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Juan Cruz-Barrios







The European expansion in the Atlantic during the decline of the middle ages is one of the more important events in the history of mankind. The impact was of such magnitude, that many historians have taken the date of Colon's arrival to America (1492), as the initial point to indicate the commencement of the modern age. This process of expansion permitted the conquest and the predominance of European values over vast territories inhabited by different races and cultures. From this collision surged a New World for the Europeans; new because, although it had existed for more than six thousand years, it was unknown to the inhabitants east of the Atlantic. Its incorporation into the European world revolutionized the cosmographic knowledge it had, transforming its concepts regarding man and nature. The Europeans were amazed at the realities of what was found - hundreds of indigenous societies with diverse levels of technology, political organization and socioeconomics - who would not conform according to their experience or to the teachings of the classical and religious authorities which traditionally had been their origin of understanding. As a result, the Europeans did not have the precise language to describe these societies nor was he able to understand the customs and way of life of the indigenous societies which marched before him. In their efforts to describe the particularities of these cultures, in most cases, the Europeans employed forms and concepts familiarized in Europe. From this premise stemmed the confusion in describing the indigenous world. For example, when the first explorers returned to Spain, they took along with them some of the inhabitants they had found. They presented them before the European world as "Indians". However, were they really Indians? Culturally speaking they were not, as they did not inhabit India, the expected destination of Cristobal Colon. The Spaniards invented the term "Indian" in order to generically dominate all the indigenous societies. The Americas erupted onto the European world, not only as an object of a challengingly scientific and intellectual curiosity, but also as a cause of economic and political impact. It brought to Europe precious metals and products, which were in great demand and rivaled for. It also introduced other items which were incorporated into the taste of society. The nation that possessed and dominated these economic resources would fortify their political predominance in the continent: from here on, America was a region of incalculable value in the European diplomatic game. Although this mutual relationship was predominated by European values, these values, simultaneously, suffered renovations. Two worlds collided with very distinct cultures, symbols, values and forms of organization. This collision produced conflicts, wars and domination for the original societies of the Americas and opened a new world of conquest and exploitation for European society.

Spain and Portugal were the two principle nations responsible for opening these new horizons, which upon entering the Atlantic route, displaced what until then had been the central nerve of the economic and cultural life of Europe: the Mediterranean. What were the conditions which permitted these changes?


A significant factor which permitted the permanent establishment of the Spaniards in the Americas and the following displacement of the indigenous societies were the conditions which existed in Spain at the end of the XV century. Spain was prepared for maritime expansion. Had it not been prepared, Cristobal Colon's voyages of exploration may have remained forgotten or could have had influence only over the navigational or scientific community. However, such was not the case. The voyages had a major effect on all of society, particularly upon Castilian society, which was disposed to act rapidly and incorporate those regions to the west of the Atlantic into the Spanish world. How was it possible that in about some forty years, it could have established the institutions and planted the characteristics that defined the Americas for more than three centuries? The experience of Atlantic exploration in prior years prepared the way.
Military and religious rivalry between Christian and Islamic followers was important aspects of European politics between the VIII and XV century. The dominion of the Arabs and Berbers over Northern Africa, as well as their establishment in Sicily, Spain and Portugal provoked a difficult struggle with the conquered societies.
The European nations launched a campaign - The Crusades - in order to impede their advance in the orient, since the kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula organized the recon quest of their land. In both cases the Islamic conquest signified an attempt against their religious beliefs and, at the same time, against the security and the interest of the European world in the Mediterranean. From a military point of view, the Crusades failed in its intent to recover the Holy Land, however, it did benefit socially and economically. The richness and the luxury of oriental life which had passed before the astonished eyes of the Europeans had stimulated their desire to intensify commercial relations with these exotic countries, so they could acquire their exquisite and refined products, such as satin, precious stones and spices. This longing was perpetuated by the stories of the soldiers returning from the regions of Asia and the almost indefatigable legendary tales of voyagers, such as the Venetian Marco Polo, who reached as far as the confines of China and observed the grandiose ness of Kublai Khan's court.
A great deal of this commerce was carried out by land across Asia. Upon arriving at the northern ports of the neighboring Orient and Africa, the products were transported to Europe through the mediation of the Italian cities of Genoa and Venice, which monopolizing the situation, inordinately raised the prices of the articles. The advance of the Turks through the neighboring Orient and their eventual taking of Constantinople in 1453 closed these lucrative commercial routes and converted the Mediterranean into a dangerous seaway. From here on, the thinking was to find another route, which would not only permit the continuation of commerce, but would also allow the attack of the rear guard of Islamic power. This prepared the way for consideration of the Atlantic as an alternative in the search for such a route, with Portugal and Spain initiating the steps in this endeavor.

