It is difficult to make a brief assessment of the Spanish presence in America: we speak of four centuries, from 1492 to 1898, of a presence that ranged from the forts in Alaska and Dakota to Patagonia, from lost islands in the Caribbean to Peruvian mountains to 5,000 meters high, from the lives of many millions of men in 14 generations, in the Spanish language and in many American languages.
On the other hand, for almost 4 centuries, while Europe was bleeding into endless wars, Hispanic America, once pacified, barely saw wars, not even civilians. It is true that there were always battles on the Apache border and on the border with the Araucanians; there were also pirates and wars in coastal areas against English or French (and their Indian allies). And there is the amazing battle of Mbororé (1641), of Indians "protected" by the king of Spain, armed and trained by Jesuits, defeating an army of Brazilian slavers. But in inland cities such as Lima or Asunción, peace was continuous for centuries (while in Spain wars were frequent, and independent Indian nations were constantly fighting each other).
Then, when independence arrived, in the 19th century, the Hispanic-American sister nations waged long series of wars between them, between neighbors who spoke the same language and had the same religion and similar history. In addition, entire villages of Indians that had been protected for centuries by the Spanish Crown were exterminated by the new independent republics.
If there is technology transfer, it becomes civil
Unlike some colonial forces that only sought to plunder resources, the Spaniards built cities, structures and provided technology for the benefit of all.
Keep in mind that in pre-Columbian America there were no saddles, there were almost no pack animals (except in the Andes, which used llamas and alpacas) nor basic tools such as the wheel or pulley. The work fell immediately on the backs of porters, slaves or semi-slaves.
Even Wikipedia is able to do a simple review of useful things for a civilization:
- New crops useful for food: vine, olive, legumes, rice, nuts, wheat, citrus fruits (lemon, oranges), apples, pears, peaches, figs, bananas, sugar cane ...
- Livestock: sheep and cows, unknown in the continent
- The horse, which revolutionized communication and American cultures; other mounts like the donkey, the mule, even the humble donkey, meant a real advance
- Useful materials such as flax, hemp, tallow and tar
- Mechanical solutions that changed everything like the wheel and pulley
- Ferris wheel to water and grind and plow to sow
- iron and metallurgy toledana, the most modern in Europe
- Valencian ceramic techniques (for crockery and tiles)
- paper and printing and the same writing, unknown to many American cultures
- the mechanical clock, to order the hours
- maritime navigation: shipyards, ships, navigation instruments ...
- cartography, geographical knowledge of a new and huge world
- modern mining techniques
- hydraulic techniques: reservoirs and aqueducts, irrigation ... is famous the "Hydraulic system of the aqueduct of Father Tembleque" in Mexico (from the 16th century, World Heritage Site)
- the water mill
- the financial system: money, currency, banking, bills of exchange, commercial companies, etc ...
- tapestries and leather goods, embossing, damask, enamelling, jet, etc ...
- the glass industry (and stained glass)
- Spanish-style painting and music ... that gave rise to Spanish-American styles
- effective civil engineering: pre-Columbian cultures did not know the arch, they only had rope bridges; the Spaniards filled America with bridges, roads, roads, canals ... the Camino Real de México a Santa Fe, of 2,500 kilometers, is a World Heritage Site
- contact with Asia, with the annual galleon that connected Mexico with the Philippines
- the contact between products and American cultures: some had corn, others cocoa, others tobacco; but it was only the Hispanic trade that caused these American products to be spread effectively throughout America (potato, peanut, avocado, vanilla, tomato, rubber, etc ...)
The Spaniards contributed to America the planned urbanization, which originated World Heritage cities such as Potosí and Sucre, in Bolivia; Cartagena de Indias and historic center of Santa Cruz de Mompox, in Colombia; Old city of Havana and its fortifications, Trinidad, historic center of Cienfuegos, historic center of Camagüey, in Cuba; Old San Juan, in Puerto Rico; historic centers of Quito and Cuenca, in Ecuador; historic centers of Mexico, Oaxaca, Puebla, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Morelia, Zacatecas and Campeche, in Mexico; historic district of Panama; historic centers of Cuzco, Lima and Arequipa, in Peru; Antigua Guatemala, in Guatemala; Chorus, in Venezuela, and many other colonial cities built by the Spaniards and that today are candidates to appear on the Unesco list: Salta, in Argentina; Villa de Leyva, in Colombia, etc.
Spain filled with America hospitals, and it is a historical truth. They cured blacks and whites, Indians and mulattos.
Already in 1503 Isabel la Católica prescribes the governor Ovando of Cuba to "do in the towns where he saw that it was more necessary house for hospitals in which the poor are welcomed and cured, as well as Christians and Indians." In 1509, on the island of Hispaniola, the hospitals of San Nicolás de Bari, San Buenaventura and Concepción de la Vega were already functioning. And in New Spain, Hernán Cortés, in 1521, founded and financed the construction of the today called Hospital de Jesús, which is still standing and functioning.
Later, the Spaniards built in that same viceroyalty the hospitals of San Lázaro (1521), dedicated to lepers, that of San Juan de Letrán (1540), the Real de Nuestra Señora del Rosario (1562), that of the Charity of the Name de Dios (1562), that of Santa Veracruz (1575), that of Our Lady of Monserrat (1580), the Real de El Nombre de Jesús (1580), that of San Bartolomé (1582), that of San Juan de Dios (1582), and others. Where cities and monasteries were founded, hospitals appeared.
Universities ... also for Indians!
In the English colonies in North America, the first university was Harvard University that was founded in 1636, and the second in Pennsylvania in 1765 as a medical school.
Before Harvard was founded, Hispanic America already had 13 universities: in Santo Domingo (La Española, 1538), Lima (Peru, 1551), Mexico (1551), Santiago (1558, in La Española), Bogotá (Colombia , 1580), Quito (1586), Pontifical of Lima (1608), Cordoba (Argentina, 1613), Santiago de Chile (1619), San Miguel de Chile (1621), the Pontifical (Jesuit) of Bogotá (1621), the Jesuit of Quito (1622) and that of Sucre (Bolivia, 1624) ...
Indians could go to universities and different types of colleges of higher education. In Mexico, in the seventeenth century, in fact, there were even Filipinos considered "free Japanese Indians vassals of His Majesty", as claimed by Filipino student Manuel de Santa Fe. A study ("The Indians, the priesthood and the University in New Spain, XVI-XVIII centuries ") has 134 Indians doing higher studies in the 18th century in Mexico: in the seminary, in the 7 university colleges of Puebla, in the 3 centers of the Jesuits in Oaxaca and in the University.
A Mexican ordinance of 1697 mandated that a quarter of student scholarships be dedicated to Indians, children of chiefs, "who know Mexican, Otomi or Mazahua." Many Indians of noble family (the Tlaxcaltecan nobility and other native nobles remained and respected until independence) studied in seminars, not to be priests - except in some cases - but to be local leaders and officials of varying degrees in their regions .
Indian chiefs wrote to the King with complaints ... and the king responded
The Tlaxcaltecan nobleman Julian Cirilo Castilla Aquihualcteuhtle writes to the king and the authorities with a plan for a school only for Indians in 1753 (which did not crystallize, but was debated).
There will be schools for Indian ladies, such as the Royal College of the Maidens of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Its sponsor, the noble Indian Anna Ventura Gómez, in 1790 writes complaining to the King because the rector has allowed a Spanish to enter the College.
It was common for all kinds of Indian chiefs to write with complaints to the King in Spain ... and the King sometimes answered. Don Patricio de Hinachuba, Indian chief in the Appalachian missions in Florida, who spoke Spanish well, had written a letter to the king in 1699 denouncing certain abuses and the king responded in 1700 with orders for civil authorities: "I greatly wish that these poor caciques and natives are well treated and that you help, protect and defend them, as is your duty and I have ordered in repeated documents. " Five years later, the English destroyed these communities with blood and fire. There are not many cases of Indian or African chiefs writing to the Dutch cities or the King of England with claims: simply, other European powers did not consider them subjects.
