European and Native Encounters in the Americas
The encounters between separate European nations and separate native populations were all distinctive. If we are to look at specific examples of the encounters, whether the motives were religious economic or a hybrid of the two, the effect was largely the same: the conquest of the indigenous natives. The specific encounters of the Spanish and the English provide an interesting comparison as they were the European powers that had the most impact on the native peoples. Upon closer examination, it becomes evident that historical contexts did lead to different motives in the Americas and distinctive encounters. Yet, these factors seem to contain certain distinct European elements.
In the areas known as Mexico today, the native Indians had a few similarities. The Aztecs had recently migrated to the Teotihuacan area and established a highly urbanized center in the early fifteenth century. From accounts of the Spanish Conquest in Bernardino de Sahagun's Florentine Codex, we can assert that the natives placed significant importance in religion.
In fact, the Aztecs centralization was grounded in religious ideas. The people felt a sense of community and religious sacrifices for the betterment of the people were regarded as a daily part of life. The Aztec world involved constant warfare with uprisings from various tribes. The Incas were in the middle of a civil war between two brothers, Huascar and Atahualpa, upon Spanish arrival. Yet, the Indians did not initially view European arrival as a threat. Sahagun suggests that the natives regarded the Europeans as the return of Quetzalcoatl, their patron god. Even though this was a hindsight explanation for the failure of natives to deal with Europeans adequately, it nevertheless reflects the Mexican Indians' tendencies to plug the new into the old. That is, natives tended to explain the...