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Hernandez Brazil Spanish America

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Hernandez
Portugal and Spain were neighbors in Europe and in the Western Hemisphere, where
Portugal settled in Brazil and the Spanish ruled much of the rest of the Americas. They acted
similarly in their abuse towards the Amerindians and the Africans they imported to the Western
Hemisphere. Both empires were Catholic, but one was able to break from the Catholic Church’s
power more easily. Spanish America used mostly Amerindian labor while Brazil mostly used
African laborers. These two Catholic countries abused both the indigenous people and the
Africans that they imported to work for them. This systemic and sustained abuse of the labor
force, made the two empires created by Spain and Portugal quite similar. However, the Spanish
administration of its empire was more complex and extensive than the administrative structure
created by Portugal in Brazil. Spanish America was more rigidly organized than Brazil, but both
were corrupt.
Both Iberian immigrants and creoles felt superior to the Amerindians and the Africans
who were forcefully shipped to the Americas. Their belief in their superiority led them to take
anything they wanted without remorse. Many native women were raped during the conquest
period and thus started the mestizo race which would later lead to the pardo casta; a mix of
native, European, and African ancestry people. Castas was such an important social status
determinator for both Spanish America and Brazil that they even made paintings showing the
levels of castas in accordance to the purity of an individual’s blood. The more Iberian blood an
individual had, the purer the individual’s blood, and therefore the higher their social status.
Spanish America’s mainland took advantage of Amerindian labor through the
encomienda and later the mi’ta system. The Amerindians found themselves forced to work for
meager wages in order to pay an obligatory tribute to the Spanish empire. In this way, the
mainland’s Spanish and creoles were able to grow crops and mine silver and gold through cheap
labor. Since Brazil’s sugar industry worked laborers to death, Brazil resorted to shipping in
African labor because Amerindian labor declined quickly. African labor was also used in the
Spanish Caribbean Islands that produced cane sugar. We can now see the effect of the transport
of Africans to Latin America, Brazil and the Caribbean has a large population of African
descent.
Spain converted many Amerindians to Catholicism by force. They gave them the choice
to either convert and get baptized or die. The Catholic Church had a stronger influence in
Spanish America than they did in Brazil. Spain established Inquisition tribunals in Mexico City
and Lima in 1569 to maintain the ‘purity’ of their religion. Portugal never established an
Inquisition tribunal in Brazil, but they did send special agents to Brazil on three occasions, the
first time was in 1547. A similarity of both Spanish America’s and Brazil’s Inquisitors is that
they cared more about investigating New Christians, bigamy, blasphemy, and the readings of
prohibited literature than heresy. Due to the Church’s weaker grip on Brazil, Portugal broke “the
long-standing tradition of equal and complementary authority exercised by church and state,”
under the Marquis de Pombal. (307) The Crown banished all the Church’s friars from gold-rich
Minas Gerais due to their illegal smuggling practices; it also banished the Society of Jesus from
Brazil in 1760. Spain’s Charles III followed the Portuguese king’s example and banished the
Jesuits in 1767. This challenge to the Church marked the Enlightenment period’s influence in all
of Latin America.
Spanish America’s administration developed faster than did Brazil’s. Spanish America
was divided into two viceroyalties, they were New Spain and Peru which were created in 1535,
and 1542, respectively. A Spanish Council of the Indies was created while a Portuguese
Overseas Council was created later on. Portugal did not intend to treat Brazil as a permanent
colony at first, but it became necessary when trade competition from the French arose. Portugal’s
king, John III, formed 12 hereditary captaincies in the 1530s in an attempt to create an organized
colony. The experiment failed. By 1621 Brazil had been successfully grouped into two states,
Maranhao and Brazil. Portugal did not devote much administrative attention to Brazil’s interior
until the 18th century when gold was discovered in Minas Gerais. Even though Brazil was less
centralized than Spanish America, both colonies’ administration was corrupt due to prohibited
trade with other countries and the acceptance of bribery from rich hacienderos and merchants.
In conclusion, Spanish America and Brazil were broadly similar. Both colonies followed
a casta system, imported African slaves, broke the Catholic Church’s power at varied levels, and
had a corrupt colonial government. Much of the actions performed hundreds of years ago still
affect Latin America’s society. Discrimination towards different ethnicities is still seen. There
are many ancient, greedy politicians clinging on to their government positions to maintain their
extravagant lifestyle while doing nothing to improve the country’s economy.
Works Cited
Burkholder, Mark A., Johnson, Lyman L. Colonial Latin America: Oxford University Press, .
.2012. Print.
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