Colonial Travelers in Latin America

Colonial Travelers in Latin America

Colonial Travelers in Latin America

Colonial Travelers in Latin America

Excerpt

Travel, it is often said, is broadening. Implicit is the assumption that the experience of foreign lands assures sensitive and receptive individuals an enhanced culture and refinement. However sound in theory, this belief is essentially a modern concept and rarely influenced the travelers who ventured across the Atlantic to the New World and penetrated its strange and often forbidding interior during the three centuries of Hispanic rule. Nor did a romantic love of adventure lure them westward, for the rigors of sea voyages and overland journeys, with the constant imminence of death, required stoic courage and a fatalistic philosophy. Clearly the overriding inducements to take such grave risks were: a beguiling dream of quick wealth, a personal El Dorado, a position of power with all its perquisites, and the hope of an early return to the homeland to enjoy the rewards acquired.

The representatives of Hispanic society that embarked on the annual transatlantic fleets to the Spanish Indies included merchants of all degrees, ecclesiastics of many religious orders, royal officials of varied categories, and emigrants of every social class. For them the waning fortunes of the Spanish Peninsula made the illimitable resources and submissive inhabitants of the vast New World seem a land of promise; it beckoned with the prospect of easy riches, pleasant sinecures, and a social mobility that could open the way to high office and the luxury of aristocratic pretensions. Many clergymen of Spain and Portugal, whose zeal to . . .

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