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Impact of Spanish Colonization on Indigenous People in Trinidad and Tobago

Info: 2322 words (9 pages) Essay
Published: 21st Sep 2021 in History

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The days were long and arduous and the ships sailed for hours hoping to discover something, they became impatient and discouraged and was at the merge of giving up, then suddenly out into the sea they there was the sight of land grounds, “Look ahead men, its land…I’M AFRAID THIS IS PERHAPS A NEW WORLD!” A seaman named Christopher Columbus became obsessed with the possibility to pioneering a western sea route and the gold and spice islands of Asia. Taking that in great consideration Columbus and his men arrived in the new world for three simple reasons, Gold, God and Glory. Many believed that there was limited source of gold and so the amount of gold an empire had determined how rich their economy was. Europeans alleged at that time, the world was a flat surface but however Columbus challenged that principle. He thought to himself that the world was round and wanted to prove his theory and obtain great riches for and spices hence the reason he wanted to set sailed with his men, hoping to discover India. India was known for its glorious gold and riches. Columbus formulated a theory called the Enterprise of the Indies and since India was known for its many resources, he thought that it was profitable to use the sea route to get there. It was suggested that passing on land routes included payments of many taxes and so decided it take such alternative. The trip therefore had to be sponsored but unfortunately he was rejected several times by the king and queen of Spain. He tried convincing them that he would discover great possessions that would enhance their economy and that he would also spread their religion of Christianity, but his efforts were to no avail. However, that was until after the Spanish conquest of the Moorish kingdom of Granada in January 1492. The Spanish monarchs, flush with victory, and so agreed to support his voyage. In this essay I will examine both the mayor reasons for the Spanish arrival in the new world and analyze the impacts that their colonization had on the indigenous people in Trinidad and Tobago.

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To acquire gold, spread the word of god and accomplish glory, were indeed the most important reasons for the Spanish’s arrival in the new world. In Columbus’ times gold was very limited and a wealthy nation would be determined by the amount of gold it’s economy owned. Columbus wanted to provide evidence that the world was indeed round and that he could sail to obtain the immense riches of India to return to his country. However on doing so he discovered land that was referred to as the new world, this is known today as the Caribbean and North, South and Central America. On arriving at the land, to Columbus’ astonishment, it was in fact an existing world. Therefore the Spanish were obviously not the first set of people to discover the new world and was not the first settlers there. Different types of indigenous people were the primary settlers that journeyed to the Caribbean. They were great hunters and to obtain food would hunt animals to consume. However with diverse weather conditions animals tend to migrate a lot to find an environment that suits them best. Parallel to this, the indigenous groups migrated a lot in search of food and so as a result settled in the Caribbean and Americas. Two sets of these indigenous tribes that remained in Trinidad were called the Tanios and the Kalinagos. They had unique cultures and lifestyles from that of the Spanish. Luckily the Spanish was worshipped by the Amerindians because they saw them as Gods. This was so because of the white complexion of their skin and they were immediately welcomed. The natives thought that if they serve them with whatever they desired they would be richly blessed since they were Gods.

The Spanish soon after started controlling the groups of indigenous tribes. They forced them to work for no pay and soon there freedom was taken away from them. Their lands and riches were possessed by the Spanish settlers and they enslaved the Amerindians. The word of God was a very important factor to the Spanish and they took their religion of Christianity very seriously. The Spanish settler’s religious beliefs were also extended to the indigenous people and they were forced not to practice their own culture. Their religion of Christianity was made compulsory and the natives were forced to speak their language. There traditional religious beliefs were stamped out and were replaced by Christianity. The Spanish believed that once they had the ability to make someone reject their own god and worship theirs, they would have great control over that person and so that is exactly what they did to the Amerindians. Once their religion was delivered to the world, the Spanish’s empire would be exceedingly contented and so they achieved a main reason for their arrival.

Another reason the settlers came was to obtain glory, this however summarizes some aspects which includes land, power and wealth and so Spain became flooded with magnificence and wealth after conquering the new lands. European nations became wealthier because of the precious metals such as gold and diamonds that they obtained from the new world. They cultivated many lands and produced large amounts of harvest; they enslaved the Amerindians and offered no pay at all. Spain gained great power and prestige; they dominated the Americas and possessed a vast amount of land and wealth. The country reined for a very long time after Columbus’ discoveries, bringing jealousy to other countries. To the Europeans, the widespread of their Christianity beliefs was named very well for them. Columbus’ voyages was a great beginning for Europeans, it made them explore even more. Trading exportations of large quantities of goods and raw materials was available along with other positive features. The Amerindians had also introduced tobacco, corn and cassava to the Spanish. They acquired and learned great skills from the Amerindians, for example how to build their houses to withstand hurricanes. After the voyages, few negative effects were also bought to the Europeans nations. This included lots of jealousy and rivalry among European nations which caused many wars. The Europeans also obtained diseases such as yellow fever and malaria from the Amerindians resulting in many deaths.

