Tag Archives: Cortes

Colonization in Relation to Collapse

When Cortés landed on the Yucatan Peninsula in the Mayan territory, he strategically aligned himself with certain tribal chiefs and against others, and taking the spoils when intrastate warfare ensued.  One of the most memorable battles (“The Massacre in the Main Temple”) during the raids attacked and killed Aztec elite during a religious ceremony in Tenochtitlan. But it was not just homicide that day, it was deicide: the killing of gods.  In lecture we discussed how the Spanish conquest of the New World was the one of the main reason for collapse of the Aztec State.  But, I consider it the starting point for global cultural homogenization through colonization.

Religious and ceremonial process are usually the focal point of most ancient states.  And these are swiftly eroded with subjugation and colonization because they pose the most threat.  A higher consciousness is always alarming and eerie those foreigners.  It is also, in my opinion, the most personal identity one carries other than linguistic.  The Spaniards & Portuguese converted their new nationals to Christianity and mandated their Romance language be exclusively employed.  The Indus Valley civilization provides a perfect example of conquest.  When the Aryans (a lingo-ethnic group originating from Indo-Europa) displaced the Dravidian cultures, an early form of Hinduism was adopted and Sanskrit became the ruling language.  Material culture, elites, political/social organization comes and goes but language and religion are completely culturally absorbed because one is raised with it from infancy.

Cross-cultural trade, while usually a means to create wealth, sometimes works against the party that does not hold the comparative or absolute advantage.  Why?  Because trade creates peaks and troughs—winners and losers of capital (economic, resource, human, or infrastructure).  Fiscal merits amass with the conquistador.  Moreover, currency establishment is a rite of power for the conquers.  Establishing The Universal Monetary System ascertains the elite (and therefore bureaucratic) organization.  A modified social stratification (capitalistic in nature) emerges because dependence is created.  Economic dependence on a state with relatively larger fiscal merits is crippling, both in antiquity and modern day.  For example, the city of Teotihuacan, forced to reconstruct economic relations, led elites to seek fortunes elsewhere and collapsed trade routes between lowland Mesoamerica states.  A modern day example is the theocratic state of Iran, which has multiple trade sanctions and embargoes with the United States and European Union.  Now Iranian officials are left to barter natural resources (e.g. oil) for rice to feed a growing population.

It is a mixture of religious, linguistic, and economic reliance that creates divides between states.  Sadly, many begrudgingly accept this cavity can only be bridged though complete cultural submission.