For most of the people in the world, Latin American countries are quite similar in culture and personality; Europeans and Asian for instance, can spot in Latin American people this sense of being warmer and open to new people no matter what country they come from. But why is this? Why these people seem to have a different approach to life than northern America, or the other continents in the globe? Possibly the first wide answer will be, because of the historical background, as everybody knows the Americas were introduced to the world much later than countries in Europe and Asia, they were colonized and taught and introduced to loads and lots of information and discoveries gathered in long time in Europe, being this what some people think is the main difference in behavior and way of seeing things with more innocence and amusement instead of braving about who is the best and noblest of the world. In this paper will be discussed the differences and similarities of the colonial times and independence times of two major countries in Latin America, México and Brazil.
Both colonies lasted 300 years, and they also included conflicts and wars for independence but big differences in length (Mexico 11 years of war, Brasil 1 year of war) and in number of deaths or casualties (speculated: 5,000 to 6,000 in Brazil and around 30,000 in Mexico, Both counting killed in action of both sides).
Between the two countries of Spain and Portugal there had always been a rivalry both of them were trying to discover and expand their territories, in past years the Portuguese had had advantage in sailing technologies but Spain also was now using the famous caravelles. In that time, when these countries discovered the Americas in their attempt to find new routes to India, we have to remember that Religion and Political power was directly related, that explains the intervention of the Roman Popes in the conflicts between the two countries; With the Tordesillas treaty in 1494, which states the division of the new found territories around an imaginary line map drawn at 370 leagues from the Cabo Verde Islands, to the west the new found territories would be for the Spaniards and to the east they would be for Portugal. (..1)
Tenochtitlan (Mexico) – New Spain
Around the year of 1519 a man with brilliant leader ship, courage and almost unbelievable luck, named Hernán Cortés got to the coast of Tabasco in south east México were the habitants were Aztecs, with the big and respected emperor Moctezuma on charge, this first meeting unleashed the first battle and confrontation between the old and the new world; The Spaniard chief had a few resources counting eleven ships with less than 700 men, but they had a little too big competitive advantage, they had horses and fire weapons, both unknown to the primitive American natives whom bravely stood and engaged against the cannons but in the end it was too much for them and had to run away for their lives.
One of the first luck shots of the Spaniard chief was the Aztec belief in Quetzalcoatl, an elderly god which the legend reveals that he had come down a long time ago in the form of a black bearded white man, and that he would come back to reestablish his domain and it would be in a “Cane year”, which coincidentally 1519 was a cane year.
After a big robbery from the Spaniards to the Indians where they plundered from all their jewelry and precious possessions the war started and the Spaniards were almost defeated but they were able to hold on because other Indian groups as the totonacas had joined them in order to defeat the Aztecs and Mayans, finally, in 1521 the city of Tenochtitlan, succumbed and the New Spain was born.
It is extremely rare to find historic periods or ages that last exact round digits but in the history of Colonial Mexico it happened that way since the Colony started in 1521 with the taking of Tenochtitlan and it comes to end up in 1821 when the independence of Mexico was declared. Therefore, the period lasted 300 years.
The institutions and people that governed in the New Spain during the period of colony were the following in order of importance: The King, all along the history of the colony the king of Spain was the supreme authority; from the beginning of the conquer the responsibility of effective monarchy government was on the shoulders on the emperor which adopted a policy of absolutist power, gathering in the crown all possible human power, therefore the Real will had no legal limits and was the supreme law. Given the facts, not one King of Spain did never visited Mexico or other Spanish colony in America. The Real and Supreme Court of the Indias, was the highest category of subordinated authority given; its functions included all kind of affairs including administrative and financial aspects of the church in the colonies, decisions, sentences, laws and agreements of the court represented directly the will of the king. The Audience, formed by ministers pointed by the king, was in charge of politics, civil and criminal affairs. Viceroy, which came after the real bad job of the first audience and which the word literally means, he who is in the place of the king, the power and faculties of the viceroy were really broad, he also had the charge of General Captain and was supreme chief of military affairs, in one word, he was the local supreme authority and its power prevailed all along the history of the colony. From the viceroy, a multitude of authorities depended on him who helped him to govern the vast territory on his hands, the most important ones were the Mayors and Correctors which lived in major cities and would come up to be an important asset to the war of independence.
