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Viceroyalty of New Spain

Video transcript

we're in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption the main cathedral in Mexico City which stands on the ruins of the old Aztec capital but was transformed into a new capital the capital of New Spain New Spain was a Spanish Viceroyalty a Viceroyalty is basically a political entity under the Spanish crown and it was ruled by a viceroy this is the stand-in for the king so let's go back in time a little bit and talk about the events of the Spanish conquest that led to the establishment of this Viceroyalty of New Spain we can begin with Columbus bumping into the Americas as he's trying to get to what he would have called the Indies that is to Asia and decades later Hernan Cortes had heard these tales of gold and so illegally left Cuba arrived on the coast of Veracruz the gulf coast of Mexico and made his way inland and as he did that he encountered numerous people who were angry at the musci coordinating Tenochtitlan what today is Mexico City so Cortes was really off on an adventure to enrich himself and what he found was one of the largest most impressive cities in the world and we have lots of accounts of what happened to during those years but in the end in 1521 the Aztecs were defeated by the Spaniards and we have the beginning of what we call New Spain it was important for the Spanish that they convert to the Aztecs and other people's here to Christianity to Catholicism they of course imposed political water and took control of the vast natural resources of the American continents one of the clearest ways that they have tried to signal this change in political and religious order was building on top of former pagan temples or sites so the earliest cathedral was actually constructed using stones from the sacred precinct of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan and you see this across New Spain the earliest Christian buildings are typically made reusing former indigenous temple stones and they were built by indigenous peoples so the labor was indigenous the materials were indigenous but of course the religion was imported and these weren't any Christians these were Spanish calf that had recently and successfully retaken Spain from the Muslims and this reconquest atmosphere is something that came across the Atlantic with and the Spanish conquistadors and so this strategy of building on top of former pagan temples and reusing the stones is a strategy that we see being employed in Spain great example would be the great mosque of Cordoba which now has a Christian Church built and placed inside of it and just as the Spanish used force to retake Spain from the Muslims at the efforts to Christianize here in the new world were violent and resulted in tremendous bloodshed that coupled with epidemics the introduction of say smallpox here to the populations of the Americas were devastating let's spend a moment talking about the scope of New Spain New Spain reached as far north as Northern California think for instance of the name San Francisco its Saint Francis or as far south as Central America if we think of the width of it not only California but reaching all the way to Texas so you have this vast territory what you typically see though is people referring to the Spanish Viceroyalty of New Spain as colonial Mexico and so it's typically used as a shorthand term the Spanish wanted control of this land not only because they wanted to convert these souls but because of the incredible wealth that was here the Spanish imported gold they imported silver from the new world but they also imported a whole series of new foodstuffs including corn and tomatoes and potatoes from South America and chocolate and co-channel which was an insect that produced a brilliant red that was sought after there were trade networks going from New Spain to Asia particularly through the Philippines in Manila and so you have this vast global network of trade New Spain was a central point between the Atlantic trade and the Pacific trade eventually New Spain will become a very cosmopolitan place because you not only have many different European peoples and Amerindian peoples but you also have peoples from Asia and a significant number of enslaved Africans here so when we look at the art of New Spain of this incredibly sophisticated and complex culture that has its roots in complex indigenous cultures that has the overlay of the conquering Spaniards that has imports from East Asia from Europe and becomes tremendously wealthy we look at an art that is truly original that draws globally but produces something that the world had never seen before [Music]