The Economy of Exploitation
During the 16th century, the Spanish moved to Central and South America in search of land to expand their territories. When the Spanish managed to take over America, the Indians, who originally inhabited the land, were left to live at the mercy of the Spanish. Claiming to spread Christianity and bring enlightenment to “the dark continent”, the first Spanish settlers were given complete authority over the Indians exposing them to all kinds of exploitation. Consequently, the Spanish settlers exploited the land and the available labor extensively while the Native Indians, who forcefully worked for the Spaniards, continued to live in total misery. The Spaniards insensitively paid very low wages to the Indians at the expense of the hard labor they were exposed to. Interestingly, the Spanish felt no remorse for their inhumane deeds, because they believed that the Native Indians deserved all that in exchange for the good news of salvation they acquired.
On the other hand, the Spanish not only took control of the entire economy but also amassed various natural resources. While the settlers exploited the Indians through hard labor in their farms and mines, the Spanish were entitled to a fifth of all the products that were acquired from the new territories. Moreover, the Spanish were the only market for gold and silver shipped from the mines every year. In addition, after the discovery of gold deposits around the continent, exploitation of Native Indian workers worsened when the latter were forced to pay rent (installments) to their landlords in form of gold. Meanwhile, all products that the Spanish-American territory needed were shipped from Spain, be it food, clothing or any machinery.
This also ensured that no other colony would benefit from this territory in trade thus immensely acquiring wealth for the Spanish which would, in turn, assist them to continue conquering other territories and finally become the superpower. As exploitation of labor and resources heightened in Spanish colonies of Central and Southern America, other colonial powers were doing everything possible to break loose from Spanish control. For instance, products such as canvas, paper and tar which were only produced in Spain started to be produced by the other European countries thus ending their sole dependency on Spain, which prompted a fall in demand for their goods. This led to the initial phase of the decline of Spanish economy since most Spanish merchants who previously provided a ready and sufficient market for gold and silver mined in South and Central America could no longer afford to buy the minerals thus creating a risk for market invasion. To reverse this and stabilize their economy again, the Spaniards had to recover these losses from their newly conquered territories.
This, however, came as a challenge to them since their workers, the Native Indians, had greatly reduced in number and they had no intention whatsoever to do the work themselves. This situation left them with no choice but to buy slaves from West Africa to work in their farms and mines. Consequently, this helped stabilize Spain’s economy and return it back to norm since merchants would trade slaves for gold and silver mined in the American colonies. Colonialism in Central and Southern America by the Spanish was a significant step towards the realization of their major goal which was to acquire a world superpower status. Having complete control over mineral-rich territories, cheap labor at their disposal and providing a wide market for their goods, the Spanish were on the verge of becoming the world’s sole superpower. In conclusion, the Spanish were able to benefit largely from Central and South America as their colonies through acquiring wealth and resources up to the 19th century.
However, the Indians and the African slaves had everything to lose out of all the injustices they incurred in the hands of the Spanish.