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The Incas and the Aztecs

When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the New World, they found flourishing civilizations firmly in place in the form of the Incas in Peru and the Aztecs in Mexico. Within a short time, the Spanish had destroyed these civilizations and eradicated much of their culture. In addition to the desire for conquest, gold, and plunder of all sorts, the conquistadors also saw themselves as carrying on a Holy Crusade to stamp out idolatry and to bring Christianity to these heathen peoples. The meeting between the Spaniards and the indigenous peoples of the New World was a culture clash in which the European would ultimately prevail, but elements of the indigenous cultures would survive and be adapted to the developing Christian society the conquistadors left behind. To a great degree, this was acculturation at the point of a sword, and the conquistadors ruthlessly stamped out cultural elements of which they did not approve. Some of these truly offended the sensibilities of the Europeans, such as the practice of human sacrifice by the Aztecs. Other cultural elements may have been eliminated more as a result of the devastation of the land and the people than by design.

The Aztecs were probably the best known of the American peoples conquered by the Spanish, and they were Indians of elaborate culture, living in the Valley of Mexico and its surrounding regions. Our knowledge of the Aztecs derives largely from the written reports of the first Spaniards in the New World, including historical and ethnological researches of colonial Spanish friars, and from archaeology. Another source of knowledge is from the Indian literature and arts maintained after the conquest, showing that there is some continuity between what was and what is. Indeed, there are some in the region who still speak Nahuatl today, that being the Aztec language, and their way of life as well has only been partially modified by four centuries of contact with Europeans. T...

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The Incas and the Aztecs. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 00:28, December 02, 2020, from