The first step was taken by Portugal in commencing the exploration of the African coast. In line with this interest, the Portuguese had dedicated a great effort in developing navigational technology and their knowledge of geography and astronomy. They improved the construction of ships and perfected such instruments as the astrolabe and the sea-compass, which permitted a greater precision of orientation in the sea.
Geography was fundamental to the progress of this enterprise. Utilizing the knowledge developed by Italian and Catalonian hydrography, maritime maps of greater accuracy were drawn, facilitating the crossing of the ocean. Upon perfecting the existing knowledge, the Portuguese managed to explore the entire western coast of Africa until, in 1486; Bartoleme Diaz reached the Cape of Good Hope, in the southern extreme of that continent.
The Portuguese secured their monopoly in these regions, where they established commercial ports dedicated to the trafficking of slaves, ivory, gold and spices. In conjunction with this systematic exploration of the African coast, also occupied were a group of islands within the Atlantic Ocean: the Madeiras, the Azores and the islands of Cape Green. These islands played a role of great strategic and economic importance. Due to their geographical position, they served as a base and a secure port for the exploration of the Atlantic, primarily in future attempts to get to Asia by navigating to the west. Additionally, the islands were fertile and held the promise of cultivated products which were increasingly in demand for in the European market. Because of the occupation of a group of islands, known as the Canary Islands, Portugal confronted Spain, its maritime rival.
While in Portugal the explorations went on successfully, Spain found itself in the final stages of the Recon quest of its territory from the hands of the Muslims and ready to achieve national unity. These events prepared Spain for their exploration on the trans-Atlantic enterprise.
The penetration of the Arabs in the Iberian Peninsula initiated a movement, by the Christian community, which was centered in the north in the mountains of Austria and Galicia, to re-conquer the territory from the hands of this enemy whose faith represented a different culture and values. This struggle had the spirit of the Crusades and was advanced to the south, even limiting the Muslim power in the region known as Al-Andalusia. Meanwhile, the territory in Christian hands was consolidated in the following kingdoms: Castile and Leon in the central region, Aragon in the east, Portugal in the west and Navarra in the north. To conclude this discussion, it’s of interest to note, the detachment in particular of the kingdom of Castile and Leon and the kingdom of Aragon. Of these, Castile displayed the greatest and tenacious resistance and aggression against the Muslims.
During the XIII century, Castile expanded its frontier to the south of the Peninsula, conquering the region of Al-Andalusia, with the exception of the kingdom of Granada, where the reduced Muslim power remained. The Christian communities, whom till this point had lived in this territory under Muslim rule, had learn to coexist and as such, mixed in with the Muslims. As a result, a rich and diverse culture flourished predominantly of Arabian characteristics. This influence, for example, became evident in the Castilian language, adopting words clearly of Arabian extraction such as alcalde (mayor), alcabala (commerce), azucar (sugar), almirante (admiral); in the architectural, ornamentation and planning of cities; and in the technical resources, such as their system of irrigation.

