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Latin America Team Dispatch

The Conquistadors: They Came, They Conquered, and Left Their Mark

The people who came from Europe to colonize the Americas, and conquer its people, had many motives for doing so. But no matter the motive, they were rarely nice about it. Throughout the places we have visited so far we've seen the strong influences of the Spanish conquerors - the Catholic churches and statues, the architecture, and of course the Español! But the Spanish weren't alone in their frenzy to control these lands. In North America the English and French competed fiercely for control. Likewise, in South America, the Portuguese and Spanish got into a lot of fights over who got to rule the indigenous people living here and there lands and belongings.

With both Spanish and Portuguese explorers placing claims for the territory, someone had to step in and resolve the dispute. This was not a soldier, nor a politician, but actually the Pope. In 1494, the Treaty of Tordesillas was signed to resolve the boundary dispute between Spain and Portugal, and which gave Portugal the vast territory of Brazil. This treaty was sanctioned by Pope Julius II in 1506.

Some of the notable figures in the conquering of the Americas are the following:

Francisco Pizarro:
The most famous and successful Spanish conquistador was Francisco Pizarro. After pushing through Panama, in 1531 he invaded the gold-rich empire of the Incas (who lived in what is today Peru, where we are now!). In nearly five years, Pizarro had acquired full control of the Incan Empire, which includes present-day Peru, Chile, and Bolivia. This conquest, however, did not happen with just pure skill. Conquistadors often times used treachery and other tricks to get what they needed. You'll learn a LOT about him and the Incas in the next two weeks.

Pedro Álvares Cabral:
The Portuguese explorer, Pedro Álvares Cabral, first anchored upon modern day Brazil in April of 1500. However, the Portuguese at the time had set their sights on India, and paid Cabral no attention. The Portuguese kept coming though, and didn't give up opportunities to gain control here. Today Brazil is the largest Portuguese speaking country in the world.

Hernán Cortés:
Hernán Cortés was the famous Spanish Conquistador who conquered the Aztec Empire in Mexico, way up north where we began this Trek. That's how much land and people the Spanish controlled. On August 13, 1521, the Mexican capital of Tenochtitlán fell, after months of battle and holding hostage the great ruler Montezuma II. Many Aztecs believed that Cortés was the legendary Quetzalcoatl, the legendary god-king who was light-skinned and bearded, and according to prophecy, was expected to return from the East, so they didn't fight back.

Heads up, because we're about learn a lot more about Pizarro's conquest of the Inca. Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks!

The Team

Shawn - For Your Eyes Only: Shawn's Adventure in Peru
Abeja - Is There Thanksgiving in Peru?
Kavitha - It's a Small World After All!
Monica - If Decapitated Heads Could Talk!!
Making a Difference - Constant Threat at Big Mountain
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