Explain the various factors that contributed to the growth of hybrid cultures in the Americas during this  1500–1780 and how similar and different were the new societies in the Americas?

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danielle1978 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

From the sixteenth century to the long eighteenth century, European colonialism dominated the Americas, and in turn, various hybrid cultures developed. Arguably, European military efforts, as well as efforts to civilize the natives, forced these same natives (Amerindians and Africans who were in the Americas) to adopt European values, culture, and religion in order to survive. While many Catholic missionaries, for example, employed military force for the purpose of conversion, the natives often assimilated these religious practices, but still adhered to their own religions. Thus, a sort of hybrid culture developed for these natives, which allowed them to blend with the colonizer and vice versa.

African slaves in North America demonstrate this notion of hybridization quite well. European Catholic missionaries, for one, desired to Christianize slaves, but often failed in their efforts. In an ironic twist, many slaves used the very religious propaganda of the colonizer to challenge slavery by way of revolt, or used these materials to engage in literary practices (reading and writing, namely, which were prohibited for slaves).

By the same token, Creoles (who were native to South America), had a similar experience in terms of attempting to define their own identities after Spain colonized South America. Relegated to the lowest part of society because of their native status, the Creoles eventually revolted against the Spanish and Portuguese crown in an effort to reclaim their culture. Like the slaves of North America, the Creoles became increasingly tired of defending, in a sense, what was already theirs: language, land, religion, and culture.

To some extent, European imperialism did foster hybrid cultures due to the fact that Africans, Amerindians, and Europeans interacted in complex  ways. However, European colonial efforts were not based on creating hybrid cultures, but rather their intentions were to conquer the New World through military force and religious ideology with a view to exterminate native culture(s). Hybrid cultures of any sort, I would argue, were incidental to Europe's larger imperialistic project.