Tata Vasco de Quiroga in Michoacán with its hospital villages, the Jesuits with their reductions in Paraguay, the Franciscans with the missions of California and Appalachians ... inspired by the utopian literature of the 16th century, the religious tried to create villages of Indians outside of the disastrous influence of the white man and his cities, his spirit and his ambition. They established reasonable schedules, of 8 working hours a day, with numerous breaks on holidays of saints, Easter, Sundays, Christmas ... and "freely available" days, which could be used to leave the mission and go hunting, fishing , see distant relatives .... The Jesuit missions worked well, the Franciscans did not, due to many factors.
The missions did not produce "for the missionaries" but they produced for the mission and the missionaries: they were cooperative and collective, although with family property, in addition to the communal ones. James A. Sandos's book "Converting California" says it is unfair to compare Spanish missions with French Caribbean plantations or the southern states of the United States. These plantations sought to enrich their owners, while the Spanish missions sought to feed and sustain their inhabitants. "The purpose of a mission was to organize an isolated religious community that could nourish itself physically and spiritually. The surplus of production was used to feed other missions, presidios and towns. Profit was not considered, unlike in the plantations, where it was the reason for its existence, "says Sandos.
Indian slavery, prohibited
Isabel la Católica has already banned enslaving Indians: only cases of captives for wars were admitted. A Christian Indian could never be a slave. There were cases of Spanish ships that caught French ships at war, with Indian slaves of the French, and had to set them free.
Sometimes unscrupulous businessmen abducted Indians to make them work as slaves. When the provincial authorities found out they punished and released the Indians (unlike many municipal authorities, who used to be bribed, corrupt or implicated in crime and were not reliable in this regard).
In the middle of the 16th century the religious orders convinced the King that the Indians should not pay tithing for the support of the Church, something that the Spaniards paid systematically since the 13th century.
Black slaves escaped from enemy territories could become Spanish free subjects if Catholics were baptized. In Florida, Fort Mosé appeared in the 18th century, a fort of black soldiers and their families, women and children, with a black captain and a Franciscan chaplain, many born in Africa and escaped from English plantations, free and self-governed as Spanish subjects. There were free blacks in many Latin American cities, many of them for having participated in the army or local militias.
Social changes and rule of law
In many Indian cultures, before the Spaniards arrived, bosses could kill their subjects without cause, or by paying minor fines. Many men could kill their women (of which they could have several, whom they treated differently, some preferred, others almost slaves) or their babies and children. The Chumash Indians in California had the habit of aborting their first baby thinking that it would make them more fertile for other births (obviously, the reality was the opposite: some died and others were sterile). Many cultures practiced infanticide for different reasons.
The Spaniards established laws that did not treat everyone the same, but that did not leave crimes unjudged and punish homicides. There were courts and hearings to file complaints and appeals. Spanish justice could be slow, cumbersome and full of paperwork ... in part, because it tried to take each case seriously.
The noble warrior of Tlaxcala, Acxotécatl, recognized as an ally of the Spaniards against the Aztecs, killed his 13-year-old son, the martyr child San Cristóbal de Tlaxcala, for becoming a Christian, and also his mother (one of his women ) for trying to defend it. In pagan culture perhaps it would have gone unpunished, in Spanish a man who kills his wife and son must be tried and punished.
The lives of children, the elderly, the sick, babies, even slaves ... all lives were protected by law in Hispanic America, with all the abuses and procedural and corrupt inefficiencies that were I want to point out. But the idea that it is right that any fort could kill a weak, sick or child is over. It is the type of social change we can call civilizing.
