Colonization and Latin America


Colonization was the platform that many Western countries applied to spread their influence on the world. Colonization used the following approach: one nation imposed its will on another nation establishing control over all the valuables of the concerned nation, not to mention the exploitation of the natives. The intention of the colonizer was to search for cheap labor and employ available resources (Moya, 2011). The colonization was accompanied by the imposing of new ways of life that resulted in the massive conflict between the native demands and those of the colonial master. That is why colonization appears to have had both psychological and economic effects in the colonies. In Latin America, the situation was not that different from many European countries struggling to acquire a piece of the resources available in the continent. Coercion was the main approach utilized by colonial masters to intimidate the natives into adopting the desired ways of lives (Figueroa, 2013). Therefore, colonialism was a policy that jeopardized the economies of the colonies. It still hinders the performance of the nations in the modern times as demonstrated in the paper through a comprehensive analysis of the colonization’s impact on Mexico, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, and Columbia; moreover, it continues to undermine the performance of these nations as demonstrated in their process of decolonization.

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Colonialist and Economic Resources in Latin America

First, overexploitation was closely associated with handling the resources in Latin America. In Peru, for example, with the establishment of their rule in the Viceroyalty Peru in 1542, the Spaniards were heavily involved in mining gold and silver at the expense of the Indians, who died in large numbers in these mines (Bethell, 2009). Moreover, the Spaniards also participated in the quite intensive farming where they exploited the labor force of the natives who were reduced to beggars and slaves at these farms. The case was similar in Mexico when the Spaniards established their control. The colonizers were eager to gain control over the prime land in Central Mexico where they located their crown. The aim was to form a mining system using which they extracted gold and silver and shipped it back to the mother country in Europe. As a result, there was a high level of resource depletion in the colonies caused by the colonial masters’ insatiable desire for enrichment. This significant resource depletion is even present in the current era where the colonizers are still more successful than their colonies in terms of both economic performance and citizens’ welfare.

More importantly, many colonial masters tried to make the indigenous people dependent on their agents. For example, in addition to the extraction of minerals in Mexico, Spanish people created haciendas where the natives were employed, forced to work under quite harsh conditions but, above all, received low wages. The act of paying the natives low wages was a well-calculated way of limiting the ability of the natives making them greatly dependent on the owners of these haciendas, which were Spaniards and their soldiers.

The case of severe human resource exploitations existed in Colombia. The Spanish began the process of colonization that lasted from 1499 to 1550. Spanish people were lured into capturing Columbia by the myth known as the El Dorado myth that proclaimed the existence of a town made entirely of gold (Bethell, 2009). Next, the exploration of the territory took place aimed at the search of the precious resources from the coastal areas to the Columbia’s interior where the Spanish colonizers planned to exploit various opportunities through forcing the natives to work for them. In Brazil, the rivalry was among the French, the Portuguese, and the Spanish, who desired to have the country as their territory. However, the Portuguese remained the major force. The main resource exported from Brazil was called the “red dye” that was immensely useful in the textile industries and, extracted with the exploitation on the natives (Bethell, 2009). Another example is Bolivia, where the Spanish were lured to due to its reference as the country of gold. Led by Francisco Pizarro, in 1538, the Spanish took part in the battle for Bolivia with the aim to expand its rule from Lake Titicaca to the central and northern parts of the country (Bethell, 2009). The natives were used as a source of cheap labor for the mines being exploited by the Spaniards. Excessive exploitation of the resources and constant battles with the natives were typical during the Spanish rule in Bolivia. It is, therefore, clear that in Latin America, the colonial masters were quite interested in exploring, extracting, and shipping various resources from the continent to their mother country.

