Musings on Spanish Colonization of Mexico

Yesterday I went to the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca, which basically contained a long history from pre-Hispanic times to present day in Oaxaca. I always find it confounding how the Spanish seem to have so completely converted the Mexicans and most of Latin America, both with their religion and language. Yet, it didn´t seem to happen in India, in comparison. Some people in India did convert, but mostly people who were in the lowest castes of Hinduism and Christianity offered a better lifestyle that they could not get with Hinduism.

Yet, for Mexico, at least, the Spanish basically came in and took over their whole culture, religion and language. At least that is what always appeared to me without knowing enough details or history. After learning a bit more, my perspective has shifted just a bit.

Firstly, the Spanish did not kill mass numbers of indigenous people, as the British did in America. In the U.S., the culture, religion and language were basically wiped out because of all the indigenous people who died. In Mexico, they survived, but converted to Christianity and learned the Spanish language. The English audio took I took also offered a perspective saying that they indigenous people were able to keep their culture and language at home, but also learned Spanish and essentially melded the two cultures together. The biggest example of this is the Virgen de Guadelupe – what the museum and books keep referring to as the dark-skinnned Virgin Mary who fit both Catholicism, as well as some of the indigenous religious stories. Yet the English audio tour also mentioned that the conquest of Mexico by the Spanish is often referred to as the ¨battle for the soul¨or something like that.

Second, the Aztecs, who were among the first that the Spanish explorer, Hernan Cortes, came across, seemed to have a religious story about some light-skinned savior or higher power or something who was going to come back to the Aztecs. This story fit perfectly when Cortes arrived. In fact, Moctezuma, the Aztec king, welcomed him with gold, food, maidens, etc. And then Cortes eventually partnered with some indigenous groups and turned against other indigenous groups.

There are certainly some parallels in India, where the different regions had their own language, customs, kings, etc. But somehow the British did not succeed in taking over their culture, completely.

Furthermore, I find it interesting that Catholicism is everywhere in Mexico, yet, Cortes is essentially thought of as a villain. It seems like a contradiction to me.

However, things like Dia de los Muertos (¨Day of the Dead¨) and other customs, as well as the food are definitely things that have survived from the indigenous cultures. Anyway, below are some pics from the museum.


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