Early American History
Encounters in the Americas
Key Concepts

Spain rewarded many of the conquistadors by giving them land in the Americas. Most of the land was in Mexico. The Spaniards called Mexico,
New Spain. Mexico became one of Spain's colonies in the Americas. A colony is a settlement ruled by another country. People who live in a colony are called settlers, or colonists.

Many colonists in New Spain worked in gold mines and silver mines. Other colonists set up plantations. A plantation is a huge farm. The plantations in New Spain grew sugarcane, tobacco, coffee, cocoa, cotton, and other crops
that could be sold in Spain. The Spanish colonists brought with them from Spain oxen and plows to work the land. They also brought horses to ride, cattle and sheep for ranching, and fruit, grain, and vegetable seeds for farming.

Soon there were thousands of Spanish settlers living in the new cities. The Spanish colonists needed lots of workers to grow their crops, and to mine for gold and silver. They also needed workers to work in their new cities. New Spain was unable to attract enough Spanish workers to move and work in the New World. It did not take long for the Spanish to make the Indian peoples their slaves. Indian slaves were forced to work day and night with very little food or rest. They had no freedom. Thousands of Indians died from hunger and overwork.

The Spanish settlers brought diseases from Europe like measles, influenza, smallpox, and scarlet fever. The Indians could not fight these diseases. Sometimes whole tribes got sick and died. Within 50 years, millions of Indians died of the European diseases.

Bartolome de Las Casas was a Spanish friar who lived at a mission in New Spain. Las Casas spent many years trying to help the Indians. He complained to the Spaniards about the unfair work conditions of the native peoples. In 1542 the King of Spain passed laws to protect the native peoples.

Building New Spain
next page...
table of content...
top of page...
Additional Information
Friar Bartolome de Las Casas was given a land grant. He was also given the right to have Indian slaves work his land.

Indian Slaves - There were at least 20 million Indians in Mexico when the first Spaniards arrived in the New World. After the Spaniards arrived, three-fourths of the Indians died. Some died from fighting with the Spaniards. Others died from mistreatment by the Spaniards. But most died from the diseases brought to Mexico by the Europeans and the African slaves. Only about two million Mexican Indians survived. European diseases had a similar effect on Native Americans in North America.

new cities - In Mexico and South America the Spaniards built cities where they found gold. They didn't find any gold in North America. Spain spent most of its energy in Mexico and South America. The gold and silver was shipped to Spain.

small pox - Small Pox did to the Native Americans what the Black Plague did to Europe and Asia. The Black Plague raged through Europe and Asia
during the 14th Century. It killed more people than any war. The plague
began in China. About 40 percent of the population of Asia, Europe, and North Africa died from the plague.

Spanish settlers - Mexico was ruled by Spain in a way that was good for Spain. It was not always good for Mexico. Spain brought its religion and architecture to Mexico and South America. Spain also brought its language, art, and schools. The first printing press arrived in Mexico City in 1539. The first university was founded in 1551. Spain built beautiful churches and palaces. It ended the blood sacrifices that were part of the Indian culture in Middle America.