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Colección: INTERAMER
Número: 59
Año: 1999
Autor: José Luis Romero
Título: Latin America: Its Cities and Ideas

CHAPTER 1

LATIN AMERICA
WITHIN THE EUROPEAN EXPANSION

By the end of the fifteenth century, the native peoples of America had developed their own cultures and were established in a self-sufficient world. But with the arrival of the Europeans, the aboriginal world was completely overtaken, and a new era began for America. The first sign of the new times was the creation of new societies made up of conquerors and of those they conquered, of Europeans and native peoples alike.

The creation of these new societies was part of the history of both the aboriginal and the European worlds. But it was the Europeans that had taken the initiative, they that had played an active role and had set to their advantage the direction of the course of events. The American adventure was equally shared by both cultures, but Europe alone set the process into motion. The process itself was one more step in a major transformation that Europe had already undergone for centuries and whose consequences would be felt in many regions until then unrelated to the European world. This time, it was America’s turn.

Even when the creation of the new societies had fully become an American problem, it continued to be, from another perspective, a European issue as well. For it was the European society that prepared the invasion, that set the goals of the undertaking, that left its imprint on the protagonists, that transplanted its old problems into the American soil. The American world and its native societies watched the invaders arrive to the continent without understanding what they were about, because there was nothing in the logic of their own world that could explain the arrival or the behavior of the Europeans: the invaders were a force that had come from the outside and obeyed its own laws. For the European societies, on the contrary, the invasion of another world was well within the logic of its own transformation.

This double perspective made the American process all the more complex. It took some time for it to become, in fact, uniquely American. By then, the process had taken root in the new continent, and its protagonists began to act according to the internal logic of their new situation. But until that happened, the process was part of the history of European societies that, compelled by forces they could not control, moved beyond their own boundaries and began an era of expansion. It is within that general European expansion that the formative process of Latin American finds its beginnings. Since that expansion was itself the result of a long series of changes, it is those changes that we need to examine if we want to understand the attitudes that shaped the formative process of the New World.