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Spanish Colonization

Spanish Colonization

Spanish Colonization Trivia

Brain Snacks: Tasty Tidbits of Knowledge

Spain's New World empire wasn't owned by Spain. Queen Isabella of Castile, not her husband King Ferdinand of Aragon, gave Columbus money and support for his voyages, and Castile owned the New World from then on. In fact, because of clauses in the marriage contract between Ferdinand and Isabella in 1469, even though they were all subjects of the "King of Spain," the Aragonese (Aragon was the eastern part of Spain, centered around Barcelona and Valencia) needed special passports and royal permission just to travel to the New World. That's quite a pre-nup.

Between 1500 and 1650, the Spanish imported 181 tons of gold and 16,000 tons of silver from the New World. In today's money, that much gold would be worth nearly $4 billion, and the silver would be worth over $7 billion.8 This may not seem like a whole lot in a world with national budgets in the trillions of dollars, but during this span, prices in Europe rose by 500%; in other words, a loaf of bread was five times more expensive in 1650 than in 1500, thanks in great part to gold and silver imports.

Cortés's men had only thirteen guns in their possession when they conquered Tenochtitlan. It was not the Spaniards' firepower but their horses, diseases and, most importantly, their steel swords which allowed a small band to conquer a vast empire. Firearms only served to frighten the Aztecs, not kill them.

Los Angeles is actually named Ciudad de Nuestra Señora de Los Angeles (The City of Our Lady of the Angels). LAX is a much easier name for the airport than CNSLAX. A bit of a mouthful.

Not every country in South America speaks Spanish. Brazil, French Guiana, Suriname and Belize were all colonized by other European powers and have different official languages. The Line of Demarcation of the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494) gave Brazil to the Portuguese; the French and Dutch conquered French Guiana and Suriname in the eighteenth century; and the British seized Belize at nearly the same time. So, at least officially, Brazil speaks Portuguese; French Guiana speaks French (and is not a colony but a part of France—kind of like Hawaii for the U.S.); Suriname speaks Dutch; and Belize speaks English. And in rural Mexico, remote parts of the Andes, the Amazon and Patagonia, native languages such as Nahuatl (the language of the Aztecs), Quechua (the Incas), and Itzaj (also known as Itza Maya or simply as Maya), among others, thrive to this day.

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