About 11,000 years ago they came from Siberia over a land bridge and
eventually migrated throughout both continents to the tip of South
America. Their remarkable history, mostly of victimization, dates
back much before Columbus. There is a tendency to romanticize them,
but they have the qualities and faults common to all human
Their written history starts in 400 BC, deciphered just recently,
and tells only about their ruling class, nothing about the lower
class. They lack metal, simple machines, the wheel, sail, and work
animals, yet they have cities requiring surplus food supply, create
irrigation systems and build pyramids for their kings, independent
from Egypt's. They also have the concept of the calendar, and
mathematics. Their civilization peaks between 200-700 AD. Their
decline is partly due to limited nutrition, with corn as their
staple, and are further debilitated by ruinous warfare within a
divided kingdom, long before arrival of the Europeans.
Located in what is now Peru, it formerly occupies half of South
America. An amazing degree of development though they have no
writing, no art, using only human muscle power to build cities high
in the Andes. Their buildings of stones are fitted perfectly
without mortar. They create terraced farming, irrigation, build
bridges of grass able to bear great weight. They know the art of
mummification. They successfully practice brain surgery. The
wonder of images hundreds of feet in size on the ground which can be
scanned from the air. They are a conquering empire, yet are
conquered by Pizarro from Spain with a small army.
Europe In the New World
Arrival of Columbus.
He never knows where he is geographically. He destroys native
populations in brutal manner. His voyage opens travel to the New
World, changing it forever, a disaster to Native Americans while a
gain for Europeans. By the end of the 1500s 90% of native
population is wiped out, with intentionality added to lack of
resistance to newly introduced diseases.
Resistance to slavery by Native Americans leads to the Atlantic
slave trade from Africa, with Brazil as the heart of it, controlled
by Portugal. European demand for sugar. The debate about the
difference between the Catholic versus the Protestant view of
slavery and treatment of African slaves in North America compared to
South America, and the factors involved. The need not to idealize
Native Americans who have class differences among them related to
color. The rise of commercial agriculture and the further growth of
The 19th Century
end of slavery.
At the beginning of the 19th century the Spanish and Portuguese
empires decline and the ideals of the French Revolution carries over
to Latin America, leading to establishment of republics in Brazil
and Argentina. Public education improves but most economic and
social structures remain in place with classes and exploitation of
the lower classes. Some land reform but question of control results
in a native aristocracy.
Political change 1820-1870.
The strong man in military office comes to power, accompanied by
much violence. The distorted undiversified economy is vulnerable to
fluctuations of European market for these 1 or 2 products. The life
of women improves, the church declines. Continued struggles between
reform and business interests in Latin American countries.
Prelude to Spanish-American War in 1898 is U.S. ultimatum to Spain
to bring economic order to Cuba by either giving it independence or
by crushing its revolt, or U.S. will solve it. The is the beginning
of the U.S. Empire. After the war, Cuba is nominally independent
but the U.S. calls the economic shots.