The conquering of the Americas by the Spanish, beginning with Columbus in 1492, is a complex period in world history. Although it is perhaps most often called “the conquest”, it has also been described as the invasion of the New World by the Old, as well as the encounter between European and American cultures. Both terms have their own modern political connotations, but regardless of the terms, it is clear that during this period the Spanish, often by means of violence, were able to seize control of large territories throughout Central and South America, subjugating a myriad of cultural groups. In some cases these native societies were wiped out, but more often they survived and adapted, eventually contributing to the cultural makeup of modern day Latin America.
Written histories of the event of the Spanish conquest were of special interest both at home and abroad. Conquistadors such as Hernán Cortés and Francisco Pizarro become internationally known for their actions in the Americas, and each had their supporters and detractors. Histories of their conquests were read and used by both groups to eulogize or discredit the various conquistadors and their families. As these works were translated and published for wider European audiences, they could be used by groups hostile towards Spain’s overseas expansion. Events that were once seen as evidence of Spain’s divinely appointed role as conquerors of the Americas soon became proof of their cruelty towards the native peoples.