Upon the opening of this frontier, new opportunities for the development of agriculture and manufacturing surfaced, attracting a substantial number of migrants from all of Spain, many of them eventually immigrating to the Americas. Due to the growth of this population's energy, restlessness and cultural mixing, it became necessary in the emigration process to create institutions to govern the territories which it had incorporated under this ever changing frontier. The acquisition experience was fundamental for the administration of American territories.
One of the aspects of greater importance in this process was Castile's acquired position, of detachment from the commerce of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. Their southwestern coastal regions were to be seen populated by important maritime businesses. The portal city of Sevilla was converted into the vital economic center of the Castilian maritime enterprise. Merchant marines were quickly gathering there from the Northern provinces, as well as the Gallegos, expert navigators of the Cantabrico sea routes, along with the Genoese, Venetians and Florentinians. These Italians brought along their capital and their long tradition and experience as men of business and the sea. Their influence was notable, since they not only served the kings of Castile as navigators, but also as bankers. On the other hand the Andalusian navigators entered, in conflict with the Portuguese over control of the Atlantic as a result of the Canary Islands, one of the more controversial and conflicting territories.
In the Treaty of Alcacovas of 1479, Portugal renounced any rights over these islands, in exchange for Castile's recognition of Portugal's monopoly over commerce and navigation in western Africa and the islands of Madeiras and the Azores. In this manner, Castile acquired its first Atlantic possession, which served as the stepping stone between the Spanish Recon quest and the colonization of the Americas. Following the pattern of the recon quest, the occupation of the Canary Islands was an undertaking which combined private and royal initiatives. This relationship was maintained through contractual agreements called capitulations, which we will see further on, will regulate the relationship between the Crown and the conquistadors in the Americas. These islands were inhabited by warlike societies, with a different culture. In addition to their domination, the Spaniards distributed the land among themselves as much as they did the islanders. Although this method had been utilized in the recon quest, the difference was now found in that, the Castilians were having their first experiences in a conquest and exploitation of a society with a much less and undeveloped technology.
The final push for the conquest of the Atlantic was motivated by the matrimony of the crowns of Castille and Aragon, the subsequent taking of Granada and the appearance in the royal court, of a clever and perceptive man who embodied this restless and powerful world: Cristobal Colon (Christopher Columbus).

The matrimony of Isabel of Castile and Fernando of Aragon represented the union of two houses of royalty, preparing the way for the political unification of Spain. Aragon, who had developed a prosperous commerce based on the exportation of textiles, had already extended its dominion to Sicily, Cerdinea and Greece. The rich ultra-peninsular administrative experience of Aragon in the Mediterranean and its technological capability in commerce was united with the vitality of Castile. As such, the combined energy and talent of the Catholic rulers also stabilized the politics of the two kingdoms and guaranteed its absolute power. The monarchy was being liberated of the medieval limitations imposed by the church and by the autonomous rights acquired by the cities. Little-by-little, the political and economical power was consolidated, as industry and commerce was reorganized for state purposes. Such consolidation was indispensable for the task of expansion, colonization and commerce which would follow the exploration of the Americas.
The taking of Granada, in 1492, represented the extermination of the last refuge of Moorish power in Spain and marked the end of the recon quest. This last phase of the recon quest was motivated, partly, by religious zeal and the spirit of the Crusades which still encouraged the population. Additionally, this enterprise unified the nation for a common objective, reaffirming the intent of the crowns to unify their power.


