Colonization of Latin America Research Paper

Pages: 10 (2974 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Literature - Latin-American

Latin America has seen the rise of colonialism in recent times. This has brought on some problems. Colonialism brought to Latin America the quick spread and influence of Christianity into the land, replacing traditional religions. European languages like Spanish, English, Portuguese, Dutch, and French have been introduced to the native people. With immigration from European countries and some Asian countries, millions of natives died and were killed due to the illnesses and diseases brought by the foreigners. Furthermore, a small minority of upper class control/controlled the vast majority of any colony or country's resources through generation of class societies.

Foreign invasion also brought division among numerous tribes from the result of European-generated borders. Lastly, much of the resources existent in Latin America were mined by European nations before these countries gained independence. When they gained independence they were left poor with little resources. This paper will assess class structure and colonialism and examine the various ways colonialism in general acted as the primary determinant of existing development in Latin America.


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The process and legacies of colonialism are numerous, too numerous to cover in one sitting. However, the economic and social effects of colonialism are clear. Europeans coming to Latin America to gather resources and colonize left a long-lasting mark on the area, forming into what countries like Brazil and Argentina are today. If one examines the past and current state of Latin America from a social and economic sense, one can spot the obvious differences. When examining topics like colonialism, it is important to think of the past in order to evaluate and examine the current state in previously colonized countries and what initial impacts colonialism had on them.

Research Paper on Colonization of Latin America Assignment

When looking at the definition of colonialism, it is often seen as broad and imprecise. However, colonialism generally lends to mean the foreign/external exploitation of native countries guaranteed through political control and supremacy, which then leads to a condition of dependency on the mother country or colonial power by the subjugated economy. Now people may think colonialism leads to violent conquests where people are murdered and raped into submission. However, religion through extension missionary work, can also lead to the control seen in colonialism and often provides a bigger influence/impact then violence and warfare.

Although colonialism is an inhuman system where people take and plunder the resources of a country, the long-term effects come from the inability of the exploited country to stabilize and develop as well as the way they seem themselves after the colonizers leave (Barker, 2012, 76). To begin, the colonized must deal with an imposed foreign culture. They not only lose a sense of self, but they also lose a sense of freedom. Old ways are removed in favor of new ways and those that choose to resist change are often brutalized or coerced into change.

Eventually many colonized people change their traditions and society to suit that of the dominant culture. People leave the country or progress into lower or altered states of living and lose a part of their ancestral identity. This has happened in parts of Africa and especially in Latin America. Brazil for example, is a perfect example of the aftermath of colonization.

The region of Brazil was colonized by Portugal. That is why Brazilians speak Portuguese. However, another country colonized and influenced Latin American natives more than any other. The most influential country to conquer Latin America was Spain. Most Latin Americans speak Spanish. Countries like Guatemala, Chile, Ecuador; they all speak Spanish and have Spanish architecture still existing within their borders. Europeans conquered the recent colonies of Latin America (turned independent nations) from 17th to 19th centuries and were established as part of an overall expansion of European capitalistic production that followed the Industrial Revolution. European powers like England and Spain sought to incorporate territories that would provide raw materials along with a free or low-cost workforce. In the process, they restructured the existing societies in Latin America. The effects of which are seen today.

This is why Latin America was left impoverished after many of the nations of the area sought independence. The main objective of the colonial powers was not the transference of a metropolitan population to inhabit the colony, as if it was in the United States, it was to gather resources and alter the area to suit the needs of the colonizers. They changed the religious beliefs of the people in Latin America to Christian in order to bond them to something more familiar with Europeans. They created class systems that separated people and removed old traditions. In fact, colonizers like Spain and Portugal built the economies of the colonies to serve as a source of natural resources and inexpensive labor, never planning to spark internal development. From this came monopolistic trade-relations that benefit the economies of the colonizers. To guarantee these monopolistic freedoms, the colonial powers effectively shaped the social and economic dynamics of the colonies.

How were economies and cultures shaped in Latin America?

Colonized countries like Brazil were forced to cultivate non-technologically concentrated monocultures (paradoxically distinguished as "specialization"), marketing unprofitably their complete production for the overriding countries. Even in countries like Chile that have experienced some stabilization and progress have many specializing in agriculture growing crops like coffee beans. This identical agro-export focused on dynamics delineated the land-owning structure, grounded in large properties under the (economic and political) hold of non-modernizing oligarchies. The part of such oligarchies is of central importance.

Meaning, the local elites played major in the political and economic structure of the colonized countries. Their internal activity demarcated, organized and established the associations of exploitation that took place within the colonies of Latin America. The literature will highlight some of the changes Latin America experienced in the progression from colony to independent nations. It will also highlight a specific country, Brazil and show the effects of colonization on its economy and social structure.

Literature Review

This literature review will focus on key aspects of colonization of Latin America. Each section will demonstrate what effects colonization had on Latin America in relation to economy and society. From class structure to language, to exportation, and economic development.

Effects of the Past on Today

A study by Bruhn and Gallego exclaimed that labor exploitation led to decline in colonized countries in terms of economic development. "…"bad" activities (those that depended heavily on labor exploitation) led to lower economic development today than "good" activities (those that did not rely on labor exploitation)." (Bruhn & Gallego, 2012, p. 433). People within countries like Peru experienced colonization as early as the 16th century when Spanish conquistadores came to survey the land. When Spain sought to control these areas, they made most of the people farm or mine in order to grow foods and gain minerals that they could then export back to their homeland. Today Chile's top exports are fish, fruit/nuts/seeds and ores.

Resources like these do not necessarily help an economy develop, as it is reliant on labor and some of these resources like ores were dramatically decreased during colonization. The authors of the study suggest political representation played a part in past and current development in colonized countries. "Our results also suggest that differences in political representation (but not in income inequality or human capital) could be the intermediating factor between colonial activities and current development" (Bruhn & Gallego, 2012, p. 433).

Current development in Latin America shares some similarities to one of its main colonial powers, Spain. In an article by Janoschka, Sequera & Salinas, the authors highlight the current trend of gentrification both in Spain and parts of Latin America.

Major social and political transformations such as the shift towards neoliberal urban policies have widely altered the contemporary structuring of metropolitan areas in Spain and Latin America. One key consequence is the recapture of city centres by wealthy tenants and the eviction of poorer households, a phenomenon usually designated by the term gentrification (Janoschka, Sequera & Salinas, 2013, p. 1234).

Those that are poor are essentially pushed out while the wealthy enjoy the more developed and maintained parts of the country. This happened when Spain colonized the area in 17th and 18th centuries. Natives were essentially pushed out of the central areas so the colonizers/merchants could live in the city center. When the nations gained their independence, they slowly grew to represent the same structure of the poor in the outskirts and the rich in the center.

Latin American economists as explained in the article, foreign countries often sided with the ruling class of an area in order to establish authoritarian rule. Meaning exclusion of large portions of the populace from participating in economic and police control of their communities and countries. This was done to decrease labor cost and yield higher profits. Profits of which the ruling class benefitted from. They took these profits instead of investing on improving infrastructure of the country, and spent it on luxurious and superfluous goods for pure pretention.

The long-term consequences of the restructuring of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Colonization of Latin America.  (2015, June 23).  Retrieved February 24, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Colonization of Latin America."  23 June 2015.  Web.  24 February 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Colonization of Latin America."  June 23, 2015.  Accessed February 24, 2021.