Native People of North America Adapting to Spanish Culture

The native groups were generally able to adapt to the Spanish culture, not in the least because of the intermarriage between the two groups. With most of the Spanish colonizers being young men seeking glory and wealth, the shortage of Spanish women did not really leave any other option. Notably enough, it was not a practice limited to the common folk, as the high-ranking conquistadores began marrying native women in the early days of the colonization. For instance, Pedro the Alvarado, the right hand of Cortés, took Luisa Xicotencatl of Tlaxcala as his wife.

The Catholic Church also supported the practice of intermarriage as a way to prevent promiscuity and debauchery. This mixing between the arriving peninsulares and the native population was one mechanism of adaptation to the new norms and rules brought by the colonizers.

The main reason why the locals were able to adapt was the fact that the Spanish made a deliberate effort to acculturate them. The Catholic Church, in particular, became a vehicle of such adaptation in and of itself. Spanish authorities planned an extensive campaign of proselytism in the Americas even before they began colonizing them in earnest. The natives were not only allowed but encouraged to convert to Catholicism, which proved to be an efficient mechanism for gradually disseminating Spanish social and cultural norms. The process was all the more effective because Catholic missionaries – especially the Franciscans – established schools where they taught the native population reading and writing in Spanish as well as other subjects from rhetoric to astronomy. Thus, the Catholic Church and its monastic orders created a network of institutions that facilitated the native adaptation to the Spanish culture, even though it often came through the suppression and substitution of indigenous practices.

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