DBQ1: Contact and Change


When they established colonies in the Americas, the Spanish created a new economic system, the encomieda system, in which Native Americans worked on Spanish-owned estates.  The basis for that system was laid out in a letter from King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to the governor of Hispaniola in 1503.

Our desire is that the Christians not lack people to work their holdings and to take out what gold there is.  It also is our desire that the Indians be converted.  All this can be better done by having the Indians live in community with the Christians, because they then will help each other cultivate and settle the island, take out the gold, and bring profit to Spain.  Therefore, we command you, our governor, to compel the Indians to associate with the Christians.  The Indians should work on the Christians' buildings, mine the gold till the fields, and produce food for the Christians.  This the Indians shall perform as free people, which they are, and not as slaves.  Also, see to it that the Indians are well treated, with those who become Christians better treated than the others.  Do not consent or allow any person to do them any harm or oppress them.

a. Why did Ferdinand and Isabella want Native Americans and Christians to live together?
b. Do you think the governor of Hispaniola followed the monarchs' instructions?  Why or why not?

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