At the same time that the Catholic Crowns affirmed their dominance over the kingdom of Granada, the conquest of the Atlantic route became a full fledge enterprise, with Cristobal Colon as an associate of such enterprise. Who was this man, so imaginative while also so representative of the times he lived in?
His place of origin has been debated across history, though it is generally accepted that it was the Italian city of Genoa. This explains his involved interest, since childhood, in the navigation and commerce of the fascinating world of the Mediterranean. It is believed that he received no formal education, but rather the practical experience of navigation, bestowing upon him knowledge of astronomy and cosmography. His interest in reading diverse works, from scientific or religious matter to works related to voyagers, stimulated his curiosity and complemented his practical knowledge.
Colon (Columbus) lived a number of years in Portugal and the Madeiras Islands. This permitted him close encounters, first as a map maker and eventually as a marine teacher in the merchant services of this nation, the prime force of the Portuguese explorations. It is probable that all these experiences led him to conceive the plan of a trade route to the orient by navigating west. Although by this time the theory of a spherical shaped planet already existed, this risky enterprise raised some fundamental problems: How far was the Orient from the Iberian coast; was this voyage feasible? Overcoming these obstacles, based on his studies and, in light of the legends and rumors circulated by seamen about lands which existed in the Atlantic, anxiously encouraged Colon. Colon viewed himself as the one delegated by God to accomplish this task. We cannot forget that Colon, as well as those men that would accompany him on his voyage, reflected the mentality of the moment: the transition between the medieval and modern world. Based on the prevailing attitude of the times that all things revolved around religion this Theo centric attitude gradually led to sentiments in which the humane prevailed accordingly. The emerging interest in the exploration of nature resulted in the manner in which the conquistadors encountered the Americas.

In order to realize his plan, Colon tried unsuccessfully to interest the king, as well as other European monarchs, in the enterprise. Even the Catholic crowns, who finally entertain him, delayed six years in making the decision to sponsor the voyage. The contract (capitulaciones) between the Crown and Colon was finally signed in April of 1492. They adopted the form of compensation or privilege, which granted Colon payment for his services, rather than a contract among equals. This document, known as the Capitulations of Santa Fe, is significant in that it incorporates the commercial spirit which will characterize a great part of the modern era. Additionally, it sets the basis for the future government of the Americas. The catholic crowns authorized the voyage and paid for the cost of the fleet, which totaled 5,000 ducats of gold. Colon, as the agent for the crown of Castile, contributed his plan and nautical knowledge to the enterprise. In return, he received ten percent of all merchandise and products obtained in each voyage, after deducting expenses. If he participated with eight percent of the expenses of the fleet and trade equipment for the discovered countries, he could receive benefits in the same proportions. He would be named Admiral of the Open Sea, which would give him the right to be the only judge over commercial issues in the discovered regions. He would also be viceroy and governor; in other words he would be the civil and military representative of the crowns. In this first phase, the state, represented by the Catholic Kings, would totally favor and control the enterprise.
The expedition loaded at the port of Palos. The fleet consisted of three ships: The Nina, The Pinta and The Santa Maria. The Nina was headed by Captain Vincente Yanez Pinzon; The Pinta by Captain Martin Alonso Pinzon; and the Santa Maria by Cristobal Colon himself. In spite of the imminent danger and risk, Colon was able to recruit a crew of about 105 men. They weighed anchor on August 13, 1492. They made a stop at the Canary Islands, the site which from here on would be converted into the stopping point for the expeditions to the Americas.
The uncertainty of the voyage became evident in the discouragement of the crew, upon passing days without reaching the expected Asian coast. The discontent, the fear, the disillusionment became dominant, and even threats of mutiny were apparent. However, a sign of tree branches with green leafs, flowers and birds began to appear, which made it probable that the coast could not be far away. This encouraged the expectations of the crew. Their expectations grew accordingly until, in the dawn of October 12, 1492, a seaman on The Pinta, Rodrigo de Triana, bellowed the eager cry - Land!
That morning they disembarked on the island of Guanahani, now a part of the Bahamas, which Colon christened with the name of San Salvador. From there they navigated between a group of smaller islands, until they reached the island of Cuba. They explored the north coast and due to its extensive geography, confused it with the Asian coast. Some of the men disembarked, searching for a king or great cities, but only found infinite numbers of small villages and people in great numbers. From there they proceeded southwest till they reached Haiti, which was named Espanola.
Colon was dazzled, not only by the exuberance and beauty of the tropical landscape, but was also convinced that he had reached the anticipated oriental riches as well. He affirmed till the day he died, that this land and all others that he explored were part of the Asian continent; from that moment on he erroneously used the name India and named its inhabitants Indians.
On the other hand, the finding of gold in the first explorations caused a grand sensation. Such attitude reveals the economic commercialistic thinking which dominated a great part of the modern era. This economic doctrine converted metal properties, principally gold and silver, into the basis of power. The strength of a state would be measured according to the quantity of existing precious metals in its treasure chest. The finding of gold in the western islands, made their exploration that much more interesting

