;
quick promotions and honorary titles;
land free for the bloody taking;
What more could a Renaissance soldier ask for, or
most soldiers, most times, most places, in history?
Equally strong was the motive of the priest and monk:
conversion of a world of people who had never before
heard the name of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, or
the saints, not to mention Good God Himself.
And the priest could be sure of the wholehearted support of
his King, country and Church, whatever the means required.
Actually, the priests did form a self-confident and
striking contrast to the soldiers of New Spain.
The two groups had long worked out a division of labor.
When fear overcame the soldier - in a storm, in battle, sick to death -
- he could count upon a rush of religious solace.
When the priest was beleaguered by hostile Indians,
he could dart behind the sword.
Martyrdom could be provoked at will.
(Thus, as Secretary of the Florentine Republic
during some of these years and as an isolated political scientist
at other times, Niccoló Machiavelli could not
discern in Spain or in the Americas what he wished
every principality to have:
a citizenry who were devoted to civic obligations, and
who were trained soldiers at the same time.)
Motives of the rest of the newcomers - and
they were soon in a majority - were as clear
in their main outlines. Traders of few scruples and
offspring of merchants were quick to follow.
Some of the loot was diverted to them.
Several plants and crops soon came quickly to their
attention as exportable. They could trade in slaves as well,
both Indian and African. For a few years every ship
brought what it needed; then with materials from home and
the wrecks of old boats and the wonderful woods and ropes
that nature could provide, local industries were set up.
There came peasants, artisans, land-ridden sailors, veterans, women of
ill-fame and some of good repute, Jewish-Christian conversos
(also called marranos, pig-eaters, when suspected of remaining
secretly Jewish) and plain Jews, along with others who were political
dissidents as well as religiously in disfavor. One writer guesses, with
reason, that the emigration to New Spain of the seven brothers of St.
Teresa of Avila was connected with prejudice against the family for
being of converso origin. Conditions were rarely comfortable for the
majority of Spaniards, nor for the majority of people anywhere in
Europe, so that one may wonder why so few made their way
to the New World. One answer is fear - fear of
even more disease than rampaged in Europe.
Fear of the sea, of Indians, of unjust officials.
The answer is hardly exhaustive, no more so than the answer to the
question of why people emigrated from all other countries of the
world, some of whose subjects and citizens at one time or another
over the next four centuries would end up in the Americas.
The motives are usually simple as to the first cause and
then require intensive sociology,
ending up in psychoanalysis,
to bring forth the full complex of causes.
Each person had his unique story.
Only the reason of the slave was clear, force majeure.
Perhaps slaves should be honored for their lack of motivation.
They did not want to come in the first place:
let others contend for higher ranking motives of immigration.
Please to recall that the basic, behavioral necessity -
an unspoken part of the bargain, a motive in effect -
was to disperse and exploit the invaded societies.
The vast majority of Spanish emigrants were despatched from
Andalusia, especially from Seville, for the first century. The Crown of
Castile was the formal title-holder to New Spain, though
Aragonese and others were allowed to emigrate. Of a group of about
2,000 emigrants of the years 1595 to 1598,
one-third was female; their proportion had been increasing slowly.
Women were only one in twenty between 1509 and 1539.
Of the men, about 6% carried the title of "Don," a gentleman's
appellation. About half of the males were listed as servants, causing
the enumerator, Peter Bowd-Bowman, to believe that many young
men who were relatives or dependents of other passengers were so
listed, for that is what they were. There were 43 craftsmen,
27 merchants, eight royal officials, four notaries, two pharmacists, one
physician and one bookseller. Titles of Bachelor of Arts were noted
for eight, ten were licentiates, and two held the degree of doctor. Of
the 2000, only three were headed for Puerto Rico, ten for Florida.
About 300,000 Spaniards (with some foreigners among them)
emigrated to New Spain in the first century. In the 1600's, about
450,000 went West. That would be 750,000 from a total Spanish
population that over the two centuries averaged eight millions, not far
from 4,000 per year, a negligible proportion.
The ships in which they came were not much larger than those of the
Phoenicians two thousand years earlier. In the period
1506-1540, the average of 178 boats
that crossed to New Spain per year was one hundred tons,
with a crew of 30 and 15 passengers, plus some goods. The
size and capacity of the boats increased steadily. In the
period 1626 to 1650, the average of the
136 boats per year making the crossing was
300 toneladas, triple the size, and carrying
80 crew members and 40 passengers.