They also wished to ensure that the resources were far from the natives’ reach in order for the indigenous people to remain their source of labor and not become competitors instead. Withholding the resources from the natives, the colonialists were able to control them and deny these indigenous people the ability to fight and oppose since all they had was barely enough to survive. It is, therefore, evident that the colonialists were interested in transforming the economic resources into money and, at the same time, accumulating the economic might of their motherland since the extracted resources were shipped as raw material to their homelands or used as tools of advancing the interest of the colonial masters.


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Freedom of Speech and Expression under Colonial Regime

The colonial masters viewed the natives of Latin America as objects and the tools of advancing their interest in the region. They were to provide labor force at very small wages, and they were never expected to challenge the authority of the colonialists. The reason for this was the fact that the colonial regime had the advantage of superior weapon as well as the element of the excessive dependence of the natives on their “masters.” Denying the natives access to the resources and paying them little money for their work reduced the natives to mere slaves in their countries. Despite a strong challenge that the rule of the Portuguese faced from the natives in Brazil, lack of sufficient amounts of money and resources forced some of the natives to sell themselves into slavery (Bethell, 2009). The natives’ freedom of speech and expression was significantly hindered since all their efforts were channeled toward pleasing their masters through realigning themselves with the interest of their colonial masters.

Conducted within the scope of the research, the survey among the veterans in Latin America demonstrated that the level of freedom of speech and expression among the natives was not guaranteed. Moreover, the survey discovered that the major hindrance faced by the natives in expressing themselves was highly due to their dependence on the good will of their masters. There was also the element of the “divide and rule” policy where any instance of coordination among the natives was squashed through manipulated different groups to turn against one another. As a result, the natives were so disorganized that the colonial regime exploited them easily, and they could not pose any feasible threat. Furthermore, the survey concluded that the natives were only supposed to express themselves if ordered to do so by their masters. The result was that the right of speech and expression continued to be suppressed during the period of the colonial regime.

In the interview with Miguel Antonio, who was a hacienda worker in the colonial regime, the freedom of expression or speech was a phenomenon that the natives could only dream about. In his role as a herdsman, taking order was the only role he knew. He mentioned that even when the situation with the cattle demanded quick attention, expressing the idea to his master was still a huge task (personal communication, April 24, 2016). According to Miguel, harsh working conditions and low wage continued to be the norm since their right to express themselves was highly inhibited. In the interview, it was evident that the rights of the natives were such as their colonial masters wished them to be. Moreover, it was clear that the natives were forced to feel inferior to their masters rendering it impossible for them to challenge any actions of the masters toward them as Miguel stressed in the context of wages. It was, therefore, clear that the natives of Latin America did not enjoy the freedom of speech and expression during the colonial regime.

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Effects of Colonialism in Latin America

It is evident that the major challenge Latin America faced as the result of colonization was the loss of valuable resources, mostly precious minerals. However, the detailed research of the secondary sources states that the colonialism had a psychological impact and resulted in the underdevelopment of the Latin American countries. In the context of the underdevelopment, the overexploitation of the resources in these countries by the colonizers meant that there was little left for the natives once the colonialism was over (Danell, Larsson, & Wisselgren, 2014). Moreover, it was a common practice for the colonizers to maintain the production process in the mother country and using the colonies merely as the sources of raw materials. As a result, the mother countries of the colonizers experienced most of the benefits from the colonies (Moya, 2011). This explains a huge difference between the former colonial masters and former colonies regarding the economic might.

Colonialism also denied the natives were the right to own a piece of land. Moreover, the prime lands of the colonies were given to the agents of the colonial masters and the natives of the colonial countries. Considering the denial of the basic production unit to the natives of the colonies, their ability to be actively involved in shaping their economic performance has greatly diminished and remains hindered today. With the natives occupying the barren lands, their efforts were significantly undermined by the poor yields that made them prefer working as a slave rather than in their fields (Moya, 2011). Another example of the negative impact of colonization was the “divide and rule” policy, which ensured that the ability of the natives to work together for their betterment was non-existent. Due to the colonial masters having been able to divide the natives, it became impossible for those indigenous people to come together and work as a team towards the realization of their common goals. Moreover, there was the formation of classes within the society where people were divided on the basis of their ability (Figueroa, 2013). This only worsened the division within the natives’ community, and this vice still continues to exist. This phenomenon is still evident in the current era where different tribes within the same country cannot cooperate and work as a team to improve their lives. Moreover, this “divide and rule” policy of the colonialists ensured that a small group of them gained power to rule over the vast majority of the natives.

