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The Caste System in Colonial Latin AmericaResearch Paper

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¶ … Mayan Civilization

History has it that the Mayan Civilization was one of the earliest, most advanced forms of civilization ever experienced in the face of human history. The Mayan empire covered the Mesoamerica, which was basically the Mexico and Central America way before the Spanish conquest in the 16th Century. The Mayan population was centrally situated and not scattered across large regions like was the trend with other indigenous populations of the Mesoamerica. The Mayans occupied the Yucatan Peninsula and the modern day Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Chiapas and Tabasco. The fact that they lived together in one central place meant that the Mayan people were relatively secure from rampant attacks from the surrounding tribes.

The early Maya or the pre-classic period lasted between 1800 BC to 250 AD and had some defining characteristics that set it apart. This period was characterized largely by agriculture with crops such as corn, beans, cassava and squash being the main crops that they produced in large quantities. About 300 BC which was considered middle pre-classic era, the Mayan people began to expand their influence and occupation both in the lowlands and the highlands. This was also the period that saw the rise of the widely recognized first civilization of the Mesoamerica known as the Olmecs. The Olmec greatly influenced the religious, the number system as well as the cultural system of the region. They also expressed architectural ability through the building of their pyramids, having cities constructed as well as significant stone monuments. An example of the early Maya civilization is the Mirador city that was located in the northern Peten which was one of the greatest cities ever built in this period.

Then came the Classic Maya which flourished in AD 250-900 and has been considered the golden age of the Mayan civilization.it was during this period that the Mayan civilization realized some 40 cities with each holding a population of between five thousand to fifty thousand people. The peak population of the Mayan empire at one point was estimated at two million people. During this time, the Maya built plazas, palaces, temples, pyramids, courts for playing games and even had advanced farming methods like the use of irrigation as well as terracing.

The Mayans were known to be religious and had many gods who were related to nature. The holy lords were considered to be at the top of the society and served as the intermediary between man and the gods and were charged with conducting important religious ceremonies. The Mayans had advanced hieroglyph as well as architecture and art that was seen through their stone carvings and conscriptions on buildings and their monuments. They are also the civilization that is known to have made paper from tree barks and wrote on them (Canadian Museum of History, 2015).

Most of the early civilizations are known to have been located in deserts and drier areas, but in contrast to this, the Maya civilization was located in the rainforests and it is still a mystery how they were able to master the skills to overcome such odds and build an elaborate civilization in such conditions. However, even more baffling is the rapid decline and disappearance of the Mayan civilization from such a mighty empire to ruins. What happened to Mayan people is one mystery that many people have been questioning, scholars wonder how such a strong and a stable civilization which had flourished for about twenty-seven hundred years disappear without rational and clear explanation. To this effect, there are various theories perpetrated in attempts to explain what truly happened to the Mayan civilization. These include; drought and climate changes which led to demise of Mayan culture, the warfare from the neighboring cities that caused the Mayans to be become extinct, the ecological collapse theory and many others (Hill, 2012).

The U.S.-Mexican war and expansion

The U.S.-Mexican war is one of the most significant events that has over the years determined the Anglo-American/Mexico relations to the current times. It is the expansionist war that the U.S. waged against Mexico and successfully annexed a significant part of Mexico into the U.S. making it the biggest expansion in the history of the U.S.

The war that ran from 1846 to 1848 was occasioned by Texas decision to join the U.S. and the need to expand the U.S. itself. When Texas had won the independence from Mexico, and later on in 1846 joined the U.S., there was a boundary dispute that erupted between the two nations, the U.S. and Mexico. The Mexican government insisted that the southern boundary of Texas, now U.S., must end at Nueces river, yet on the other hand the U.S. insisted that their boundary must go further South to Rio Grande. The Mexican government effectively issued riders to the effect that the U.S. cavalry that had been posted way past the Nueces river be withdrawn, but instead of the withdrawal, the U.S. government acted in contempt and instead pushed their cavalry further south to Rio Grande in chagrin of the Mexican army. This is when fighting broke out and in April, the Congress declared war on Mexico under the administration of President James K. Polk, who apparently has been named as the president responsible for the greatest expansion of the U.S. than any other in the history of the nation (U.S. Department of State, 2015).

The U.S.-Mexico war continued for more than a year with several killings and destruction of property and in September of 1847 the war came to an end with capture of the Mexican City. This forced negotiations to take place between the U.S. and Mexico which culminated into the treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, whose terms President Polk never fully agreed with and longed to further his expansionism further into Mexico. President Polk realized that prolonging the war at this moment would only mean more casualties and also water down his influence and support that he had built through his expansionist approach to leadership, he decided to hand over the treaty to senate for ratification so as to officially recognize the vast land of 525,000 square miles ceded to the U.S., which accounted for 55% of the prewar Mexican territory. This was in exchange for $15 million lump sum payment as well as the writing off of the $3.25 million debt that Mexico owed the U.S. The people who fell in the land that was annexed from Mexico were allowed to acquire citizenship and were allowed to keep their property, free from servitude or any form of slavery. This was an expansionist exercise that many saw as most dictatorial since the Mexican government lost more than half the size of their original country. The land that was annexed from Mexico later on became what is now the Nevada state, California and Utah. It also constituted parts of what is now Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, Kansas, Oklahoma and Colorado (Annenberg Foundation, 2014).

The Spanish imposed "sociedad de castas"

In the domination drive and efforts to inflict their influence over Latin America, the Spanish not only made the locals to change their religions, cultural heritages, economy but also introduced them to the 'sociedad de castas' system among other issues that negatively affected the Latin American people and their hitherto peaceful coexistence. The "sociedad de castas" was a system introduced by the Spanish colonialists that was meant to systematize a hierarchy system that operated on the levels of social-racial classes. It literally meant "society of castes or breeds" (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2015). The caste system imposed in the Latin America by the Portuguese and the Spanish colonialists was basically meant to exploit the labor of the population that was in the lowest rang of the entire system and also attract the loyalty and support of those who were relatively higher up in the social caliber as dictated by the colonialists. It is indicated that the sate system was originally occasioned by the fact that the conquest of Latin America was made possible by the invasion of the region by male soldiers and sailors from the Iberian Peninsula. The New soldiers then settled and having no wives of their own, they fathered children through sexual relations with the Amerindian women and later on the African women. The children who were mixed race had no place in the Spanish families hence were left with the native mothers and seen as a caste below the Spanish fathers and yet slightly higher than the mothers. The caste system had been born and developed later over years to be complex and extensive as it is known in the current times (Goughran D., 2012).

The caste system was such that the Europeans were considered to be at the top of the pyramid and the black slaves and the indigenous people, also referred to as Indios, were at the very bottom of the pyramid. The black population and the indigenous population were predominantly used to provide labor for the farms of the colonialists. In between these two classes, the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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