Discovery, Exploration, and Colonization
In 1493, following his return from his first voyage, Christopher Columbus journeyed through Spain to meet the Catholic Kings in Barcelona. This triumphal procession, displayed items of interest and wealth from what was quickly dubbed the New World. Alongside these objects marched eight to ten Taino Indians dressed in their native costumes, captured by Columbus in the Caribbean. News of these new far off lands and their exotic landscapes full of mysterious inhabitants would spread throughout Europe, capturing the collective curiosity of all sectors of the population.
Accounts such as the General and Natural History of the Indies by Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo introduced Europeans to the Americas, providing descriptions of the plants, animals, and people one could encounter there. As exploration progressed this work and those like it would become the inspiration and guides of early settlers in the Spanish colonies, furnishing them with descriptions, and sometimes images, of plants, animals, and the customs of indigenous peoples.
As the encounter between Spanish settler and native progressed and a new Spanish colonial society was created, these texts were revised and expanded. New works were written to guide the growing colonies, such as Juan Francisco de Montemayor’s Sumarios De La Recopilacion General De Las Leyes, which provided summaries of all the laws and ordinances imposed on the colonies by the Spanish government. It is also possible to read a growing sense of identity within these new works, which would later develop into the national consciousnesses of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that placed Latin American territories on the path toward independence.