History Of Middle America Central America is a land bridge that connects North America to South America.
Today, this area of the world is under major reconstruction. Its recent history is filled with civil wars, military dictatorships, and native uprisings. Though the recent economy has turned toward the better, the history of the economy in Central America has not been a fortunate.
Poverty, disease, and discontent were common among the people living in this region. Many of the problems faced by these nations date back to the Spanish Colonization of the area. Before the Spanish arrived, this region contained a civilization with a rich written history, sophisticated agricultural systems, and amazing cities.Civilized society in Central America can be traced back thousands of years to around 2,000 B.C. It is believed that around this time the native people began to plant crops instead of hunting animals. Pottery, which was discovered in the Parita Bay region of Panama, is believed to made around 2,130 B.
C. and it reflects some South American cultural influences. After 1,000B.
C. organized, sedentary farming communities began to sprout, and communication and commerce developed among them.After 500 B.C.
an advanced civilization, the Mayas, emerged in the present-day lands of Guatemala and El Salvador. Kaminaljuy was on of the earlier Mayan cities, and was located in the highlands near present-day Guatemala City. Other Mayan cities arose southeastward, towards Nicaragua (a map of Mayan cities is located at the back of the paper). It is clear that the early Mayan people inhabited the higher terrain in Central America because of the suitable climate, but as the civilization grew, the lowland cities became centers for a higher civilization. In the Mayan cities they developed an advanced system of writing, and with their hieroglyphs on stone monuments, they were able to record their history.Many achievements by the Mayan people exceeded those of the same era Europeans. Among the Mayan’s brilliant achievements were sculptures, ceramics, paintings, and weaving.
They made discoveries in astronomy and mathematics that rivaled the ancient Egyptians, and they also developed complex agricultural and water management systems . A major flaw in the Mayan system included their lack of technology. The Mayan people did not have any tools that would aid them in their daily work, like farming.All work was done by hand, which may have slowed the development of their civilization because they were not able to produce large amounts of food.
Map of Major Mayan sites1.Chichn Itza2. Palenque3. Yaxchiln4. Bonampak5.
Lagartero6.Iazapa7. Kaminaljuy8. Piedras Negras9. Tikal10. Uaxactun11. Copan12.
Cuello13. Tulm 14. Coba;15.
Dzibilchaltun 16. Uxmal Mayan civilization reached its peek between 600 and 900 A.D., reaching a population over 4 million people located mainly in the sites stated above. It was during this period that most of their scientific discoveries took place.It was after 900 A.D.
that the stresses of the social structure that the Mayans developed began to ware down. The Mayan agricultural practices caused the depletion of its fertile land. Many Mayan cities were established on soil that appeared to be fertile. However, there were actually large deposits of limestone only a few feet under the topsoil.
At many locations in the Maya area, observations can be made in Valle de Naco, where erosion and sedimentation of soils are associated with Maya decline and abandonment. In some cases, it appears that cities were just abandoned, which is probable if fertile land was discovered elsewhere. Wars with neighboring natives, droughts, and diseases are also reasons thought to cause the decline of the Mayas. The Aztec Empire, a trio of Native American tribes consisting of the Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and the Tacuba , has been attributed to the decline of the Mayas. The Aztecs were a war-like civilization, though highly civilized, who were mainly located in present-day Mexico. Some believe that the Aztecs waged war on the Mayas, who were predominately a peaceful culture, and that may have caused their decline.
The Aztecs, however, along with the Maya and Inca of Peru, all met their end when the Spanish Empire came to Middle America. The Spanish Empire brought with it many diseases that the Native Americans had not been in contact with, so a large portion of the Native Americans died of diseases like the mumps, small pox and influenza . Despite this drastic decline, many parts of the Mayan civilization survived the Spanish Colonization, often by retreating to the lowlands that were less desirable to the Spaniards. The Mayan civilization is still seen in many parts of modern Middle America today. Many of the Mayan people fled to undesirable lowlands of Belize and Guatemala when the Spaniards arrived, and many of the same ceramics, tools, and weapons were discovered that were made after 1638 in Belize.
In many of these areas were the Mayan people fled, there is a definite Spanish influence predominately in religion. It was not uncommon at the time to see an entire town of Native Americans to contain one or two Catholic churches with both Mayan and Spanish priests . Today there are between 5 and 6 million Mayan Indians living in Guatemala today, which is half of its total population . The Spanish colonizers came to America with weapons that the natives had never seen before. Having previously waged battles with spears, clubs, and arrows, the Spaniards’ guns, trained dogs, horses, and cannons intimidated the natives.
The Spanish colonials also made attempts to ally themselves with some native tribes in attempts to increase their numbers. This proved effective in their battles against the Aztecs, where only a few hundred Spanish warriors would fight, but they would also have a few thousand native allies. The Spanish invaders set up colonies all over Central America, though early on rivalries among the conquistadors made it difficult to have a unified Central America. In 1530 Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, Chiapas, and Panama all functioned under separate orders . By 1543, however, Spain unified the all of Central America.Most of the natives that were left after this transition period that took place either died of disease brought by the Spaniards, were killed, or enslaved. A commercial system was set up in Central America by the Spanish, which put the native slaves to work growing crops, which were specialized by region, and mining for precious metals. Magistrates appointed by Spanish royalty ran this system, and because the salary for such a position was so low, corruption was often very high .
The Spanish government paid the new rulers over the land very little, because they had to fund the many wars they were fighting. In turn the magistrates acted more like entrepreneurs, in that the made profits off of ever product produced by the natives and sold to them as well.In the 16th century, the main export for Central America to Spain was Cacao, while in the 17th century Indigo took its place. The new society that the natives lived in comprised of two small upper classes, the previously mentioned Spanish administrative authority and the Creole landholding elite.
Under these middle classes lived the natives, many of whom lived on large haciendas, living off of subsistence farming. At the beginning of the 18th century, the Spanish empire was in a costly war, which would seriously alter the history of Central America. Bourbon Philip V’s policy after 1750 was directly responsible for much of the change.It increased a centralized authority, and reasserted royal control that had diminished in the previous years. It made a strong emphasis on agricultural exports, especially indigo, cacao, and tobacco, and took power away from the clergy and Creole elite . This new policy also heightened the strong regionalism on the isthmus, as the provinces resisted the growing power of the Guatemalan establishment, which became a major center for European trade.
As the century closed, a growing preference for the appointment of Spaniards to rule in Central America contributed to the Creole resentment. In 1808, France invaded Spain.This caused increased difficulties in Central America due to unwelcome new and higher taxes and demands for “patriotic donations” to support Spain against the French. Some reforms were also made, like the Cdiz Constitution of 1812 that provided colonial representation in the Spanish parliament and elections for provincial offices . This increased the importance of politics in Central America, and laid the foundations for Creole democracy.
Increased Native American uprisings occurred in this time, but unlike the situation in South America, they were unsuccessful. After the defeat of Napoleon in 1814, Ferdinand VII annulled the 1812 constitution, which caused Creole to oppose Spanish rule in Central America. The reinstatement of the constitution by the Spanish in 1820 created political factions that are the basis of the Liberal and Conservative parties that dominated Central America for the following century.
A council in Guatemala City accepted an independence plan made by a Mexican Creole named Agustn Iturbide on September 15, 1821, but there were differences among the provinces that had to be dealt with. Civil war erupted in Granada and San Salvador, who refused to accept the decision, and after a long siege Iturbide’s plan was scrapped. On July 1, 1823 a Liberal dominate …