During the colony, the distinct social classes were directly set or linked by the origin of the people. The Spaniards or peninsular had the cusp of the pyramid, the immingrants from Europe, the conquer allowed them to earn titles of nobelty, constituted the oligarchy, after them came the Creole (criollos), who were sons and daughters of Spaniards but were born in American soil, they were people with education and culture but they were not allowed in high ranked government duties, followed by the “Mestizos” sons of Spaniard with Indian, almost always outside of marriage, marginalized and had no culture, Indians, they were slaves with the obligation of producing wealth, work and pay all kind of tithes and alms, with them stayed the Black, brought from American as slaves but they were not much quantity and lower in the pyramid came a series of complicated mixture between Indians, Spaniards, black and other nationalities named “castas”. (..2)
With the arrival of Spaniards and their interest of exploiting the land to obtain wealth in short time, they submitted they Indian population to excessive work, treating them as slaves, they also brought a mortal effect that was produced with all the viruses and bacteria that the Europeans brought that for lack of immunity in the Indians, unleashed sever pandemics in the continent. This infectious illness ended up to decimate the population that was immunologically fragile to them, so, after different debates the slavery of Indians was prohibited except for the war rebels. It was considered that the Indians were physically weaker than the Africans, that is why they got the protection.
The big decrease in the Indian population was serious and to avoid stopping the production, the Viceroy of the time in 1580, advised:
[â€¦] The sell and purchase of black slaves on behalf of the King, to distribute the cost among miners, cane mill owners and other reeds and Spaniard business entrepreneurs. Since then, increased the legal introduction of African salves; it was authorized for the New Spain five thousand a year.(..3)
As we see those quantities are real small compared with the quantities of Africans brought to other countries rarely the ones brought to Mexico stayed in the south and never moved north, they formed communities in the now states of Oaxaca, Michoacán and Chiapas. The Africans brought with them influences to the Mexican music, like instruments such as the “Marimba” from Chiapas which is now a classical recognized Mexican instrument; African deities were venerated among Indian deities and saints of Christianity
The independence of Mexico was indeed started by the work of privileged classes, first in line are the Criollos who had read the ideas of the Illustration, specially authors such as Montesquieu, Rousseau y Voltaire, had gotten another point of view about society, and the joined by the pure Spanish people or Spaniards who looked with fear at the reestablishment of the constitution of Cadiz and other liberal reforms. Here it is then the political cause that makes possible a revolution, the discontent of an economically solvent and powerful and well illustrated that has the courage to promote a revolution, organizing it, leading it and also benefit from it. This does not mean that popular classes, exploited and totally unprotected were not involved in this movement, but they were used as cannon fodder, being as a group important as any other top rank leader. (..4)
It all started as a conspiracy in Queretaro that was denounced once and that compromised the plan for the revolution of Mexican independence war. It was under the arm of the Correctors Miguel Dominguez and his wife Doña Josefa Ortiz, who would become a heroin of independence, that the leaders meet up pretending to be a literacy Academy. The plan consisted y forming in the principal cities, meetings that would propane the unconformity with the Spanish crown and reject the idea of the New Spain being under the French, by declaring itself simultaneously independent, kicking out the peninsular and recognize Fernandez VII as governor, with assembly representative in each province.