A conclusion watching the story
In those 14 generations, those four centuries from 1492 to 1898, many things happened in Hispanic America, with all kinds of abuse and corruption, but the questions to ask are:
- more or less oppression and violence than in Spain or Europe of the time ?;
- more or less oppression and violence than in the pagan cultures of the time?
- more or less oppression and violence than in the areas of America under other European powers?
A comparison of the technology transferred, the type of laws and societies created, the limitation of war and violence, the improvement in food and communications, freedoms, the protection of the weak, education and training, health and medical advances ... all this will give a positive balance to any global vision of the Spanish presence in America.
The flag which flies over Fort Matanzas and the Castillo de San Marcos is depicted in usage as a red X figure placed on a white background. This symbol relates to the jagged edges of the cross. The X-shaped crucifix is regularly called "St. Andrew's cross" because legend says that Andrew the Disciple was crucified on a cross shaped like an X.
As early as 1569 the Spanish realized the threat of the Matanzas Inlet and built a plank watchtower and a wood hut to house six militants who took shifts scanning the range. If a vessel was sighted, a messenger or small boat was sent out to warn St. Augustine. Watching and informing were the tower's primary tasks for it was in want of any armament. Due to Florida's humid climate, these clumsy watchtowers often had to be repaired or reconstructed. No sign of any of the towers remain, but archaeological proof suggests that they may have been on Anastasia Island in the neighborhood of the park's visitant compound.
Several times the watchtower prevented pirates from entering in through this back corridor. In 1683, English fugitives captured the watchtower, but the news made it to St. Augustine, and vessels and warriors came and threw them out. In 1686 French privateers attempted to traverse the inlet, but again notice was sent to St. Augustine, and these pirates, too, were revolted.
The Massacre of the French
The European story of Fort Matanzas National Monument starts with an event almost 200 years prior to the construction of the fort at Matanzas - the Spanish slaughter of French forces in 1565. It happened near or quite possibly in the area where now lies the monument. The conflict started Spanish power in Florida for 235 years.
Pedro Menéndez de Aviles
When King Philip II of Spain discovered that the Frenchman Rene de Laudonniére had established Fort Caroline in Florida, he was infuriated -- as the new colony was squarely on land pertaining to the Spanish crown. Spanish treasure navies sailed onward the Florida coast on their way to Spain and Fort Caroline presented an excellent post for French interventions. Despite Philip's objections, Jean Ribault navigated from France in May 1565 with more than six-hundred fighters and pioneers to bring new provisions to Fort Caroline.
General Pedro Menéndez de Aviles, was entrusted with extracting the French, also navigated in May, reaching the Saint Johns River in August with some 800 people, soon after Ribault. After a brief sea chase, the Spanish withdrew south to a position they had earlier surveyed. The Spanish came aground on September 8 and built and named their new village "St. Augustine" because the land had first been discovered on the Feast Day of St. Augustine, August 28.
Ribault sailed on September 10 to attack and destroy the Spanish at St. Augustine, however, a hurricane took his ships far away to the south, destroying them on the Florida coast.
Simultaneously, Menéndez led a force to assault Fort Caroline. For most of the soldiers were away, Menéndez was quickly able to seize the French settlement, annihilating utmost of the men in the engagement. Some of the residents were able to escape to vessels and retreat to France. Menéndez forgave the women and children and transferred them by ship to Havana.
He later discovered from Timucuan Indians that an assortment of white men was on the shore several miles to the south of St. Augustine. He proceeded with 70 soldiers to where a delta had blocked over one-hundred of the shipwrecked Frenchmen striving to get back to Fort Caroline.
With a captured Frenchman as a translator, Menéndez explained how Fort Caroline had been captured and pressed the French to abdicate. Reports to the contrary, he made no guarantees as to forbear them. Having expended most of their stores and defenses in the wreck, they did in fact surrender.
