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Slavery and other forms of forced labor is an issue that is the subject of scorn and despise in today’s modern world. However the irony lies in the fact that the nations, mostly colonizers, who criticize it the most today themselves at some point in time used this institution to their advantage when they conquered and ruled foreign lands. The story of Latin America is not very different. The Spaniards on their arrival not only brought African slaves along with them but also developed different forms of forced labor for the natives such as encomiendas, yana etc. There were few arguments in favor of slave trade such as the excuse to spread the message of the Church and to evangelize as many people as possible. However a close look at the annals of colonial history shows us that economic gains were the driving force behind the acts of the colonizers. The ambitious cult of the Spaniards which made them take the long and hazardous journey to the New World was the driving force behind bringing African slaves and engaging natives into forced labor.  

                   In the wake of Spanish conquests in Peru and New Spain the native societies experienced immense structural, economic and social changes. The Spaniards believed in Aristotle’s doctrine of natural slavery, whereby societies that were rational and reasonable and had accepted the true faith i.e. Christianity were meant to be Masters whereas those who were governed by brutality, passion and infidelity were eternally slaves. This implied that the Spaniards considered the natives as providers of free labor for them. One of the most major impacts of the arrival of the Spanish was the fall of the native Indian population. Although very accurate accounts are not available today yet records suggest that the native population experienced a decline of 85% in a century after they arrived. One of the major reasons for this was that the Spanish brought diseases such as smallpox, mumps, measles etc along with them from Europe. The spread of these alien diseases meant that the natives who did not have any immunity against them easily fell victim. Usually it would take up three or four generations to build up resistance against such diseases.  Moreover it has been suggested that the Spaniards used violence and brutality which lead to poor health conditions and malnourishment. The native’s crops were also eaten up by the animals of the Spaniards which meant that they were left with limited supplies of food.  Thereafter many natives accepting the Spanish domination as their land’s fate or divine will, began committing suicides and infanticides etc. Such decline in native population was on the other hand accompanied by an increasing Spanish population as more and more professionals and artisans from Spain poured in. The decreasing native population suggested a dearth of labor for the Spaniards as many of them possessed very economically important skills. This situation brought to the forefront the African slaves. The blacks travelled to Latin America along with their Spanish masters. They included men and women. Demographically, most of the Spaniards were young men who were accompanied by few Spanish women; therefore black women were also brought to the newly conquered territory.  Curiously the Spaniards could also consider transferring Spanish masses to the Indies to use as labor. However, during this time many cities of the Spanish empire were beginning to grow and thrive. Besides this the agriculture sector was operating now on free wage labor basis. Finally, the fact that the military force was being developed provided another niche to the Spanish masses.  Therefore, African slaves seemed a perfect choice given these circumstances. Added to this black labor was completely mobile and they were kinless which meant they could be transported anywhere and made to work. In case of the natives it was very hard to make them shift. Moreover, there remained a threat of rebellion as they were still living in their native land and developed community. However in cases where cruelty reached enormous heights there were instances of revolt from the blacks even as in case of the “Maroons” who ran away and settled and developed their own organized community. The Blacks soon surfaced in colonial society. Inter marrying took place between blacks, Indians and Spanish leading to mixed breeds such as mulattoes and zambos.

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