They came in convoys after 1543,
and until 1748, a system that the
Spanish invented to protect their ships from attacks by
pirates and enemy forces. Hawkins, Drake, and other
buccaneering patriots of the English Crown had
their times of glory and rich plunder, but the development of
the galleon, a formidable battleship and carrier, along
with the convoy system, eventually put their kind out of work.
Over the whole period, and casting a glance at the
Pacific convoys as well, which worked in and out of the
Philippines, it is clear that the two together
practically closed down costly assaults upon shipping.
Small settlements along the vastly extended coastlines of
New Spain were more vulnerable to pirates and privateers
than were their boats on the open sea.
Women attained the New World increasingly. Everyone needed
a permit to go there. A royal decree in 1604 warned
(when it was too late to do anything about it)
that more than 600 women had found berths
on the prior sailing of the fleet for America, whereas
the number of licenses issued to females numbered under 50.
The scarcity of Spanish women, especially in the early years,
nor were they ever more than a fifth of the total of
fully European males in Spanish America
for at least a century, invited miscegenation.
Spaniards, while they might be fiercely nationalist and Catholic, and
often were determinedly brutal, were only vaguely racist, and, from the
common soldier to the most successful of conquistadors, sexual
commingling and in some cases marriage with Indians were common.
This helped Spanish culture and Christian baptism
rapidly to spread over New Spain, from Chile to Texas. But more
important to this end were the organization, the expertness, and
dedication of the Catholic priesthood, largely Jesuit,
operating without immediate familial entanglements.
Most of the Indian cultures were destroyed as entities,
although there still remain to this day many more
authentic ones in Latin America than the USA.
Tribal identity deteriorated while a general Hispanic
culture came into being. Mestizos of the sixteenth century
mingled with the families of the parents, most often the mother.
By virtue of their rapidly growing number, they developed
into a rather distinct social order in the next century.
An unexpected result is that today the population of Hispanic origin of
the United States, consisting of about 13% of the total American
population and rapidly growing, is already third in absolute numbers
of descent after those claiming all or in part Germanic and English
origins, and is more Indian genetically than the recognized Indian
tribal population of the United States, who, while striving to protect
their specific culture traits, are themselves largely interbred with
White and Black strains. The largest Caucasian immigration into
Hispanic and Latin America as a whole would come
in the latter part of the nineteenth century, when finally
(with some representation from several other European
countries, including Germany and Great Britain)
large numbers of Italians and Spanish arrived.
Soon after the opening up of the Indies, the people were being
driven into slavery everywhere. Stricken by infectious diseases,
disoriented by the newcomers, frustrated by the superior weaponry of
the Europeans, the Indians of the Bahamas were transported to
Hispaniola (present-day Santo Domingo and Haiti), their
cultures in smithereens. The pacific Arawaks held hopes
for foreign help against the combative Caribs,
but the foreigners smashed them both.
Here first, and from sympathizers of the slaves,
one heard the theory, possibly well-founded, that
Indians were too delicate constitutionally
to withstand the rigors of slavery, and could not or
would not work cooperatively and under direction.
In any event they retreated into the wilderness,
or dwindled and died on the plantations.
Blacks were sought in ever larger numbers.
By 1619, when the first slaves entered Anglo-America,
a million Blacks had been abducted from Africa and forcibly enrolled
as slaves in the Portuguese and Spanish colonies.
Almost all of them were to be located in the tropical and
sub-tropical regions, few in the temperate regions or
in the mountains, which would also be the case
in the United States later on.
The elimination of professing Jews in Spain and Portugal deprived the
Iberian Peninsula of its most vigorous economic and cultural element,
those who had much of the know-how for modernizing the culture -
researchers, cartographers, economists, instrument-makers,
information specialists (that is, people who managed an informal but
effective system of international political, economic, and military
intelligence). Expectedly, Jewish interests had served Moors as well as
Catholics over the centuries, so that eliminating Jews
along with Muslim seemed to many Spaniards both logical and just.
One should not underestimate the havoc.
It was as would be a sudden expulsion of American Jews today,
with their analogous business holdings and eminent roles
in the professions, education, medicine, sciences,
the media, philanthropy and government.
With 250,000 out of a population of four millions at the
end of the 1400's, Jews constituted double the
percentage of Spaniards that American Jews do of Americans,
6+% versus about 3%.
Maybe the Spanish Catholic elite thought that Jews
would choose to convert to Catholicism rather than
leave the country where they had led productive lives
for centuries. If so, they were mistaken.
Pride, religious conviction, and a well-founded suspicion that
as conversos they would be discriminated against,
determined most Jews to leave.
Perhaps the Spaniards had dreams of developing this great cultural
complex now by themselves, or by calling in Italians,
emulating the birth of enterprise and mercantile
capitalism in late medieval Italian cities.