As far as the context of the psychological impact of colonialism is concerned, excessive dependence on the Western countries remains a key problem. The colonial masters were interested in presenting themselves as superior to the natives. Moreover, the dependence of the natives on the colonial masters for their upkeep did not help to address the issue (Moya, 2011). As a result, the natives of Latin America viewed the colonizers as superior beings who could never be opposed. In the interview with one of the renown psychologists in Florida, it became evident that the sustainability of the colonial rule immensely depended on the ability of the colonial masters to impose a feeling of low self-esteem on the natives. This psychological brainwashing remained: the natives saw the colonial masters as their saviors. It was the solutions that the colonial masters were providing that enabled the natives to work in their fields. It was the plans of the colonial masters that made the natives extract minerals from the depths they had not been able to reach before. All these factors forced the natives to undermine their ability and increased their dependency on the policies and directions of the Western countries.

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Decolonization and Latin America

The aforementioned data demonstarted that colonialism rendered Latin America a poor, divided, and dependent region. Decolonization is the process through which different nations are eliminating the detrimental effects of their colonizers (Shoman, 2010). Success in Latin America and failure of many countries depended on the ability of the politicians to steer their countries toward the needed decolonization processes. In many Latin American countries, the decolonization process has been slow with many elements of the colonial era still manifesting in the politics of these regions. One of them is the freedom of speech and expression that remains a problem for the citizens of Bolivia. Haciendas are still common in Mexico where one family occupies huge prime areas at the expense of the others. Moreover, poverty remains one of the pertinent issues with the working conditions and wages remaining low, which is similar to the situation of the colonial times. The issue concerning land has not been solved yet as well, and the majority of people live in the informal settlements since the prime lands are occupied by the remnants of colonizers and those at the top of the class structure in the society.

Decolonization also entails changing the status quo left by the colonizer (Shoman, 2010), and many politics in Latin America have revolved around changing the direction of the county to suit the demands of the natives. However, this is not the standard case in other parts of Latin America where citizens still feel as alienated as they were during the colonial era. Concerning Brazil, the current issue is the result of delayed decolonization and change from the era of government-centered action to that of citizen-centered action. The common vice in Brazil was the Portuguese acting in a way that assumed the interest of the people. Similarly, the citizens of Brazil feel that the current government does not possess recent knowledge concerning their interest in the government channeling money in the avenues that provide utility to the majority of the citizens.

However, lack of good political initiatives related to decolonization and the proper utilization of the scarce resources left after colonialism has been the major hindrance in Latin America (Shoman, 2010). Corruption and misuse of the resources as in the current case of Brazil and Peru under the leadership of Alberto Fujimori have done little to safeguard the performance of this region. It is, therefore, clear that the politicians in Latin America are not aware of the needed decolonization practices that would address the social evils faced in this region leading to the poor economic performance.


It is evident that colonization of Latin America has been the cause of the economic and social problems the people of this region are now facing. Moreover, it is clear that colonization resulted in the divide between the natives. This phenomenon is still clearly visible in the current social order. It is also obvious that the challenges that colonialism has forced Latin America to face are still influencing the current economic performance of the region since the continuing decolonization process is revolving around these challenges. Moreover, it is evident that the social classes left by colonization still exist in the current social order and continue to influence the performance of Latin America. Furthermore, the analysis confirmed the leading hypothesis that the colonialism era led to the psychological impact and underdevelopment of the Latin American countries as a result of exploitation of the available resources.

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