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The Age of Exploration in Spain

The age of exploration was one that flourished in new discoveries of new lands and resources. Many countries had a lasting effect on this era of time. Perhaps the most influential was Spain. Spain was the beginning point for many famous explorers including Columbus, Pizarro, and Cortes. All three greatly influenced the exploration age.

Of the three explorers, Columbus was the first to embark on his voyage. In 1492, the sea captain, Christopher Columbus, set off for Asia, to find the luxuries many talked of. The spices, silks, and other raw materials prompted Columbus to sail west and find an alternate trade route to Asia and its riches. However, Columbus never reached his destination. Instead, he landed on one of the Caribbean lands. Since these lands were unheard of, Columbus assumed he had reached the East Indies when he reached land. Remarkably, he named the native people of the islands “los indios”, a term translating to “Indians”, a term mistakenly applied to all the peoples of the Americas.

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Columbus named the land San Salvador, or “Holy Savior” and claimed the land for Spain. In search of gold, he looked all over the Caribbean islands, however in early 1493, he returned home with not much wealth. Spain’s rulers agreed to finance three more trips. After the voyages, he had claimed land all inside and on the coast of the Americas. Columbus was so vital in the age of exploration, because his giant mistake, of landing on the Americas and not the East Indies, is what started a great search of unclaimed lands by many other European explorers. Also, if Columbus hadn’t found the Americas, we may not be here today!

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The next explorer of the three to commence his voyage was Hernando Cortes. Cortes landed on the shores of Mexico and marched inland, looking to claim new lands for Spain. Cortes was also in search of something more. The tribe and lands that he had heard rumour of, of the wealthy Aztecs. He marched and marched through many rough mountain passes until finally, Cortes and his fleet of 600 men, reached the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. The Aztec leader, Montezuma II, first thought Cortes to be an armoured god, so he naturally offered him gifts of gold and silver.

However, Cortes was unsatisfied and forced the Aztecs to mine more gold and silver. In 1520, the Aztecs rebelled and drove the Spanish out. But Cortes’ desire for wealth and land brought him back in 1521 where he conquered the Aztecs with Spain’s superior weaponry, help from other Native tribes, and most powerful of all, the foreign diseases that the Europeans brought along, such as typhus, smallpox, measles and mumps. Cortes’ conquering of the Mexico region was so important because it too inspired many others to explore new lands as he did, and also, it brought about a new culture into Mexico, which lasted with it until this day.

Francisco Pizzaro was one of the many conquistadors who followed Cortes’ path. In 1532, Pizzaro marched a smaller fleet than Cortes’ into South America. There he met the Inca ruler named Atahualpa. The Spaniards crushed the Incan fleets and kidnapped their leader. Atahualpa offered the Spanish a ransom of one room filled with gold, and two more filled with silver for his own release. The Spanish greedily took the money, and strangled the leader after, making the conquering of their land and riches much easier, due to the retreat of the frightened and weakened Incan troops. Clearly, Pizzaro was an influential explorer during this age due to his great, yet gruesome, accomplishments.

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The colonies of Spain in the Americas made Spain the richest most powerful nation in the world during much of the 16th century. The continuous wave of ships pouring into the harbours had plentiful riches upon the board. This contributed to the wealth of Spain in both monetary and cultural aspects. Furthermore, the army was strong and it flourished; the Spanish army hadn’t lost a battle for a century and a half. Also, the Spanish established a powerful navy. During this “golden age” for Spain, the Spanish pushed forward in settling in the Americas through expeditions in the southwest.

The Spanish built an empire stretching from Mexico to Peru by 1540, and yet they looked on to territory in a land which is now the United States. Alongside conquistadors such as Francisco Vasquez and Juan, Ponce De Leon was catholic priests who were in search of converts. This converting that went on as the Spanish conquered contributed to the spreading of the Spanish culture, and obviously, the Spanish religion. This is yet another reason why Spain was such an influential country on new lands and exploration.

Spain is a country of great culture and ideas, and this was spread greatly throughout the regions it conquered. The explorers who came from Spain had a great deal of ambition and desire to acquire land and riches, and because of this, they not only gained those things, but they started a wave of exploration that would affect the entire world. So although many countries greatly affected this wave of exploration, Spain was the most important, because, without the explorers from Spain, many of the others would not have had the fuel to also explore and discover.

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The Age of Exploration in Spain. (2021, Feb 18). Retrieved February 7, 2023, from