Idiocy, one might say, but governments are
prone to such. The Spaniards and Portuguese,
backed by the Vatican, were deluded.
Spain and Portugal would hardly have been able to exploit the
discoveries of their explorers, were there not found an
alternative solution to Italian and Jewish capitalism and
business management, one more adapted to the Spanish character.
Such was the theocratic solution,
offered by Ignatius Loyola and his Jesuit order,
48 years after the critical landfall.
Here the other side of Italy showed itself:
the Papacy, gravely upset by the surge of Protestantism in Europe,
reached out for reformers, not capitalists
who would then secularize society, but devoted Christians,
who would carry reforms into the Church while
fighting its Protestant enemies.
The Jesuits were a major event in world history.
They gave a new direction to Spain,
externally directed, fanatic, bureaucratic.
Aristotle, St. Thomas, St. Gregory, St. Benedict, and
now the Saint in the making, Ignatius Loyola.
Although this line of ideology and action produced instant
resounding results, it ultimately led Spain into dormancy,
while Northwestern Europe and the USA, fallen under
Protestant domination and Northwestern European practices,
including the Jewish contributions, sprang forward -
however huge the misery and anomie -
into empiricism, the industrial revolution and
technological supremacy over the Catholic world.
Casualties of capitalism were high, but the system would appear
to be determining the world's future at mid-twentieth century.
Within the Spanish governing order, the Jesuits,
as an on-the-spot organization, greatly extended the
conciliar and interruptive emergency role always
played by the Catholic Church in the affairs of state.
The Spanish governed New Spain by a relatively simple system,
originating in the Roman Empire and Roman Law,
passing through the great monastic orders of the middle ages, and
carrying into the familial patronage business
surrounding the Throne.
A sub-division into provinces would be followed by the appointment
of governors, upon whom would be conferred a regular and special set of
powers by the Crown, and who would be advised and to a degree
controlled by a Council, appointive and then elective, and inspector-
generals roving about in search of deficiencies and hearing complaints.
Offices were filled by a combination of merit and patronage.
There was much alike, when it came down to structure and
operations, between colonial administrations of
Spanish, Portuguese, French, and English. If one asks
what of the principle of "consent of the governed,"
one would have to be informed that there was more of this
among the small Indian tribes and clans than in the
provinces of the Viceroys of the Crown.
Uniquely, however, arose this parallel non-formal de facto
governmental set-up in the form of the Company of Jesus,
that had the ability to penetrate all levels of government
up to the Crown itself.
The future St. Ignatius Loyola was a Basque
(as was the famous Jesuit of India, St. Francis Xavier),
noteworthy because of the small number of Basques
to be found in Old and New Spain, and for
explaining the extraordinary character of the Jesuit idea.
On September 27, 1540, a papal bull,
Regimini Militantis, founded the Order,
whose vows were "poverty, chastity, obedience."
Members of the Order were to be militants of the Pope in the
struggle against Protestant Reformation and various national
"particularisms" in the Church.
The Order recruited thousands of devoted priests and sent them
forth to the Americas, on the heels of the Franciscans and
parish priests in many places. They became masters
at organizing and bringing administrative order
into the frequent chaos of settlements and expeditions.
They became the sharpest critics of divine right of kings,
whether Catholic or Protestant, and fought continuously
against the archaic world order.
A psychiatrist would call "obsessive-compulsive" the
amazing set of self-disciplinary and organizing rules that
Loyola brought to play upon his followers and to
a degree upon all the military, officials, and civilians,
whether Spanish, Indian, Africans or Mixed Ethnics
with whom they dealt.
Jesuits came under unremitting attack as soon as
the weightiness of the Order was recognized,
by Protestants and Catholics alike, and
of course from humanists and secularists.
What they effectively accomplished in the Americas
over 250 years was to pump lifeblood
into a statal organism that was moribund to begin with and
hardly suited to governing half the world.
As with all authentic, successful movements, their
members were to be found at the centers of policy and at the
farthest reaches, where, as in California,
they set to work building missions,
for teaching, moral guidance, protection, and technical counsel
of the inhabitants, old and new. In the two centuries of
American history, beginning in the mid-sixteenth century,
they helped immensely the Indian population,
even while pushing for conversion,
and in counseling and consoling incoming Europeans.
One can judge a person by the character of his enemies.
The Order was banned at one time or another in a
dozen nations, for example Portugal in 1759,
France in 1764, 1830, and 1880,
in Spain itself in 1767 and on three more occasions,
in Germany, in Brazil, in Italy in 1870, in Russia in 1828.
