Excitement, anxiety, and suspense. Final preparations and goodbyes. What for? The answer is the voyage of Christopher Columbus. In 1492, Columbus went on a voyage to find trade routes to India, a country that was known for its spices and gold. However, when Columbus found land, it wasn’t the land he was looking for. He had found what would later be known as the “New World”. Due to this discovery, for the nest three centuries, the Europeans came to the New World in search of wealth, power, and to spread the Christian religion.
Why would Europeans want to explore the New World? Although there are many answers to this question, one of the main reasons was for wealth. At that time in history, a nation’s wealth was determined by the amount of gold held in its treasury. What is a better place to find gold than the legendary Golden Cities of Cibola (Doc 1)? Explorers Hernando de Soto, Francisco Coronado, and Juan Cabrillo were looking for just that (Doc 1). However, gold isn’t the only source of wealth that exists. Nicolas Le Challeux was a French man who was looking for a wealth of resources (Doc 2). This included crops and land. Le Challeux came to the New World not only to make France’s empire wealthy in gold, but also to make the empire rich in goods and land. Eventually, Europe started taking over land, growing crops, and exporting gold. The exchange between Europeans and Native Americans is called the Columbian Exchange. Although many items exchanged helped the Native Americans, not all exchanges were positive. Diseases were also spread, killing many Native Americans. As more Europeans arrived, more diseases were spread but more goods, crops, and gold were exported. In fact, from about 1580 to 1596, seven million ounces of gold was exported to Spain (Doc 3). Soon, Europeans realized how much the New World had to offer and Spanish and Portuguese explorers began conquering parts of the New World to increase their power.
The Conquistadors were Spanish and Portuguese explorers who conquered the Americas (Doc 4). Most of the indigenous people in the New World died from diseases such as small pox because of the Conquistadors. The survivors were enslaved (Doc 4). The Conquistadors then started to convert the slaves to Christianity. Converting the people of the Americas was another way to gain power. In fact, even Columbus’s initiative was to gain power in the Americas by converting the people of the New World into Christians (Doc 7). Francisco Coronado also captured a city in America. He tried to explain to the Natives that the reason he was here was to convert them into Christians, too (Doc 8). At this point it seems rather obvious that religion was also a key part in the development of the New World.
“Thousands will be gathered into the heart of our sweet, most holy, Mother Church.” –Father Kino (Doc 6). Father Kino was an Italian Catholic priest. He converted many Native Americans to Christianity (Doc 6). Europeans though this was their job because in their eyes, Christianity was a rising religion and should be practiced everywhere. Missions were set up in the Americas and eventually, both Europeans and Native Americans participated in religious ceremonies (Doc 5). After Coronado captured the city mentioned in the previous paragraph, he said that all of the Natives should become Christian and “know the true God for their Lord” (Doc 8). Nuns and priests from Europe also came to the Americas to help spread the Christian religion. If all the Native Americans were converted to Christianity, then it would be easier for the Europeans to take over the land. The New World was a great place for the Europeans because they could easily find wealth, gain power, and spread their religion. The New World was an almost perfect discovery for the Europeans.