How did Spanish motives during the Age of Exploration influence Spanish attitudes toward the people living in the New World?

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Spanish colonization was driven by a combination of economic self-interest (the desire among Spanish Conquistadors for their own enrichment) and personal advancement (it should be noted, many of the Conquistadors shared a background as impoverished nobles), alongside a very strong interest in Christianization. We see a lot of exploitation within...

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Spanish colonization was driven by a combination of economic self-interest (the desire among Spanish Conquistadors for their own enrichment) and personal advancement (it should be noted, many of the Conquistadors shared a background as impoverished nobles), alongside a very strong interest in Christianization. We see a lot of exploitation within the Spanish Empire (as has already been discussed in depth). To this, I would add some thoughts concerning the Social Structure that emerged in the Spanish Empire.

Socially and politically, the Spanish set up a quasi-feudal system with very striking racial undertones. The Spaniards set themselves at the top of this social system as the social and political elite; beneath them stood the Creoles (pure blooded Spaniards born in the Americans), followed by mixed-race descendants between Spaniards and Africans or Native Americans, with Native Americans/Africans in the lowest echelon of society. This was a kind of caste structure that reveals certain facets about Spanish attitudes and intentions in the New World: in administering and governing the Empire, they imported the Feudal social structure they themselves had emerged out of, implemented on racial lines.

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The major motive of the Spanish explorers and conquistadors was to use the resources of the New World to enrich themselves and their empire. The natives of the regions that they conquered were commonly seen as a means to an end to gather these riches.

It is clear that the Spanish saw the native peoples as inferior. Cultural, religious, and racial superiority figured into how the Spanish treated the people of the New World. The attitude of most Spaniards can be summed up by the 16th Century Spanish philosopher Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda who thought of the natives as "natural slaves". He argued that

The Spanish have the perfect right to rule these barbarians of the New World and the adjacent islands, who in prudence, skill, virtue, and humanity are as inferior to the Spanish as children to adults, or women to men, for there exists between the two as great a difference as between savage and cruel races and the most merciful, between the most intemperate and the moderate and temperate and, I might even say, between apes and men.

This attitude allowed the conquering Spanish to practically enslave the peoples of the New World. Countless thousands of natives were forced to farm, build, and toil in mines for the Spanish. Those that resisted were usually brutally punished to be made an example to other natives who might think about resisting. For instance, the Taino people of Hispaniola were forced by Christopher Columbus to bring the Spanish a regular quota of gold. Those that failed to do so, even when there was no more gold to be found, were punished by having their hands chopped off.

There were some Spaniards, such as the priest Bartolomé de las Casas that argued on religious grounds for fair treatment of the natives. However, their calls for civility were rarely heeded.

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The Spanish were generally said to have had three motives during this time.  They were "God, gold, and glory."  The first two of these had the most influence on their attitudes towards the natives.

Both of these motives influenced the Spanish to look down on the natives.  They were seen more as tools to be used than as real human beings.  Even when they were converted to Christianity, it was often forcible rather than through persuasion.

The desire for wealth had more impact overall on Spanish attitudes.  It led them to create the encomienda system in which the Indians essentially became serfs of the Spanish.  The Spanish were supposed to care for their souls as well, but the desire for wealth (as can be seen in writings such as those of de las Casas) generally seemed to come first.

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