Cultural diversity

Cultural diversity
• Even if we usually study only some States
that existed before the different
proceses of conquest and colonization,
we should consider the enormous
indigenous complexity and diversity.
• According to the cultural materialistic
theories, which focus in the influence of
the environment in the society, we can
difference at least 16 cultural areas.
• Every area at the same time includes
some different cultures and communities.
• Band: Egalitarian society without any chief
or leader more than in some specific
activities or inside the family according to
facts and prestige.
• Tribes: Society without fix or hard
hierarchies. Complex system of
organization. Different institutions with
more or less power according to prestige
that regulate each other.
• Chiefdom: Centralization of the power
and authority according to personal
characteristics and prestige.
• State: Stratification of the authority with
institution does not depend on the person on the charge.

The First American States

• The origin of the State as political structure with

administrative stratification could have been closely

related to the development of agriculture and

hydraulic infrastructures. Nevertheless, we know

about other societies without a state (tribes and

chiefdoms) that improve complex infrastructures

build up with participation of all the community.

• The rise of States was the conjunction of different

processes, as the consolidation of the

administrative and political institutions as

redistributors and organizers.

• We are going to focus in the most famous cultures near to the European conquest, but enormous

states and cities existed centuries before. Maybe

the most characteristic examples were Teotihuacan,

in Mesoamerica (300 BC – 650 AD); or Tiahuanaco,

in the Andes (1600 BC-1187 AD). They were

plurinational states and partially ancestors of Aztecs

and Incas respectively.

The city-states of the
Mayans (750 BC-500 AD)
The Maya culture inhabited the Yucatan
Peninsula, in Mesoamerica or Middle America.
We can see evidences of this culture around the
2000 BC, with the first cities around the 750 BC. It
reached its peak between the 250 AD and 900
AD, the Classic Period. By the time the Hispanics
arrived to America, Mayan Culture was in decline
(Post-Classic), and the main cities had been
They created enormous cities-states as Palenque,
Tikal or Chichen Itza. They stablished some
political and economical alliances in a complex
network of trade and communication. We should
not consider them an Empire, because there
weren’t an expansion plan of one city or culture
over the others, even if we can talk about the
hegemony of some cities in specific periods.
The Mayan society
Hierarchical (homoarchical) society under the
leadership of the ajaw (king). They governed over
the city-state and the surrounding territories,
Some state-cities were subjects of other, but with
conjunctural variations (heterarchy of cities),
Economy based in agriculture of corn, tomatoes,
beans and prestige products as cocoa. Long trade
networks of ceramics, jewels and gems.
Really advanced culture with complex knowledge
about maths and astronomy. They established a
complex calendar and a writing system with
In religious terms we know that they were
polytheistic with some gods associated to natural
elements and social functions. The sacrifices were
a really important element of the religious

The Aztec Empire

(13th-15th cent.)

Coming from the north of the current Mexico, the

Aztecs or Mexicas found a new city in the lake where

the eaple killed the snake over the nopal: Mexico


They grew as a powerful kingdom which became

Empire, with expansive and dominating, politics, when

they set the Triple Alliance with the Tepanecas of

Tlacopan and the Acolhuas of Texcoco.

• Their society was very hierarchical, with the huey

tlatoani (The Great Talker) as Emperor, followed by the

nobility and priest. They control large territories, trade

routes and common people of different ethnic groups

• They improve a powerful army which let them to

conquer other Mesoamerican cultures, forcing, them t

pay taxes and even usinp part of them as slaves

The Aztec culture

Nahuat! was the language of the Mexican-Aztecs and

other peoples under his rule. They used pictograms

to represent political, religious and economic

matters, as we can se in the Codex (Books).

• They improve too a really complex calendar and

astronomical knowledge as we can see in

architecture and sculpture.

Thanks to the Codex and translations of

colonial period we can know the names

of some gods of these polytheistic

religion. Tlaloc and Chalchluhtlicue as god

of sky and storms and goddess of rain

were really Important. Near to them were

Huitzilopochtli as personification of the

sun and Quetza/coat/ as mighty warrior

and protector.

The sacrifices of wealth, food, animals,

blood or even human beings, Werc

Important to keep the world working.

The mythical tales talks about how the first Inca,
Manco Capac, with his wife Mama Ocllo, joining
some tribes of the Andes. Historically we can find
the first evidences of a pre-state Inca culture at
1200 AD. Nevertheless, we can consider it an Empire
when the multi-ethnic kingdom leaded by
¡Pachacútec defeated the Chanca Confederation in
This way they dominated a really large Empire which
includes the current territories of Ecuador, Perú,
Bolivia and northern Chile and Argentina.
That was a centralized Empire with the quechua as
official language, but others spoken by other ethnic
groups as Aymaras,
The Inca was Emperor and God at the same time.
Under him were nobles and priests, and then an
enormous amount of subjects which had to pay
taxes, tributes or were required to work. This system
of forced labour as tribute was known as mita.
Inca civilization
- In religious terms, they were polytheistics, with some
elemental gods as Illapa controlling the thunder and
Inti as personification of the Sun. Pachamama was the
Inca goddess of the nature and the Earth, with
important rituals every year. The Inca was considered
too practically a god and receive religious offerings.
Viracocha, who was a mythical emperor too, was the
main god. The ancestor’s cult was really important in
the daily life and little communities.
The economy was based in agriculture, mainly corn,
beans and potatoes, thanks to complex hydric
infrastructures. The domesticated some animals, as
llamas and alpacas, for their wool and meat. They
created elaborated pottery, textiles which includes
feathers, shells and fur. The precious metals as gold
and copper were a characteristically element of the
outfits to show the social position.
The Empire improve a system of centralization and
redistribution of resources and even population. An
intricate and complex road system communicated the
large stone cities of the Tahuantinsuyo.