Allegations against the Jesuits usually
had to do with accusations of secret conspiracy against
the government, evading the rules and routes of the established
Catholic Church, using unfair tactics against Protestants,
supporting revolutions, blocking revolutions -
altogether too many reasons for being
penalized to let one judge the Order
absolutely or offhandedly in generalities.
Over time the Jesuits seemed to be as much the enemy of
cozy arrangements between State and Church in
Catholic countries as of Protestant movements.
Yet they also worked hand-in-glove with
anti-secular and anti-scientific movements,
not without some reason, to be sure, but
on the whole weighing against scientific
creativity and freedom of expression.
That they came to constitute a major factor in the
determination of present-day America is beyond question.
In the broadest vision of their role, they are seen to have engaged in a
great Southwestern arc around the United States, matched to the
North by a Canadian, Great Lakes and Midwest sweep, as we shall
see, and with early penetrations in Maryland and a later massive
occupation of the major centers of the country proceeding with the
great Catholic immigrations beginning in mid-nineteenth century.
Before the Jesuits came to the "USA", a record of cultural creativity and
criticism had already been established. Printing came early to the New
World. By 1540 books were being published in Mexico. Religious and
legal works were preferred, then "useful" books -
almanacs and the like.
The same would happen in the French and English colonies on
the North Atlantic a century later. The first printshop was opened in
the English colonies in 1638 at Cambridge, Mass., and was operated
by the widow of its founder, a non-conformist minister.
In the seventeenth century, 1,228 titles
were published in Mexico City. Some of these were probably the
first American printed works to circulate in
what would become the United States - in Puerto Rico,
New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, California and Florida.
Eleven years after printing was introduced, the
National University of Mexico opened its doors, and
in the same year of 1540 a University was opened
in Lima, Peru. Colombia soon followed suit.
In the next century, universities were founded in
Argentina (1613), Bolivia (1621),
then Harvard College in Massachusetts in 1636,
Guatemala (1676), and
St. John's College in Maryland in 1696.
The curricula of all the schools were similar,
stressing theology and law, and the medieval trivium -
grammar, rhetoric, and logic - with Latin and Greek.
One can, of course, become better and better at these subjects,
but basic reforms in the direction of empirical natural and social
science, including history, had to wait for
two centuries, when they would strike
the New World first in North America.
Leaders of Early American Thought
Although hardly affecting instruction in the universities of
South or North America for a time,
there was a "new history" of the Age of Discovery,
an outstanding feature of Spain's
Renaissance in its New World manifestations.
Once more the line of descent goes back to Italy and
its "New History," with names like Guicciardini.
Early historians of the New World were also Italian,
Peter Martyr and Pigafetta especially.
Martyr, who never traveled to the New World,
nevertheless culled the reports and wrote a total history,
attending to nature and to anthropology,
a total reality instead of the history of kings.
Pigafetta voyaged around the world with Magellan, and
began to collect the vocabularies and grammars of the
The most influential of Spanish cultural heroes was Orviedo, who
was thoroughly impregnated with the Italian Renaissance by
studies, residence, and service in Italian courts.
Born in 1478, he became Chronicler of the
Indies at the Spanish Court of Charles V in 1630.
Again, his history was total, from cannons to butter,
a biology, a zoology, the plants of the future
like rubber and cocoa, scribbled in many notebooks,
published in several volumes during his
lifetime and posthumously.
Desiderius Erasmus the Humanist of Rotterdam
was highly regarded in Spain; he called himself
a citizen of the world and a pacifist.
Juan Luis Vives (1492-1540)
in turn demanded that all wars be prohibited, and
called for an education fit for the New World,
its peoples united in a community of nations.
Bartoleme de las Casas (1474-1566)
began as a clerk on an American plantation.
Seized by the Gospel, he renounced the life of commerce and
took up a scholarly and religious dedication to the true
story of the Indies and protection of the welfare of the Indians.
His book, Destruccion de las Indias denounced the miseries heaped
upon the inhabitants of New Spain, creating a stir at home but also
providing an indelible indictment of Spanish culture and rule in the
New World, all too readily exploited by France, the Netherlands,
England, all in short who opposed Spain, including the
United States to come. Yet and as a result, he became
Procurator General for the Indians, in Spain under Charles V.
Francisco de Vitoria was one more grand critic of Spanish colonial
policy. He was, with Grotius of the Netherlands, founder of the
discipline of International Law. Advocate of the rule of natural law,
he argued that no right to conquest existed. Further, the use of
violence to convert unbelievers and heathens was unlawful and
impermissible. He advocated radical doctrines in the sixteenth
century: the right to free trade, of emigration, and of
freedom of the seas.
