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Treaty
Following Christopher Columbus' 1492 discovery of the "New World," the two major colonizing empires, Spain and Portugal, set out to clear up land disputes for this large undiscovered swath of land. After decrees by Pope Alexander VI, and later deliberation between Spanish King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella and Portugese King John II, the Treaty of Tordesillas was ratified. The treaty drew a longitudinal demarcation line 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands (off the western coast of Africa). The treaty gave rights to Portugal colonize any land East of the line, and Spain had rights to any land West of the line.

Historical and Idealogical Implications

Map

On the surface, the Treaty of Tordesillas appears to be an efficient act of bureaucracy, simplifying the process of exploration and colonization. However, from a 21st century perspective, this treaty is a glimpse into the grotesque idealogy involved in 15th and 16th century exploration. At the time the treaty was drafted, very little actual exploration was done of the land in question (so little was known about South America, that Portugal blindly agreed to the demarcation line, which was later found to be grossly beneficial to the Spanish in terms of total land). This means that before any meaningful communication or infrastructural system was set up, the competing imperialist empires were effectively "calling dibs" on colossal tracts of land, which inhabited

millions of indigenous people in complex and culturally rich empires of their own.

The Treaty of Tordesillas is a fitting representation of the Age of Exploration, as well as an indicator of future colonialism, neocolonialism, and neoliberalism. The fundamental sin of this recurring idealogy is the disrespect of the freedom and independence of indigenous people, their government, and their economy. Over time, indigenous peoples of Latin America slowly regained their various freedoms one by one - governmental, social, economic. However, to this day, at the fundamental level, much of Latin America is still not completely free. Western powers to this day exert enormous influence on the governments in Latin America in order to control the social and governmental environments. Additionally, and most importantly, much of Latin America is still under economic slavery to the West. The West still practices extraction and investment-fueled dependency. Over five centuries after the signing of the Treaty of Tordesillas, Latin America is still seen as land to control and benefit from by Western powers.


Sources

http://www.thenagain.info/webchron/americas/tordesillas.html

http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1028.html

http://geography.about.com/library/weekly/aa112999a.htm

Pages in category "Treaty of Tordesillas (1494)"

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