It was in the dawn of September de 16th of 1810 in the town of Dolores, Higaldo that the revolution exploited with the Priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, an educated and possessor of an enviable wealth who was the owner of a steel fabric, which he used to generate thousands of machetes and long range nozzles, thousands of people congregated heard the great priest shout the now famous in the history of independence, “Cry of Dolores”:
(â€¦) “My friends and countrymen, no longer exist for us neither the King nor the taxes. This shameful exaction, which only benefits the slaves, that has endured for three centuries as a symbol of tyranny and servitude, terrible stain that we will wash with our efforts. The moment of our emancipation has come, the time has come for our freedom and if you know its great value you will help me to defend it from the grip of tyrants ambitious. Few hours are missing for you to see the heads of marching men who pride themselves on being free. I invite you to fulfill this duty. Being that with no country and no freedom, wei will always be far away from true happiness. We need to take the step that you know, start with something that has been necessary. The cause in holly and God will protect it. Businesses are being disregarded and not I will, therefore, have the satisfaction to speak longer before you. ¡Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe! ¡ Live the country for which we will fight! ¡Death to the bad government! (..5)
The “insurgents” heard that cry of Dolores and interpreted it as a big act of courage, a courage suffocated generation by generation. The priest had addressed them without the educated words; he had talk from the heart. The rise up in arms, miners, peasants, Indians, sympathizers, and by eight in the morning around 800 individuals, riding horses, parted to Atotonilco were the Chief took the image of La Guadalupana (Guadalupe virgin), which from that moment on, would be the flag of the army.
The army of Hidalgo was really big, with around 100 thousand man, but they had neither military experience nor training and were bad fed, this was decisive for its battles lost. After a battle in which they had been betrayed, The father of the Country, Miguel Hidalgo was condemned to death in 1811. Hidalgo knew what awaited him, his intelligence and culture did not allow him to deceive, but his response was brief and emphatic: “The Pardon is for criminals, not for the defenders of the homeland.” (..5) Without such response, involving a decision of life and death, he would not be the hero he is now. The Great men show their character in compelling circumstances. Nobody had used the term homeland country with such a meaning. The coin toss was in the air, and landed on heads, and they were slaughtered.
With Hidalgo out, Jose María Morelos took the reins of the army and he understood a little better the military expertise needed to fight the Royal army. Without doubt, Morelos was the great organizer of the insurgent army, a military genius who knew how to confront and resist a powerful Royalist army of 80 thousand men. It also has the special merit as a social reformer and political.
Morelos headed an army of 6 thousand people, always stating that it was better to have fewer well prepared and leaving the other to work the land and give food to the fighters, after his death, everything seemed like it was coming down, like all the blood spilled was in vain, but there were some like Vicente Guerrero who kept on fighting. This is how after eleven years of war, finally the Chief and Commander of the Royal army, Agustin de Iturbide, a man known by his ambition, saw it almost impossible to defeat Guerrero and vice versa, so they decided to get together, and sign the “plan de Iguala” treaty, were the absolute independence of Mexico is declared. February 24th of 1821, the Cordoba treaty is signed by the viceroy and the independence of Mexico is now consolidated.
Agustin De Iturbide who was son of a Spaniard land owner and a noble Criollo woman was declared the first emperor of Mexico, he had elitist ideas but the treaty of Iguala proposed three warranties, religion, union and independence, including equality among all races. This is how the then New Spain, now Mexico, was able to break the bonds of colonial dependency and the birth of independent living as free and sovereign nation.
The Portuguese had started earlier their expansion overseas, they had been in Asia (India, China, Japan) and Africa and they were the first European settlers in the South America area, After Vasco da Gama´s expedition produced great enthusiasm, on march 9th 1500 the Portuguese sent the biggest expedition to the east Indies, consisting of 13 ships under the command of the courageous and adventurous Pedro Cabral. Instead of the Indies they reached what today is known as Brazil what would start the colonization in 1500. The newly arrived reported that they had found native Indians with a population of about seven million, most of the tribes they found had limited agricultural knowledge but more than enough resources that could be explode such as gold and spices, two of the most sought goods at the time but Brazil had much more to offer with goods like fish and meat, wood, dyes, medicinal herbs etc.
