Some hundreds Spanish conquistadors had faced many thousands of Indian warriors in 1519 in what we today call Mexico and in 1532 in what we call Peru. Initially 617 Spaniards in Mexico and 176 in Peru. Immediately an unequal fight in which the counterparts had different motivation, but where both parties fought fiercely; of course, they were fighting for their lives.
Technologically, the Spaniards had stood strong with horses, gunpowder and weapons of the sharpest steel, on the other hand the Indians were eminent in close combat and they knew the landscapes where the fights was fought. The Spaniards had, as blind passenger, brought infectious diseases that many Indians died of. Spaniards also died of diseases, but apparently they were not nearly as severely affected as the Indians. And then the Spanish leaders, Hernán Cortés in Mexico and Francisco Pizarro in Peru, were able to exploit the internal contradictions of the huge Indian empires: to ally with some of the tribes that had been suppressed by the Aztecs respectively the Incas. Thus, the Spanish forces were greatly reinforced.
But there was more. Military conditions alone can’t explain the Spaniards conquest of the Aztec Empire respectively of the Inca Empire. Even these were crucial, it is necessary to include other conditions if one is to understand the historical development. First of all religious matters, which I will summarize.
Both the Spanish, the Aztec and the Inca societies were religiously fundamentalist, and their religions can not be understood as a formalized ritual worshipped on certain occasions. Faith permeated everything, defined the people and their societies, including the material production.
Aztecs, Incas and Spaniards lived and fought with a faith that contained notions of life on this earth and, not least, of what followed, and their faiths became crucial for the historical outcome of the clashes.
– For the defending Aztecs, it was especially their notion that the future of each individual was predetermined from the moment of birth.
– For the defending Incas, it was especially important that everything was animated, and that their ancestral worship implied that they had to respect their ancestors.
– For the attacking Spaniards, it was about conquering the world to spread the Christian faith, for it would speed up Christs return.
All three faiths changed, for they were man-made. And all three developed opposing forces that could become something that approached inner contradictions, that undermined the original religiously-based structure.
For the Aztecs: the shift from the belief in predestination to ever more extensive human sacrifices after a change of power in 1427 became crucial.
For the Incas: the shift from ancestral worship to the the split legacy of the rulers after a change of power in 1438 became crucial.
For Christians: the shift from assembling in sects persecuted by the Roman state to a Christianity that after the year 312 was to be spread out with the Roman state power became crucial.
I will outline the three faiths that they looked like around the 16th century, when Europeans became world conquerors. Much may seem incomprehensible to us having a fundamentally individual-centered view on humans, actually a completely different world-view.
Common for the faiths in the two Indian empires was the worship of many gods, and that in connection with the development of their realms accepted even more gods and were thus inclusive to the conquered. Recognition of the strange gods facilitated cooperation and the expansions of the realms.
Facing Indian polytheism stood the monotheism of Christianity that explicitly forbade worship of gods other than God. Jesus had commanded mission with the words:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
That had to trigger confrontation with all other religions.
According to the papal church, the whole world was objectively its world when there was only ONE god, namely God, and therefore the Christian world, orbis christianus, was to be realized. When I say objectively is it because the learned of the Church were very much aware that the world was also populated by pagans, goblin worshippers, non-Christians, who were results of the devils efforts, the work of Antichrist.
The struggle against these Christians could further support with a quote from Jesus:
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
Fundamentally, Christian rejected Indian faith as paganism. Nevertheless, some Christian theologians developed an under-standing that Indian notions of faith contained elements that could be utilized in the mission, but also these theologians goal was that the Indians should be converted to the Christian faith. Paganism had to be wiped out in one way or another. Indian temples were destroyed, images of gods smashed, and Indian children raised to trace pagan ceremonies which continued to be practiced. The missionaries came from a culture that had always been extremely hostile to other faiths.
The victory of the Spaniards over the Indians can’t be explained without an understanding of the concept of wealth of the Christians, Aztecs and Incas that originates or is justified by each religion.
(pp. 428-432 in volume 2, reproduced without notes and illustrations):
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO AZTECS AND INCAS: MYTHS AND STORIES FROM MEXICO AND PERU. Edited, translated, retold and commented by Mikael Witte. Volume 1 + Volume 2
476 pages + 540 pages. Richly illustrated in colors
Published by Selskabet for smukkere Byfornyelse