What are some of the long-term impacts of Spanish colonization on North America?

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North America includes the United States and Mexico. The long-term impact of the Spanish on what is today Mexico is far deeper than the Spanish influence on the United States.

The Spanish conquered and destroyed the Aztec civilization in Mexico. They did this quickly because of superior weapons technology, most...

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North America includes the United States and Mexico. The long-term impact of the Spanish on what is today Mexico is far deeper than the Spanish influence on the United States.

The Spanish conquered and destroyed the Aztec civilization in Mexico. They did this quickly because of superior weapons technology, most notably the gun. They transformed Mexico into a colony called New Spain, imposed their own European form of government on it, and converted the surviving population to Roman Catholicism, which became the official state religion. Spanish became the official state language. Although there was much genetic mixing, those identified as being of Native descent were oppressed and exploited. Mexico did not gain independence until the early nineteenth century, but it soon lost its northern territories to the United States.

Spain also colonized the area now known as California. From the late seventeenth century until it lost the California territory in 1821, Spain established colonies there that ranged from Baja California to San Francisco. These colonies left a lasting imprint on California culture. For example, the Spanish established twenty-one missions in California. These were Roman Catholic centers but also served as political centers and were heavily fortified military centers that both controlled the Native American population and defended Spanish territories from Native attack. Many of these missions have become major California cites, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Santa Clara. The influence of Spanish culture, from religion to place names to architecture, remains to this day, helping to give the southern half of California a distinctive culture.

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One long-term impact was introducing foreign diseases to Native American tribes. Because of the extensive trade networks of North America, diseases such as smallpox would ultimately kill up to ninety percent of the Native population.

Another long-term impact was the introduction of European domestic animals to North America. The Spanish often brought pigs in order to feed their conquistadors. When these pigs escaped, they had no natural predators in North America, so their populations exploded. Today, thousand of feral hogs can trace their lineage back to these first Spanish pigs. Feral hogs are dangerous and destroy natural habitat. The Spanish also brought the horse to North America. Initially, Native Americans were banned from horse ownership, but the horses escaped as well. The Plains Indians, such as the Lakota and the Cheyenne, were able to use the horse as a vehicle for both war and buffalo hunts. Horses also became a status item among the tribes' leadership.

The Spanish, for a few hundred years, became the world's most dominant superpower due to their North American holdings. Spanish bullion boosted the Spanish economy until too much bullion and a string of expensive wars with both Dutch separatists and the English in the sixteenth century weakened the economy once more. The empire struggled on, despite losing many of its North American holdings to independence movements in the nineteenth century. The last remains of the empire disappeared during the Spanish-American War, when the United States pushed the Spanish out of the Western hemisphere.

Another long-term impact would be Spanish culture and language in North America. Many places in the American West still bear Spanish names, like the Sierra Nevada. Spanish is still the primary language of many in Latin America. The Catholic faith is the predominant religion in Latin America as well.

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In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed to the Americas on behalf of the Spanish King and Queen.  He stopped in Cuba and Hispaniola and spread Spanish religion, culture, and language.  In the 1500s, Juan Ponce DeLeon, Hernando de Soto, and Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo explored other parts of North America on behalf of the Spanish.  Like Christopher Columbus, they left the lasting impacts of Spanish language, culture, and Catholicism in those places.  Also in the 1500s, the Franciscan Order came to North America to establish Christian missions.  St. Augustine in Florida was founded and New Spain was established.  Eventually, the United States acquired Florida, Texas, California, and other parts of New Spain.  The country of Mexico was established.  However, the influence of the Spaniards remained.  In Mexico, Catholicism and the Spanish language are dominant.  In the American Southwest, Spanish culture and Spanish language are common.  Historic Spanish missions still remain, and many places and landmarks retain their Spanish names.

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