From the seven million of Indian expected to be in Brasil, is believed that they were some two million in the territory and five million in the Amazon region itself. For all of them, the arrival of the Portuguese was a veritable catastrophe for the Indians, white man coming from the sea in big ships as men with special powers were both and at the same time hated and respected by the Amerindians. The fact that all of these Indians were separated in groups, made it a lot easier for the colonizers to create alliances with one or other to defeat the most powerful tribes.
Portuguese did not have in mind to colonize the new land at first but it was the pressure set by the French who did no recognized the treaty of Tordesillas of 1494 signed by the Pope and believed in the principle of whoever habited the land owned it. Therefore, Dom Joao III decided to colonize and divide Brazil into 15 sections given to some crown advocates called donataries.
It was clear for the Portuguese crown that they needed more organization after the captaincies failure, they decided to resume the dominance in the colony; Tomé de Sousa, a noble man with experience in other colonies such as Africa and India was named Governor-general or could also be seen as the Viceroy with the instructions to form a city, Bay of all the saints, were the head quarters would lie. The King of Portugal organized a system quite similar to the Spanish one, naming a “provedor-mor” or Attorney General of the Royal Treasury, a “Ouvidor” or General Listener, who would be in charge of the justice and also a “capitao-mor” or General Captain on whom the territorial defense was trusted. All of these administrative positions would report directly to the King who was the absolute monarchy. With the governor-general the first Jesuits were brought to the colony with the mission of catechize.
In the biggest Portuguese colony, Brasil, we can expect to have a lot of diferrent steps in the pyramid of social structure, at top of it, there were the wealthy rural landowners and merchants that were involved in exterior commerce Portuguese by nature than had migrated and they called themselves as Pure of blood, between the impure blood ones were the free blacks, Indians, and new Christians and other mixtures of races. Up above its mentioned free blacks, that are because at the time the slaves were considered a thing and not even a human being. (â€¦) There was a special nomenclature for racial mixtures: people were known as mulattos; mamelucos. Or mixtures of Indian and white curibocas or caboclos, near whites or descendents of white men; ando cafusos or mixtures of Indians and blacks” Boris Fausto (..6)
Brazil soon became a colony with the essential role of supplying a lot of very important kinds of food and different minerals to European markets, this economic system was aimed to make the crown and its dependents wealthier and depended pretty much in compulsory labor. Many different forms of servitude prevailed in Spanish colonies while in Brazil It was slavery which prevailed.
At first it was the Indians who were used as slaves in the sugar fields and mines but they were really difficult to obligate to work, Europeans had in mind that Indians were very lazy, and that is because before they came, only a little effort was needed to survive given the fact that resources were abundant. They tried to submit them first by force and then religion, convincing them to be good Christians what meant living in villages and acquiring European working habits, never the less the attempts did not quite worked and the Indian refused forced labor. That is why the Portuguese opted for black slaves rather than Indians; the sugar economy had the means to purchase black slaves which were more expensive, but it was until de discoveries of gold that black slaves were brought in big quantities to the colony.
Black Africans were thought to be stronger and hard workers and to this we have to add the fact that Indians fell victim to different diseases that were produced by the coming Europeans and Africans to which the Indians had no natural defenses against, this viruses such as smallpox, and measles produced two big pandemics waves which are accounted to be responsible for around 60,000 deaths among Indians, creating a shortage of workers. That was what unleashed the import of black slaves to Brasil, it is estimated that around 3.5 to 4 million of black slaves were brought from Africa to Brazil, that is together with the United States the major black slavery importation for a country in America. (..7)
Brazil´s fight for independence was quite peculiar, the now Brazilian society was more and more convinced that their interested and problems were different from those of Portugal, and that it was producing more problems than favorable things. A group called the Inconfidentes, directed by colonial elite groups, miners, ranchers and priests were starting to plan a revolution in secret; Jose Joaquim da Silva Xavier, better known as Tiradentes because of his profession, was not part of the elite but was participating in the conspiracy. In 1789 the conspiracy was denounced and some were jailed, Tiradentes was hanged and his body was cut in pieces, his head was displayed in the main square of Ouro Preto to make an example out of him, from there, this man has become one of the few national heroes of brazil.