Two weeks later the series of incidents was repeated. More French survivors appeared at the inlet, including Jean Ribault. On October 12 Ribault and his men surrendered and met their fate, again resisting to give up their profession. This time 134 were exterminated. From that day forward, the inlet was called Matanzas -- meaning "slaughters" in Spanish.
After the French, the British grew to be the main threat to Spain. Starting with Sir Francis Drake's assault on St. Augustine in 1586, when he burned the town, England repeatedly raided the Spanish colony. Charles Towne (Charleston) in the Carolina Colony was settled by the English in 1670. The English colony of Georgia was established in 1733 by General James Oglethorpe. Both of these settlements were on land declared by Spain. Enmities were fixed, and the British generals were studying for a reason for charging St. Augustine. Conflicts in Europe provided them the reason to carry the aversions to the new world.
The Siege of 1702
In 1700, Spain’s King Charles II lapsed without an heir. Soon, most of Europe was embroiled in a battle with each country supporting its own Protestant or Catholic nominee for the Throne. The War of Spanish Succession surged over into the New World where it became recognized as Queen Anne’s War. This was the justification South Carolina's Governor James Moore needed. In 1702 he led a company against St. Augustine and its new fort. After 58 days, the British retreated, but as they left, they burned St. Augustine to the ground.
Oglethorpe's Attack of 1740
Just as the 1702 Siege grew out of a larger European conflict, so would the next attack on St. Augustine-- James Oglethorpe's Siege of 1740, which grew out of the War of Jenkin's Ear, a dispute between Britain and Spain over trade in the Caribbean.
The Building of Fort Matanzas
Labor started on the tower in the fall of 1740. Coquina rock was quarried at El Piñon, a small bay south of Matanzas. The building was painful, for long masses had to be driven into the swamp to maintain upcoming stonework.
Regularly, the British and their Indian partners attempted to hinder construction. On July 21, 1741, the British navigated in to attack the Spanish. Two British ships, the sloop St. Philip and a schooner sighted a Spanish sloop moored inside the bay of Matanzas. A Spanish galliot, which had gone unnoticed by the British, opened fire from long range but scored no successes. Night and daze soon ended the British attack.
A Mediterranean-Style Galliot
The following day the British newly attacked. At 10 o'clock in the morn the St. Philip, now free of the fog, propelled in on the Spanish vessel. The sloop attempted to sway away but ran stuck on one of the numerous sandbars in the region. The British embraced the chance and opened fire on the stranded ship. Several shots obtained their target - two Spanish crewmen were annihilated and two more were injured. The Spanish galliot again won the day by beginning fire on the British ships, stopping them from considering further effort. The St. Philip was forced to withdraw to the open sea. Had the British defeated the galliot, they perhaps may have halted the Fort Matanzas construction.
In September 1742 Oglethorpe tried once again. Yet by this time Fort Matanzas was finished and fired its first cannon shot. The British retreated without so much as firing a shot.
In 1751 Montiano was awarded the governorship of Panama, a very wealthy colony compared to St. Augustine and Florida. He died there in 1758.
The Castillo de San Marcos is unparalleled in North American design. As the only extant 17th-century martial construction in the country and the oldest handiwork fortification in the United States, it is an excellent illustration of the "bastion system" of a fortress, as well as the culmination of hundreds of years of improved military defense engineering.
It is also singular for the rock used in its construction. The Castillo is one of only two fortifications in the world constructed out of a limestone called coquina.
Given its light and porous nature, coquina would seem to be a poor choice of building element for a fort. However, the Spanish had few other choices; it was the only rock available on the coast of Florida. Nevertheless, coquina's porosity unintendedly had an unexpected benefit. Due to its conglomerate mixture coquina contains millions of tiny air hollows delivering it compressible.
A cannonball shot at the more solid material, such as granite or stone would smash the wall into tiny pieces, but cannonballs fired at the walls of the Castillo burrowed their way into the rock and attached there. So the dense coquina surfaces incorporated or diverted weapons rather than succumbing to them, rendering a surprisingly long-lived fortification.