How does the Spanish colonial rule in the 16th century compare and contrast with that of Portugal?

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saintfester eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Both Spain and Portugal followed extremely similar formulas for colonial rule in the Americas.

Spain and Portugal were the two most advanced seafaring nations in the world at the time, and realized early on that mutual cooperation between them would benefit them more. To this end, the Catholic kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula signed the Treaty of Tordesillas, which divided the new world between them. Spain controlled all lands west of the Tordesillas Meridian, and Portugal everything to the east of it.

Both Spain and Portugal utilized slave labor to harvest valuable trade goods from their colonies. The Portuguese colony of Brazil produced massive amounts of Brazilwood, prized for the red dye that could be extracted from it, while Spain harvested sugar and mineral wealth in the Caribbean and South America. Both countries also used religious missions as a form of border security in the mid 1550’s to help protect the lands they claimed but had no military presence in. In Spain it was the Franciscans, while in Portugal it was the Jesuits.

Portugal lost its colonial possession by granting them independence before Napoleon conquered them. Spain slowly lost their due to rebellions and foreign conquests.