Another lucrative business which Colon alludes to in his first report regarding the explored lands is the slave trade. Slavery was a general practice in Europe since ancient times and was not limited along racial lines, being that both white and African slaves existed. The
right and state of slavery of the defeated nations in war and of infidels, was justified by the church. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise, Colon considered the island inhabitants as a first hand source of slaves and that, between 1492 and 1495, and various cargo loads of indigenous slaves were shipped to Spain.
In order to benefit from the commercial goods and slaves a commercial factory imitating the ones established by the Portuguese in Africa, needed to be established. This served as the reason for founding the first establishment in the Americas: el fuerte de Navidad
(the fortress of Christmas). Colon left forty of his men here, deciding to return to Spain to communicate his findings and to pick up new reinforcements. On this return trip he took samples of gold, plants, birds and included a group of indigenous people to demonstrate in the royal court, proof of his successful voyage.
Colon made his return entrance into the port of Palos on March 15, 1493. From there he triumphantly crossed over the Peninsula to Barcelona, where the kings awaited him. They gave him an honored reception and were astonished at the objects he offered them. Although Colon had been unable to establish direct contact with the splendid oriental civilizations in his voyage, to the European mentality, the expedition verified the theory of the mapamundi (map of the world) known until then: the proximity of Asia to the European continent. The recently explored islands were the threshold for reaching the Asian kingdoms and this signified a new commercial trade route.
The Catholic Crowns assisted Pope Alejandro VI, as per medieval tradition, in confirming the possession of the new lands. Moreover, this action was necessary, since King Juan II of Portugal had received the news of the voyage with dread, alleging that the newly found lands fell within the terms of the Treaty of Alcacovas and that, by being close to the Azores, they pertained to Portugal. The pope promulgated three bullas (official papal sealed document), known as The Bullas of Alejandrinas, which were of great importance. They granted the sovereignty the legal basis of their rights over the explored and to-be-explored lands, thus making it the duty of Christianizing the inhabitants. The most important of these bullas laid out a line situated one hundred leagues to the west of the Azores Islands and Cape Green, which divided the Atlantic running from north to south. The lands and seas to the west of this line belonged to Spain. The Portuguese were not satisfied with this ultimate disposition, being that they had alleged that the navigational space remaining between this supposed line and the coast of Africa was too narrow. Juan II renounced their pretensions over the new islands and asked, as a change, for the line to be moved 370 leagues to the west. The Catholic Crowns acceded and an agreement was ratified in the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494. The future explorations of the American continent revealed that upon planning the new demarcation, included were parts of Brazilian land under the jurisdiction of the Portuguese crown. The Portuguese dominion covered all this territory.

On September 25, 1493 Colon weighed anchor renewing his westward route. This second voyage contrasted significantly with the prior one. In the first place, he received the support and necessary resources without haggling and, second, this expedition left with permanent and conclusive intentions. Consisting of 17 ships and 1500 passengers, inclusive of, laborers, artisans, men of religion, medics and the nobility and part of the future conquistadors of India, it was believed that among them went Juan Ponce de Leon. The embarkations also included arms and munitions, seeds, a variety of animals, tools and utensils of all kinds; in total, all that was necessary to form a new establishment and populate the newly discovered lands.
On this trip Colon explored the group of islands to be known later on as the Lessor Antilles, such as Puerto Rico and Jamaica. With respect to the place of disembarkation in the island of Puerto Rico, various theories have been considered, but to date they continue to be objects of discussion. Some writers affirm that this occurred by Boqueron, others by the bay of Anasco and others by Aguada or Aguadilla. So far, this controversy has not been resolved, we can only affirm that the fleet disembarked by some point on the western coast of the island. Existing documents also fail to tell us if Colon actually came on land, but based on the customs followed on the other islands, we can suppose that he did to take possession of the land, baptizing it with the name San Juan.
Upon abandoning the island, the fleet directed itself to Espanola to find that the fort of Christmas had been destroyed with no traces remaining of its people. Colon then founded a second settlement called Isabella. This second settlement totally altered the idea of the Columbian commercial factory to the methods and forms of the conquest and colonization typically Castilian and deeply rooted in the recon quest. He also effected the dramatic confrontation with the culture of the indigenous population. Therefore, the first colonial experiments were realized in Espanola and were the focus of where the conquest over other parts of the Americas irradiated.
The instructions stipulated Colon on his second voyage reveal that the enterprise was totally controlled by the state. The state reserved the commercial monopoly and Colon was only permitted participation according to the Capitulations of Santa Fe. Taking merchandise, trading or acquiring precious metals and other objects by exchange, was prohibited on the part of the persons accompanying the expedition; they only received wages and were considered employees of the crowns. In order to effectively control commerce, the establishment of a custom-house was also ordered in which all merchandise would be stored. The real functionaries had to supervise the embarkations and keep a careful record of what was shipped to Spain.
Nevertheless, in the first years, the incurred costs were greater than the gains. The interchange with the indigenous people offered insufficient quantities and the extraction of gold was made difficult, based on the additional hand labor needed. As an alternative, Colon suggested the commercial trade of indigenous people as slaves. Although various cargo loads of indigenous slaves were shipped to Spain, this idea failed to prosper in the metropolis, being that it clashed with the missionary purpose expressed in the papal bullas. Additionally, in the instructions to Colon, the Kings, without losing sight on the material interests of the expedition, had expressed that the first objective was the conversion of the indigenous people to the catholic faith and as such, they were to be treated well without harming them in any way. For the time being, in the year 1500, the sale of the indigenous islanders was prohibited as much in Spain as in other places.

The critical economic situation of the enterprise forced the Kings to change the original idea of the organization of the ultra-marine expansion. They decided to permit the participation of private initiatives in the costs and profits of the expeditions, although this violated the Capitulations of Santa Fe. Such differences in criteria resulted in a series of difficulties between the Crown and Colon, as such between Colon and the population of Espanola. These commenced to demonstrate discontent and gave signs of rebelliousness against Colon and his brother Bartolome, who substituted for Colon during his continued explorations. They were not satisfied with the irregular wages they were being paid and similarly pretended to possess land, the excesses and the rapid participation in the found riches, even though they had to resort to theft and the maltreatment of the indigenous populace. To this you add on the difficulty of adapting to the tropical environment, the lack of conveniences and the arduous work they had to perform to raise the new settlement of Isabella. With their courage exalted, Francisco Roldan led them in the creation of a state of rebellion. These factors and the inability of Bartolome Colon to manage the administrative business, contributed to the Crown's final decision to alter its initial politics.
In 1495 it was ordered by means of a decreed to grant land and real estate, in addition to paying the cost of food for a year, to those subjects who wanted to establish themselves in Espanola. The commerce of this colony remained free, as long as it paid the state 10 % of the commerce produced. Of the gold they extracted, a third part would be retained. Lastly, they were permitted to enterprise new explorations. These advantages were an incentive for the immigration of men with capital, as much as it was for bold adventurers who penetrated themselves into unknown lands, by the promise of incalculable riches and the wish for glory.
The new politics violated, as was indicated earlier, the rights acquired by Colon in the capitulations. Colon was relieved of his position when the Crown sent as investigative judge, with special powers, Francisco de Bobadilla, who returned Colon to Spain in chains. In spite of these profound aversions and deceptions and the express order of the Kings for Colon not to immerse himself any more in the business of Espanola, Colon did not falter in his firm resolve to reach the empire of the grand Khan or India. The Kings did eventually permit Colon to realize new voyages.
In 1498, Colon enterprises a third voyage, reaching the island of Trinidad and traveling the coast of Venezuela. He returned to Spain to again, in 1502, venture into his fourth and final voyage, which took him this time to the coastal regions of Central America, reaching Panama and the Darien gulf. Colon died in 1506 affirming to have found the way to India, but others came following his foot steps demonstrating the geographic reality of the American continent.

From 1498 on, the explorations routinely followed one after another. Expeditions left Espanola for other islands of the Antilles, where other bases were established to further examine the Caribbean sea shores so as to implant itself in the continent. For example, Haernan Cortes left Cuba headed in the direction of Mexican territory. Panama served as the point of departure for other groups which reached the Pacific coast for as far as Peru. At the same time, the Venezuelan beaches permitted the sailing of the Orinoco and the Magdalena rivers till the Bogotá mesa. Of particular interest is the voyage of Americo Vespuccio (1501-1502), considered by some historians as the intellectual discoverer of America. The consideration that these lands realistically constituted an intermediate continent between Europe and Asia was a consequence of this voyage. Another result of this trip was the derivation of the name America given to these lands, appearing for the first time in 1507 in an Introduction to Cosmography Manual.


The Antilles served as the scene for the confrontation of two very different cultures. At the time of the explorative voyages, the Greater Antilles were occupied by the Tainos. The Tainos were the first inhabitants of Puerto Rico, believed to have originally come from the Amazon basin of South America, reaching the island by means of the archipelago of the Lessor Antilles some 600 years before the arrivals of the Spaniards. It appears that the Tainos were a branch of the Arawak Indians which were centered in the Amazon basin, since their characteristics were similar to those of the Arawak culture. The Tainos did not have a system of written communication; this explains the reason why we have no written accounts of either their culture or history. The knowledge that we have of the Taino Indians has been acquired through archeological, anthropological and ethnological studies, such as the chronicles written by the Europeans. However, this reconstruction of the indigenous world is fragmented and is the subject of diverse interpretations and constant revision, dependent on a great extent to advances in archeological investigation. Many times there are discrepancies between the results of different scientific investigations and the written chronicles of the Europeans. Similarly, the same chronicles often offer conflicting versions of events. Taking this into account, we are going to take a look at the Taino world and attempt to reconstruct the cultural collision which was produced by the encounter of two very different cultures.
Apparently, the initial encounter was passive, friendly, and hospitable; it is from these initial accounts that these moralistic characteristics are attributed to the indigenous population. Colon himself testifies to this when he stated: "Of anything they have, ask for it , they will never say no; they first offer what they have and demonstrate so much love that they would give their hearts, ...therefore, any little thing given them, in what ever manner, they are content." Because from the first encounter the indigenous Indians fled, the Spaniards concluded they were afraid thinking they were Gods, in addition to finding the Spaniards clothing and ships strange. The first physical and psychological picture of the indigenous
Indians is given to us by Colon: "...very poor people in all things, they walked around totally naked as when their mothers gave birth to them, and the women also... well built, with very beautiful and pleasing bodies and very good faces, ...and they were of the color of the Canary's neither black nor white... They should make good servants with good manners, as I see they very quickly say all that is said to them...." As can be seen, this description already demonstrates the attitude which the Spaniards will have towards the indigenous Indians. It reflects the European values. Towards the nudity of the indigenous Indians, they can't understand without attaching a notion of inferiority, as to why they don't wear clothes. Already two other elements are seen which will play a principal role in the following centuries: the race and indigenous potential for work. Racially they are compared with the defeated population of the Canary Islands: their neither black nor white. Further on it will appear as if it is possible that the indigenous Indians may be good workers.

The Spaniards demonstrated their greediness for gold and tried to obtain the pieces of this metal which the indigenous Indians had as ornaments. One of the means used was the exchange of worthless items for the gold pieces. The Indians would give their gold in exchange for items totally unknown to them, which for most part, were seen as a novelty. Consequently, from the first moment the relationships are going to demonstrate the difference in values and the level of development of both cultures.

What kind of Taino society unfolded before the eyes of the Europeans? Look for Chapter Three in October to read the answer to this question.