Suarez, of the same school of thought, declared, "The governments
of pagans are as legitimate as those of Christians." Too, Domingo de
Soto argued likewise and appealed for a new and genuine
collaboration between Spain and the Indians, and with all different
faiths and nations. There also grew, among the Jesuits of the period,
the theory of political science which defended the
"right to resist tyranny."
The scholars and humanists of Spain put in a great performance, but
their words and deeds were overwhelmed in the clangor of armor and
declamations of raison d'état. The story would be repeated again and
again in American history. The forces of humanism and reconciliation
would always, it seemed, arrive too few and too late,
as here in the Age of Discovery.
The Spanish would build an immense partly-new civilization, with
many fine cities recalling the best of the Old World, with idyllic
pastoral scenes of the multi-faceted, grand familial hacienda.
By 1600, Mexico City was a nicely-sized town of
25,000 inhabitants, built upon
a neat plan, with fine architecture. It published hundreds of book
annually. It held a university. It also endured an Inquisition that saw
to it that no one studied subjects "wrongly." As with other towns,
it educated a considerable Indian artisan class,
whose artwork and constructions were up to the European
level of the Baroque Period.
But there did not appear to be a New Human Being,
a Person multiplied a millionfold, who could do here
what his brothers had not done in the Old World.
And, in the balance, the Non-New Man dragged
the level of the Indians down a little - here down a great deal,
there perhaps up - merging them, to be sure,
in a way that would not be matched farther North -
or was this because there were simply too enormous a
population and set of cultures in Central and South
America to be destroyed willy-nilly?
There are many questions to be asked.
Was New Spain in general a success,
more so than the great republic and autonomous nation
of the North to come, the United States and Canada?
Or did New Spain, even after all of the revolutions against
Old Spain ended in independence,
possess less constitutionalism,
less democracy, less science, less technology,
less of the ordinary goods of life and less of
social mobility and freedom of opportunity?
And, if so, was the explanation of Spanish monolithic religion to be
found in the over-burden of Roman history,
in having been ruled by the Moors for a time, or what?
Suppose that the great Spanish cultural heroes had been
supported by a Catholic Britain, while the
Huguenots and the rest remained within the Church to fight. Are we
saying "Would the Americas have been better off
had Henry VIII been allowed his divorce?"
The Spanish experience on American soil was coeval with the
Portuguese, and prompted English and French into sending out
exploratory probes. But these latter and the Dutch would be delayed a
century in setting sail in earnest. And after five centuries passed,
Latinic culture prevailed over three-quarters of the hemisphere. The
Hispanic territories that were lost to the United States in the
nineteenth century - Southwestern America and Florida - even
appear to be recapturing their earlier Hispanic cast.
As present demographic trends are projected, the
United States itself may within a century
enjoy a plurality of citizens of Hispanic descent,
speaking the American language, with an enhanced number of
Spanish usages, adding slants of character, and a heavy fraction of
Indian genes, with definable elements of at least some
Indian cultures. Here may be found, oddly, the major
future influence of native Americans on Americans.
The example of enormously successful Spanish lands of the
South affected but few Americans, yet including
Cotton Mather and Samuel Sewell of Boston,
both of whom learned Spanish to reform the Catholics.
Sewell wished to engage in propaganda
"bombing" and said "I rather think that
Americana Mexicana will be the New Jerusalem."
Fantasy aside, Hispanophobia was endemic in the
Protestant root cultures, following the
first great successes of the Spanish
at the end of the fifteenth century.
Begun in envy and hate, whether of Catholicism or
of the riches and power going to Spain in
consequence of Columbus' discovery,
fostered by confessional works of the Spanish themselves,
fed by tales of buccaneering exploits against Spanish forts and ships,
kindled by war after war in Europe and the Americas,
inflamed by easy American victories over weak
Hispanic governments in the Southwest and Southeast and
against a moribund empire as the nineteenth century closed:
the collection of ethnic sentiments issuing from this historical
experience posed more targets of ethnic hostility to the
heterogeneous U.S. populace.
The racial miscegenation that underlay much of the
Hispanic population antagonized and inflamed many
Nord-Americanos who conceived themselves to be of a
purer race of some kind. In all of this,
the failure to appreciate what happened in Spain and the Hispanic
world of the Americas from 1492 onwards
was practically total. Schoolbooks, popular culture,
politics, and religious propaganda in the United States
were continuously hispanophobic. Only after
1960 might a significant change be detected.