Week Three

After watching the lecture video, I have a much greater understanding of why Christopher Columbus’s journey was understated at the time. His travels seemed to take place at a very significant time for Spain in which they really came together as a unified political power. It was interesting to learn that this unity resulting from the Fall of Granada and the Alhambra was disrupted by Columbus’s discovery. People began to leave the nation in search of the wealth promised in the Americas and a whole new issue of how to manage this extension of land was introduced.

The Spaniards’ view of the indigenous people was surprising to me, and in the case of Las Casas, somewhat ironic. One would think the wipe out of the natives and the destruction of the Indies would be viewed as an extreme loss, however, Las Casas criticized it as a missed opportunity. He saw the indigenous people as potential converts to Christians and the idea of “easily” converting this group of people was sabotaged by their deaths. Others saw this as a loss of a resource, now replacing this lost labor force with Africans. I was shocked that by 1800, there were six times as many Africans that Europeans in the Americas. I was also surprised by the ratio of ethnicities in Latin America, 28% of the population being mestizo.

This beginning of a mixed-race population introduced the Casta Paintings. I don’t think I have ever seen them before, but if I have, I never realized the complex story and message they carry. From a first glance, I could see the obvious skin color differences but initially missed all of the other variations and their meanings. I enjoyed reading about what different parts of the painting meant, such as housing, landscape and even the occupation of the male figures. Then, when I looked at the series of scenes, I picked up on those details that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. The lecture video mentioned how you can visually see the frustration of the drive to classify these people in the paintings. I understand that these paintings were an effort to separation the various racial mixtures, but I feel I would need further explanation along with a painting to pick up on this “frustration” mentioned. I found the point about how these painting produce differences as well as contain people a very insightful statement that I completely agree with after learning more about these paintings. In the effort to classify and acknowledge the racial mixtures, they were also limiting the population’s view of themselves.

2 thoughts on “Week Three

  1. yusuke sakanashi

    When I was reading, I was surprised to see that so many indigenous people are killed and Spanish lost the opportunity to convert them into Christianity. In addition, number of slaves brought from Africa was also shocking to me.

  2. Jon

    On Las Casas, yes… though he’s viewed as a hero by many we have to note that he remained convinced that civilization meant conversion and Christianization. In short, it’s not that he was particularly sensitive to native beliefs or ways of thinking about the world.


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