Very different from the Spanish colonies, “Brazils independence was not to come from a revolutionary break with the motherland, but from a process which occasioned a few changes from and much continuity with the colonial period. The history of this process begins with the transfer of the Portuguese royal family to Brazil and the opening of Brazilian ports to foreign commerce, which put an end to the colonial system.” Boris Fausto (..6) With this, King Dom Joao put finally the end of a colony period that lasted 300 years.
The fact that the colony was in paper over, did not change much of how the Brazilian people felt about the government over their lives, their economic conditions were bad and they were sick and tired of the privileges given to Portuguese people that did not deserved it. Therefore, a revolution formed by military men, rural landowners, merchants, peasants, and even a big number of priests that gave the name of “The Priest Revolution” started in 1817. The Revolution was based upon the search of equality of rights and tolerance of religion, but somehow it did not take into account the problem of slavery.
To the people reclamations the king responded by declaring Brazil as a Kingdome united with Portugal, and revolutionary leaders were slaughtered. The Independence of Brazil has much to thank to the factors occurring in Portugal and the political crisis caused by the absence of the king and government organs, Portugal was demanding the return of the king. Don Joao realized that if he did not return to Portugal he could lose the throne, sailing back to Lisbon in 1821 and leaving his son Pedro in charge of the country who became a member of the Brazilian Party deciding to stay and rule a new and independent country. In 1822 Dom Pedro I proclaimed with the famous Ipiranga Cry: “Independence or Death” the formalized Brazilian Independence.
Keep in mind that Internationally Brazil was not recognized independent until 1824 by the United States and until 1825 by Portugal when they signed a treaty making Brazil pay two million sterling pounds to Portugal, with concept of loss of its old colony, and so, Brazil finally ended to negotiate its Independence.
After analizing the information presented about the period of colonization and reach of independence of what are today two of the greatest nations of the so called new world, Mexico and Brazil, we can find that cultural traces from both Spaniards and Portuguese defined the way history was written.
We can see that unlike the colonizing philosophy of the Spanish, the Portuguese in Brazil were much less focused at first on conquering, controlling, and developing the country. Since most of the people that came were poor sailors who were more interested in trade and subsistence agriculture for personal profits and the crown only cared about bringing stuff to Europe, the interior part of the country was unexplored.
A really interesting difference in the Independence of both is the way they achieved it. Mexico´s war with the Spaniards was really violent and a lot of blood was spilled, the history of independence in Mexico is really rich and a lot of heroes that fought for their country´s freedom are remembered and still celebrated such as Miguel Hidalgo, Jose Maria Morelos, Vicente Guerrero compared to the famous but unglorious Jose Joaquim da Silva Xavier “Tiradentes”. With this come by hand that the fight in Mexico was violent from start to finish and the Spaniards were spelled by force while Brazilians ended up negotiating and paying a quantity of money to Portugal.
In the Similarities it must caught the attention of anyone that both colonies lasted almost the same time, Mexico with exactly 300 years and the Brazilian for some 20 more years. It is interesting that two events that marked the independence of the colonies were set by the Cry of Independence of one of their leaders, being the Cry of Dolores by Miguel Hidalgo in Mexico, to start de revolution and twelve years later the Cry of Ipiranga by Dom Pedro I to consummate the Brazilian independence.
While in Mexico the Empire of Agustin Iturbide was being set, in Brazil the same thing was happening with Dom Pedro I, the new Independent countries were now free but leadered by a Spaniard and Portugues emperor in each case. This is, after all the good and evil done during the 300 years of colony, the price paid to be what these two great nations are today.