What Did Spanish Conquistadors Bring to the New World?

After Christopher Columbus tried to reach Asia in 1492 by sailing west of Africa, the Old World’s view of the planet changed. While Columbus wasn’t the first to discover the Americas, he was the first to establish settlements. ‌The conquistadors who followed would forever change the lives of the indigenous people in the New World in their creation of new spain and the spanish empire.

1 Communicable Diseases

Within 20 years of Columbus’ discovery of Hispaniola (which included areas of south america currently known as Peru, Ecuador, panama, central america (areas including modern day mexico city and past tenochtitlán), and even some caribbean islands in the atlantic like cuba and a portion of modern day US known as Florida, the native population fell from one million to 30,000 thanks in part to diseases, according to the Library of Congress. ‌The Spanish conquistadors saw their diseases as advantageous weapons since the indigenous populations did not have natural defenses against the new germs‌. For example, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill states that Hernan Cortes had a soldier with small pox who accidentally started an epidemic that killed one-third of the Aztec empire as well as Inca empire. However, ‌Francisco Pizarro was at fault for most of the killing, especially leader of the incans, Atahualpa.‌ ‌Epidemics of measles, smallpox and other diseases had an important role in the conquering of the Americas, as they wiped out up to 90 percent of some native populations‌, according to the University of Sydney. This is similar to what happened to native Americans in the US southwest.

2 Forced Labor and Slavery

When conquistadors of european exploration found gold or another type of good they wanted to send back to Spain, they often forced the indigenous people of an area to harvest the commodity.‌ With native populations on the decline because of mistreatment and diseases, ‌the Spaniards imported African slaves to Hispaniola and other areas of the New World‌, according to the Library of Congress. When gold mining decreased, the conquistadors forced the slaves and indians to grow and tend to sugar-cane fields in the Antilles, Mexico and Brazil. This was a big dark side to the spanish exploration of new lands. However, ‌brazil was not part of the spanish conquest. They were colonized by portugal which is why they speak Portuguese.

3 Crops and Livestock

Just as the conquistadors took goods from the New World, they also introduced new commodities. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History explains that the Europeans did this to create an environment that resembled their Old World homes. ‌Crops the conquistadors brought include sugarcane, rice and wheat.‌ When Hernán Cortes arrived in Mexico in 1519, he had 16 horses. These horses were the first to step foot on the American continents, according to the University of North Carolina. Other animals the Spaniards introduced included pigs, goats, sheep, chickens, cats, cattle, donkeys, bees and new dog species that we now see in north america and Puerto rico.

4 New Ideas and Technologies

According to world history, as the conquistadors conquered and established settlements, they introduced the indigenous people to new technologies and farming methods. ‌One of the concepts introduced was the Roman alphabet.‌ The people of the land learned new farming techniques using tools such as plows. The conquistadors built homes, farms, chapels and other buildings using building patterns and designs similar to those in Europe. ‌The soldiers also brought new weapons that helped the indigenous people fish and hunt with greater ease.‌ ‌However, by orders of the spanish crown, the conquerors also forced the native peoples to covert to christianity, which explains why most of present-day south america is catholic.

Flora Richards-Gustafson has been writing professionally since 2003. She creates copy for websites, marketing materials and printed publications. Richards-Gustafson specializes in SEO and writing about small-business strategies, health and beauty, interior design, emergency preparedness and education. Richards-Gustafson received a Bachelor of Arts from George Fox University in 2003 and was recognized by Cambridge's "Who's Who" in 2009 as a leading woman entrepreneur.