Spanish Conquistadors The Renaissance & Elizabethan Age of Exploration to the New World was dominated by the Spanish Conquistadors. The success of the Spanish Conquistadors in acquiring monopolies on much of the Eastern spice trade and their expeditions to the New World brought great wealth and power to Spain. The new discoveries made by the Spanish Conquistadors brought untold riches in terms of gold and silver and spices and it also brought power and influence...
Who were the Spanish Conquistadors? The Spanish word Conquistador means conqueror. The Conquistadors were Spanish Soldiers and Explorers - 'el conquistador'
The History of the Spanish Conquistadors Spain had successfully taken the Iberian peninsula from the Muslim Moors after nearly eight hundred years of conflict. This victory was referred to as the 'reconquista'. The conflict with the Muslim Moors had been seen as a continuation of the Medieval Crusades. The crusades were a series of religious Holy Wars which had been given the blessing of the Pope. They were fought by Roman Catholic soldiers. The Spanish explorers / soldiers saw their mission to conquer new lands as a natural extension of the Medieval crusades. Roman Catholic Priests and Friars always accompanied the Spanish explorers who were expected to convert heathen natives to Christianity. The explorer / soldiers who travelled to the New World adopted the name 'Conquistadors'.
The Motives of the Spanish Conquistadors The motives of the Spanish Conquistadors and their patrons were prompted by:
Wealth - gold, silver and spices
Increasing opportunities for Spanish trade
Spreading the Catholic Religion to heathen natives
Building a Spanish Empire
The people of Spain adhered to the Catholic religion. Many were fanatical about their religion - the Spanish Inquisition was an example of this. The idea of spreading the Catholic faith to heathen races was seen as a primary reason for the Spanish Conquistadors to undertake voyages of discovery.
The Attitudes of the Spanish Conquistadors to the Natives- the Encomienda system The attitude of the Spanish conquistadors to the natives was that they were savage and pagan. The Spanish government had decreed that the Encomienda system should be established in the New World - it came to signify the oppression and exploitation of the Native Indians, although this was not their original intent. The the Encomienda system was similar to the Medieval Feudal system. The primary purpose of the Encomienda system was to indoctrinate the Indians in the Catholic faith. The Indians were expected to pay a tribute to the Spanish Conquistadors in return for protection and religious instruction. The Encomienda system was totally abused - the Conquistadors were thousands of miles away from Spain and they behaved as they saw fit. The natives were abused, oppressed, exploited, ill-treated and decimated by the Spanish Conquistadors. The Indians lost their freedom, their rights, their culture and their religion. The Spanish Conquistadors were feared and hated and the very name 'Conquistador' still conveys these terrible impressions - 'el conquistador'. The Encomienda system was replaced by new laws in 1542.
Famous Spanish Conquistadors A biography and timeline about the most famous Spanish Conquistadors have been developed with facts, history and information. They can be accessed by clicking one of the following links:
Picture of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, a famous Spanish Conquistador