North American Exploration - Vol. 1

By John Logan Allen | Go to book overview

5 / Hacia el Norte! The Spanish Entrada into North America, 1513-1549

DENNIS REINHARTZ AND OAKAH L. JONES

Herbert Eugene Bolton once wrote, "Exploration was a necessary antecedent to the colonization, exploitation, and social development of any part of the New World."1 Thus, Columbus and the explorers who followed opened an entire "New World" with its geographical features, climates, and diversified peoples. America was the "gift of Spain" largely because the initial discovery was followed by a "brilliant era of exploration on sea and land" that led to colonization and permanent settlement.2 This presentation of Spain's "gift" of America to the world was initiated with the Columbian voyages of discovery and exploration between 1492 and 1504. Although Columbus, on his four voyages of discovery, failed to make a North American landfall, his explorations of the Caribbean and Middle American regions led to the establishment of the India House of Trade (Casa de Contratación), centered in Seville and Cádiz, which together with the Council of the Indies, created in 1511, was in charge of Spanish America. The Casa and the Council not only directed Spanish exploration and settlement in the New World but also functioned as a collation center and clearinghouse for information about the Americas and the "Indies."3 As Charles F. Lummis observed, "The honor of giving America to the world belongs to Spain--the credit not only of discovery, but centuries of such pioneering as no other nation ever paralleled in any land."4

Motives and capacities for exploration and settlement came together in this age of exploration, which began in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and continued for nearly 350 years. There were many motives for individual explorations and the establishment of the first European colonies in the Americas: missionary zeal; the expansion of national power and prestige; searches for mythical kingdoms, advanced Native American civilizations, and the secret Straits of Anián or some other geographical feature

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