What happened in 1492? The words discovery, contact, encounter, invasion give different meanings to Christopher Columbus and the events set in motion by his trip across the Atlantic Ocean. Critical thinking about the 1992 Quincentennial is vital for both a historic understanding of the Americas and many dimensions of our contemporary lives.
The population of the Americas was reduced by ninety per cent in the 100 years after 1492, the greatest demographic catastrophe the world has ever seen. For some, this is seen as the "Black Legend," the record of Spanish cruelty in the New World, but deaths came instead from the great crowd killers of the Old World, smallpox, influenza, and the plague. The psychological trauma of disease greatly facilitated the conquest of the Aztecs and Incas.
Nahua cosmological forecasts of the end of the world in the fifth age combined with the created histories of the Mexican past to "prepare" the leaders of Tenochtitlan for conquest.
Bartolmé de las Casas, the Defender of the Indians, struggled mightily against Spaniards who wished to exploit natives for their labor. This struggle helped to define the establishment of Spanish colonies in the Indies. His ultimate failure contributed to exploitive labor practices in the region.
Deconstructs the meeting at Cajamarca, Peru, between Atahualpa and Pizarro using three accounts of the encounter that sealed the fate of the Inca empire.
Glossary and Notes