European expansión

The conquest of Constantinople (1453) pushed the European Monarchies to research for 
alternative trade routes to India and the Silk Route. At the same time, the end of the Iberian 
conquest by the Christian Kingdoms pushed them to find new territories in the Atlantic 
Ocean, first in the shore of Africa,
On the other hand, the enormous technical advances in the Middle Ages. Oriental and 
Muslim astronomy and cartography made easy the navigation and localizarion lf places in 
the map.
the celestial bodies, calculating time and latitude. This technic advances walked side by side 
the scientific revolution of the Humanism.
• Combination of Atlantic and Mediterranean nautical techniques, as the shape of the boats 
sails, The rudder (rueda de timón) as a round piece in deck (cubierta) to control the 
(timón) of the boats give more control of direction and navigation.
The Conquest and “Great Colonization”
Amerigo Vespucci (chief of navigation/ piloto mayor of Castile) stablished
the location of continental America. That opened the way to a process of
consecutive conquest in the
“new” territories. We can difference the
Conquest, between 1519 and 1550, fighting against the main native
States; and the Great Colonization, a process of submission and control of
the land and the people with new systems of government, new “white”
elites and acculturation. * IWe are going to talk about genocide ar not at the end of the unit]
Anyway, before the conquest, we can see some exploratory campaigns as
Núñez de Balboa crossing the isthmus of Panama and reaching the Pacific
Ocean (1513).
Juan Ponce de León explored the Florida Península (1513). Later Alvar
Núñez Cabeza de Vaca continued exploring the north of Florida and
reached the North of Mexico by the land (1527). In a second campaign
Cabeza de Vaca moved to South America exploring Paraguay and Río de la
Plata finding the Iguazú Falls (1537).
Meanwhile, Orellana travelled along the Amazon river (1541) and
Magellan discovered the southern passageway to reach the Pacific Ocean
with the global circumnavigation as goal. Juan Sebastián Elcano
completed this travel around the world (1519-1522) after Magellan’s

Conquest of the Aztec Empire (1519-1527)
Hernán Cortés (1485-1547) lead the conquest of
Mexico against the Aztec Empire of Moctezuma
(Huey Tlatoani). Some indigenous help allied with
Cortes against the Aztecs, like Malintzin (Doña
Marina) as translator (maya-nahuatl), adviser and
lover; or even full armies as the Totonaca or Tlaxcalteca, Tenemies to friends)

At first time Moctezuma believe receive the

Spaniards in Mexico-Tenochtitlan as friends.He

possibly considered them as sent by the god

Quetzalcoati. But the tensions started soon.

• 1520: Pedro de Alvarado murdered some of the

most important Mexican nobles in the Massacre of

the Great Temple, what end in some anti-Spaniard

revolts, the death of Moctezuma and the famous

Noche Triste / Night of Sorrows (30** June – 1*t July


After 75 days siting Tenochtitlan, Cortés and his

allies got the victory and exterminate ALL the

Mexicans-Aztecs, substituted in the charges by

other indigenous nobles or spaniards,

• That set the basis of the Viceroyalty of New Spain.

The fights in Chile and other territories

• In 1535 Diego de Almagro arrived to Chile, and

tried to pacificate the area against Mapuches

and Araucos.

• Later, Pedro Valdivia began a project to gets the

occupy of the lands of Chile. He died fighting

the Mapuche Army leaded by the Arauco

Cacique Lautaro, but finally the natives were


• As we can se in Chile, the territories without

native states caused more problems to

consolidate the control of the Spaniards. They

could not impose defeating a leader, they had

to control the territories and the people.

• We should remember the internal political

conflicts and plots in Castille to get more power.

The Conquest of the Incan Empire (1532-1533)
Francisco Pizarro (1478-1541) fight against the
Incan Empire of Atahualpa, On the one hand, the
Inca believed in the legend about the return of
Viracocha, and consider the arrival of the
Spaniards as a good omen in his civil war against
his brother Huascar, Atahualpa invited Pizarro to
Cajamarca, but the tension increased fast. The
Inca through the Bible to the floor, so Pizarro
ordered to attack and capture him, Later, at
1533, was executed,
Some Cuzco nobles became allles of Pizarro andimen w INbas bivalpa,(.itie Brother) as new

Pizarro won the Empire, but he suffered native

attacks leaded by Quizu Yupanki and Manco


Then began a Civil War between Spanlards, with

Diego de Almagro “The Old” against Pizarro,