Seven Myths Of The Spanish Conquest by Matthew Restall
Read this book while trying to figure out the history of Mexico and Central and South America. Dense but highly recommended. Restall tries to work out what he feels are misconceptions about the Spanish conquest of Latin America.
- •The myth of extraordinary menRestall argues that Cortes and Pizarro and the other conquistadors weren't supermen, they were following procedures and tactics the Spanish had developed, first over 700 years of fighting Muslim Africans, and then over time in the New World. (Dunno, I do kinda disagree with him on this one. Cortes was maybe a homicidal psychopath but he was def extraordinary I'm boldness physical courage and risk-taking)
- •The myth of the King's armyMost conquistadors, Restall says, weren't soldiers, and didn't think of themselves as even "Spanish." They were bands of men - Basque, Andalusian, whatever - with nothing to lose. Something more like gangs of pirates or bandits than an organized invading military. They fought each other often.
- •The myth of the white conquistadorMaybe the most illuminating chapter. Restall argues that the conquistadors' victories were only possible because of native allies. What the Spanish really did was spark native civil wars and revolutions against ruling empires.
- •The myth of completionRestall says that in a lot of ways, the Spanish never did "conquer" native populations, that indigenous societies continued existing and resisting for centuries, maybe even to the present.
- •The myth of (mis)communicationRestall argues that the Spanish didn't understand nearly as much as they may have thought they did about what native peoples were saying to them.
- •The myth of native desolationHow much did the native peoples of Mexico and South America even consider themselves defeated? Or did they see the Spanish as just some new regional power to deal with, negotiate with, and accommodate?
- •The myth of superiorityTo put it bluntly, Restal says guns and steel weren't that important, that germs made all the difference. Spanish technological superiority wasn't that dramatic and the Aztecs adapted fast to it. What really happened was some lucky conquistadors exploited an unprecedented biological catastrophe.