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The Conquest of America by Tzvetan Todorov Essay

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The Conquest of America
In the book The Conquest of America by Tzvetan Todorov, Todorov brings about an interesting look into the expeditions of Columbus, based on Columbus’ own writings. Initially, one can see Columbus nearly overwhelmed by the beauty of these lands that he has encountered. He creates vivid pictures that stand out in the imagination, colored by a "marvelous" descriptive style. Todorov gives us an interpretation of Columbus’ discovery of America, and the Spaniards’ subsequent conquest, colonization, and destruction of pre-Columbian cultures in Mexico and the Caribbean. Tzvetan Todorov examines the beliefs and behavior of the Spanish conquistadors and of the Aztecs. Initially, I thought of Columbus as
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An important aspect of Todorov's thesis is his well-supported claim that it was precisely the claim to European racial superiority that Christianity strongly reinforced and provided justification for the actions of the Spanish, even in its most severe manifestation. In fact, Todorov invokes the unimaginably horrible image of Catholic priests bashing Indian baby's heads against rocks, allegedly to save them from damnation to hell, which their "savage" culture would have otherwise consigned them to. The logic of this deed and others like them illustrates the destructive influence of Christianity in the Colonial project, which lies at the root of the hegemonic self-image of Western experience--first defined from the perspective of Columbus and Cortes.
If religion was a guiding principle in the lives of the conquerors, as Todorov points out, so too was it for the conquered, especially in the case of the Aztecs. Baffled by the paradox of the famous story concerning Cortes and his several hundred Conquistador's ability to defeat the entire Aztec empire, which numbered at least several million, Todorov reveals that it was primarily due to Montezuma's belief that Cortes and his party were Gods, which led to his reluctance to raise an army in opposition.
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