The Spanish colonization however had major negative impacts on the indigenous people that settled in Trinidad such as the decrease of the population, family separation, starvation and the lost of their culture and tradition. The most prominent amongst them all was genocide and annihilation. The indigenous population decreased drastically after being enslaved by the Spanish. The Amerindians, were killed in the defensive wars they undertook against the Spanish to preserve their freedom. They lost battles to the Spanish and died rapidly because their weapons were made from bones, stones and shells and so they could not have competed with that of the Spanish. The Spanish had in possession, more superior arms and weapons that included guns, canons, dangerous explosives and gunpowder and was successful in dominating the indigenous people. Some also died from many European diseases such as small pox, measles and influenza. Because the indigenous people were not immune to these diseases they became exceedingly ill and consequentially they eventually died. Being enslaved, some natives were separated from their families, which caused a major breakdown. They were not familiar with the nature of work and unknown lifestyle forced onto them by the Spanish and the harsh treatments received so this resulted in a great loss of the population.

The Amerindians were also fatalistic and believed when bad things happened, the Gods were against them and seeing that they saw the Europeans as gods, as stated earlier, some committed suicide since they were treated so ruthlessly. Others, after being brutally enslaved and submitted to a meager diet of cassava and sweet potatoes, died from malnutrition and overwork in the mines or plantations. They died from starvation because they were not liberated to obtain the food they would normally consume. They were starved and treated as slaves. The indigenous people were also used for sport purposes by the Spanish. The Spanish saw them as lesser bodies and so to test the sharpness of one’s blade or weapon, they would cut off the neck of an Amerindian. Some also committed infanticide. Others ran away to other island where they could be concealed while some just surrendered.

Another major impact that the Spanish colonization had on the indigenous people was the lost of their culture and tradition. After being taken over by the Spanish settlers they were stripped of their unique cultures. It was on Columbus’ third voyage he discovered Trinidad. The two groups of indigenous people that survived in Trinidad, the Tanios and Kalinagos had different characteristics and so those features were abolished after being forced to live by another way of life. The arawaks, sub group of the tanios were the first set of people discovered by Spanish and was seen as very peaceful and sedentary beings. The arawaks, short, copper colored, having long black and straight hair, survived from agriculture, hunting and fishing, they grew a soft variety of corn and sweet potato. They also knew how to make cassava bread using an elaborate process to leach out the poisonous juice of its roots.

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The arawaks society was simply a very calm culture The Arawaks society was basically a very calm culture. It was classed into contentment, friendliness and was a highly organized paternal society. Each society contained a small kingdom and every kingdom had a leader, call a cacique. At the time when Columbus arrived, there were five different kingdoms, all was then in fact divided separated and dismantled. The culture of the arwaks involved having two or three wives and the cacique had about thirty. Women enjoyed a materially superior lifestyle being the wife of the cacique and also their children were held in high esteem. The religious myths of the arawaks were polytheists and their Gods were called ZEMIS. Religious practices of the zemis included worshiping and obeisance to the zemis themselves accompanying dancing and took place in the village courts during special festivals. Medicine men or priest also consulted the zemis for advice and healing, this was also done in public ceremonies with songs and dances. The Europeans however took away those valuable practices and cultures from them after conquering their lands. They forced them to abide by their rules and regulations and stripped their way of life viciously. The tanios have now totally disappeared from the surface of the earth.

The other group of indigenous people that was found in Trinidad was the caribs, a sub group of the Kalingao tribe. This tribe had olive skin, long straight hair and was a handsome people of great stature. Their foreheads and noses were flat since they flattened their heads, believing it to be a sign of beauty and perfection. They were not farmers but however great fishermen. Their religious beliefs involved abstaining from pigs, salt and turtles were practiced. Human sacrifices were also part of these rituals. Their culture was also somewhat of the arawaks. They had a head chief called the ubutu, who was selected because of strength and skill. Their manner was quite fierce and warlike. When conquered by the Spanish these indigenous people was also enslaved and they were also forced to live their lifestyle. Nevertheless, some people of this tribe still exist today in parts of the world and their culture has therefore survived to some extent. Life has changed dramatically for the carib people who traditionally are shy and retiring. However, many feel that they currently do not receive the attention they deserve and are vigilant in their determination not to suffer from exploitation; a fate that has bedeviled many indigenous peoples throughout the world.

The Spanish colonization indeed impacted negatively on the indigenous people’s depletion and it also resulted in lost of their culture. Conversely, few positive impacts was also accomplished and introduced to the Amerindians. Technology was introduced to them by the Spanish for instance, ship building, also the skills of using navigational instruments. In addition to that European crops were bought in like banana, wheat, rice, coffee and olive. Animals were also imported such as horses, cows, pigs and chicken. The Spanish are not only the cause of the whipping out of the indigenous tribe but also plays an important role in the development of Trinidad. The Spanish governor who made the most significant impression on Trinidad was Don Jose Marla Chacon, after whom the national flower, the chaconia has been named. Chocon was an astute administrator who settled in many depute, declared Port of Spain the captial city of Trinidad today and also initiated development in the more remote parts of the island. Today many Spanish names of places exits in Trinidad, these include Rio-Claro, San-Fernando, Santa Flora, Santa Rosa, Barataria and many more.

The language of the Spanish still exists and is officially the second language of Trinidad and Tobago. Some Amerindian names also exist as well in Trinidad today for example, Caura which means heavily wooded valley and Caroni. These two places are fun for its fascinating places of interest. There is the Caura River which is an interesting place to visit for recreational purposes. The Caroni Bird Sanctuary is known for the view of wonderful birds of numerous characteristics. There is also the Caroni Swamp which is also a historical place of interest in Trinidad. The history of the Spanish Colonization is indeed a unique aspect of our culture today.


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