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God’s Devils: The Men Who Conquered South America

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The Capture of Atahualpa. Juan B. Lepiani,  (1864-1932)(Public Domain)

God’s Devils: The Men Who Conquered South America

From the moment Christopher Columbus found land previously unknown to Europe in 1492, thousands of men came to the New World seeking their fortunes and for two centuries they explored and conquered native peoples. In the name of the King of Spain, and with an unquenchable thirst for gold, they came to be known as the conquistadors. But who were these men and by what means did they achieve such power and wealth?

Suspected Christopher Colombus map. Lisbon, workshop of Bartolomeo and Christopher Colombus (c.1490)  (Gallica Digital Library/Public Domain)

Suspected Christopher Colombus map. Lisbon, workshop of Bartolomeo and Christopher Colombus (c.1490)  (Gallica Digital Library/Public Domain)

In 1513, Vasco Núñez de Balboa crossed Central America at the Isthmus of Panama reaching the Pacific Ocean, and for the first time Europeans became aware of the powerful economic potential of what became known as the ‘New World.’ Spain first concentrated its colonization on the islands of the Caribbean and had little contact with the indigenous civilizations on the mainland, but before long the gold-hungry adventurers, clad in steel plates, penetrated the Americas for the benefit and glory of the Spanish crown and launched a brutal regimen of social transformation, beginning with Hernán Cortés and the Aztec Empire. 


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