How did the Reconquista influence the attitudes of the Spanish conquistadors and colonizers in the Americas?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The history of Spain was shaped by the extraordinarily rapid expansion of the Umayyads into Western Europe during the Early Middle Ages. Across a span of centuries, conflict and coexistence between Muslims and Christians continued to be a key theme of Spanish history alongside the very gradual reconquest of formerly Christian territories in the Iberian Peninsula. This process was not completed until 1492 with the fall of Granada. One can even argue that Spain itself (as a unified State) was forged out of the Reconquista, and the Spanish monarchy certainly had a history of positioning itself as a defender of Christianity.

Spanish expansion into the New World emerged out of this same context. It should be noted that this history was shaped by a variety of competing factors. For example, the conquistadors could be very easily driven by the desire to improve their financial and social standings, and these military conquests served as an engine they used to advance themselves.

At the same time, however, the Spanish were also very active in spreading Christianity and attempting to convert the native populations. In both these respects, it might well be worth asking if a continuity exists between the experience of the Reconquista and the empire building which followed it in the New World.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Reconquista is the period of wars in the Spanish peninsula that drove the Muslim moors out of the country. This was a period of near constant battle for over 700 years, in which the Christian Spaniards believed they were driving out a force of religious enemies, therefore performing two functions. It both strengthened their religious zeal and empowered their military might, which was already a very formidable entity.

This led soon after to the formation of the "Spanish Inquisition" that was responsible for persecuting and domineering over many non-Christian groups. Because of this religious zeal, the colonizers who had traveled over to the New World held a strong belief that the work they were doing, however devastating, was for the expansion of the Kingdom of God—they were essentially evangelists of a sort, not necessarily conquerors, even though they were conquering and killing many of the natives. Their attitude towards these other groups was turned from potential sympathy to one of anger because they were Pagan nations. This gave the Spanish conquistadors the justification for many of the acts of destruction they performed in the Americas.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Reconquista refers to the time when the Christians, under King Ferdinand V and Queen Isabella I, defeated the Moors in Spain. This occurred in 1492 when the last stronghold of the Moors, Granada, fell to the Christian forces. This eventually led to the eviction of the Muslims and the Jews from Spain; they were expelled unless they converted to Christianity.

The Spanish increased their exploration of the Americas after the Reconquista. The Spanish conquered much of Latin America and had some settlements in North America. The Spanish believed they needed to spread Christianity to the people they conquered. Missionaries came to the Americas to do this. The Spanish also began to exploit the land by taking many mineral resources, such as gold and silver, and bringing them back to Spain.

The Reconquista allowed the Spanish to believe they should conquer more lands, convert people to Christianity, and take the mineral resources from the places they conquered.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Reconquista was a series of battles waged by the Spanish to reclaim Spain after the Islamic armies had conquered the territory. The last Islamic state at Granada fell around 1492, marking the end of the Reconquista. Discovery of the Americas followed soon after the fall of the last Islamic state.

Having achieved success against the Muslims and having furthered expansion of the Christian kingdoms, the Spanish conquistadors were emboldened; their victory encouraged the colonization of the Americas. The Spanish were more confident of their military strategies and tactics, and the Americas presented an opportunity to further expand their empire and religion.

The colonizers moved with a sense of entitlement and believed that their cause was a just cause, especially on the topic of religion. Thus, they took it as their divine responsibility to convert as many people as possible, and any challenge to their cause was met with extreme violence.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Reconquista refers to the successful removal of the Muslims’s from the south of Spain by an alliance of Christian monarchs. Historians argue when exactly this period of time began, but the affect on Spain’s eventual discovery of the New World is not debatable. This Reconquista led to further New World conquests in several ways.

After the Muslims were expelled, the Spanish and Portuguese turned their attention to the Jews. This expulsion of resulted in the accumulation of large amounts of material wealth by the Spanish and Portuguese, who then used this newfound income to finance voyages of discovery into Africa and eventually one very important one to the New World.

After the Reconquista ended, the Spanish military was incredibly powerful. Decades of war had led to a trim, well-armed force of veteran men who needed something else to do. With the discovery of the New World, there were plenty of opportunities for expansion and conquest now open to these conquistadors.

The most important result of the Reconquista was undoubtedly the change in the Spanish mindset. After this period, the conquest of non-Christian lands was just business as usual. This meant that the taking of Aztec, Inca or native land for Spain was not seen as evil or aggressive, it was just what Spain did. And with hundreds of years of pracitce, they were very good at it.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial