The Exploitation of Colonialism
One of the most important lessons of History is that it should never be forgotten. While ancient books and literature have been the cornerstone to remembrance, they are not as real as a photograph. Photographs capture history and allow an audience to see through the eyes of the photographer in that time period. Through photographs, it is impossible to ignore the devastating effects that European settlers had upon both the American Southwest and the Indian Ocean World. Both India and Mexico were less developed nations, and both appeared to live in a different time and age than their European invaders. By the use of photographs, it is easy to capture the similar effects of European Colonialism in India and Mexico. These Spanish and British explorations ultimately stripped both native lands of wealth and led them into brutal war.
When the British arrived in India, their economic mentality abruptly shifted the wealth distribution in the country. In the 17th century, the British settlers established the East India Trading Company, which was a trade company that actively sought and dealt Indian-based commodities. At this time, India was far less developed economically to a point where native Indians did not have competitive mindsets in their marketplace. On the other hand, the British were seeking nothing more than profits. India, as a nation, was not ready to compete with British traders, and because of this, wealth began to flow out of Indian pockets and into the British wallets. The wealth balance shifted to an extreme extent, which is found in Photograph 1.
Photograph 1 is an old photo taken from India. The image is of the tombs of the early English settlers. The buried settlers are speculated to be brothers, Christopher Oxenden, Sir George Oxenden, first governor of Bombay, and Gerald Aungier, the third Governor of Bombay. They are resting in what clearly is a gigantic tomb with spectacular early Indian architecture that almost resembles the Taj Mahal. These graves of early English Colonialists are not only immense, but they are crafted with beautiful detail. These settlers had to be extremely rich. Their riches were earned when they settled in India and took over their commodity market. The settlers knew how to make money when they arrived, and they profited quickly.
The British trading mentality struck India by surprise, and brought out a concept of Globalization that impact Indian culture and markets. Globalization is when separate nations integrate marketplaces together and combine economic cultures. The integration of two societies is not as easy as it sounds. A Nova South Eastern University study suggests that Globalization will cause “[change] in the culture of host communities.1” As the East India Trading Co began to take over India, the company literally had to take over the Indian society. They began by collaborating with Indian merchant capitalists. The British established trade marketplaces such as Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta. They quickly realized wealth in trading Indian Textiles and Silver. Essentially, the English were taking control over most of the revenue in the country. This tactic of Globalization is an idea that is widely used in many other colonial societies.
Like the British settlers, Spanish settlers sailed in search of a new world to find riches. Only they this time, they landed unexpectedly onto a whole new continent, America. As Spanish colonialists moved into the Native American villages, they too saw opportunity for wealth. They capitalized over the Native Americans by implementing rules of the Catholic crown. They slashed the natives’ traditions and set down the three standards known as ‘Requiremiento’, ‘Encomienda’, and ‘Reportimiento.’ ‘Requiremiento’, or requirement, was a rule that forced all Natives to convert to Christianity. ‘Encomienda’, or entrustment, was a call for a system where both societies are working together for the crown. In essence, ‘Encomienda’ was a way to trick the Native Americans into trusting the Spaniards with the profits and sales of resources. The final tactic used by the Spanish settlers was the enactment of ‘reportimiento’, which meant labor distribution. This rule was a bogus trick for the Spanish settlers to have the Natives work for them for little cost. The scheme gave the Spanish a complete economic advantage over the Natives as they found themselves having to do little work, and still being trusted with all of the money. This led to the Native Indians being overworked. These terrible rules put the Native Americans in a set back. What eventually turned into Mexico was a society where labor was intensive, and little paying. Photograph 2 shows an example of a poor Mexican girl working in the year 1902.
Photograph 2 is an example of the economic state that Mexico was left in during the Post-Colonial era. The aftermath left Native Mexicans in a economically deprived state where locals made a living doing simple jobs, such as basket weaving and making straw hats. This is at the same time when the Industrial Revolution hit the United States and Great Britain, and their economies and job markets were booming. Spanish settlers globalized the Southwest American economy, but when they did it, it became less economically efficient, because of their use of oppressive policies. The policies left Mexico in a state where the top class citizens (Spaniards) could make money, while the majority of the population, in the lower class could not. A research paper published by the Social Science Diliman analyzed the effects colonialism had on the Mexican economy. The report explains that colonialism in Mexico established “monopolistic privileges over peripheral land, labor, production, [and] trade.2” The article explains that by creating a “decline of traditional societies,” Mexico’s economy suffered and fell to “corruption”. The Diliman uses corruption as a substitute for what really is wealth-inequality. Photograph 2 depicts what life was like for a typical lower class girl, while the rich Spaniards who ruled the country held all the wealth without intense labor.
What was first Colonialism has shifted into economic takeover. This is clearly seen in India and Mexico. Photograph 1 shows an astonishing photo of the magnificent graves of not Indian leaders, but of early British settlers, who created and ruled the very trade-marketplaces that shifted the Indian wealth balance. Likewise, Photograph 2 shows a representation of the economic disparity in Mexico. There is a clear correlation showing that forced implementation of rules through colonialism negatively impacts the societies of the countries invaded. When economic disparities are present, it leads into revolts, which then lead into war.
When a country colonizes in a new territory, it is exploration, but when they colonize in a new inhabited territory, it is Imperialism. Imperialism is when a country not only conducts expansion over an occupied territory, but uses military force to acquire land. This is present when British took control of India, and when Spaniards colonized in the American Southwest.
Military power was the primary factor in territorial shifts in the American Southwest. Spanish settlers made large expansions following Hernan Corté’s victory over the Aztec Empire in 1521. This led to Spain establishing major cities throughout “New Spain” or what is modern day Mexico. But the fighting was far from over. Nearly four centuries after the fall of the Aztec Empire, Mexico’s years of wealth inequality led to a civil war. In John Hart’s Revolutionary Mexico: The Coming and Process of the Mexican Revolution, Hart explains the real motives behind the revolution. He further explains that “an economic system dependent on foreign capital imports that failed to absorb a displaced peasantry and reduced artisan class” all cumulated to the savage fighting3. Essentially, citizens were fed up with living in a country that relied on imports and failed to create a productive economy to help the lower classes. Photograph 3 depicts Mexican Revolutions standing in a line, posing for a photo.
The above photo contains a lot of emotions from the rebellious Mexicans. Each man standing sports a Sombrero, ammunition chains and a furious mustache. These men are proud Mexicans, who are willing to fight for the poor who have been suffering at the hands of Aristocratic rulers. The Mexican revolution was the last straw of oppressive policies that started centuries ago by the Spanish colonialists. The ammo wrapped around each man symbolizes how serious and dangerous this war is. The Spanish army was a force to be reckoned with in the eyes of these revolutionaries. Photograph 4 is of a graveyard of 63 dead Mexicans from a large unspecified battle.
The graveyard seen above is of only one battle that took place during the revolution. The Mexican Government’s use of military force put revolutionaries on the brink of death. It is estimated that roughly 2 million Mexicans were slaughtered in the war4. By use of a Mexican army to enforce law and territories, imperialism was ongoing in Mexico at the time. The economic downturn, created by the aristocratic Mexican government, lead the country in a civil war and not even military force could stop the fight against oppression. Imperialism in the American Southwest accumulated into a series of civil wars and fights that inevitably left the Spanish-Mexican army wounded. The American Southwest is only one example of a territory dictated by Imperialism and military force.
Like Mexico, India was subjugated by military power and colonial domination. In 1857, one of the most brutal rebellions occurred in India. At this time, the East India Trading Co was still in control of India, and it was actively enlisting Indians to fight in the British army. But problems ensued when the British forced Indian soldiers to fire bullets that required them to bite pork fat casings off of each bullet. The Indian soldiers found this unacceptable. Many Indians identify as Muslims, and in their culture, consuming pork is forbidden. The enlisted Indians were not going to put their religion behind their loyalty to the British. This sparked the Indian Rebellion of 1857. Military power was the key for British combatting the revolution. In a History Today article, an Indian rebel described the brutality of the British military force. He explained that when his rebel group’s position was compromised, they saw “English forces [appear] on all sides,” and “Bullets and cannonballs rained down” upon them5. In a little less than a year, the British finally suppressed the rebels. They punished the insurgents, as seen in Painting 1.
The above painting depicts Indians in front of cannons prepped to shoot straight through them. The British did not apologize to the Indians for disgracing their religion, but instead they killed the rebels as punishment. The British continued to use military force as a means to control over India. The newly placed Raj increased their military after the revolution. British imperialized India, as they began investing roughly 50% of revenues into the Indian Army. Photograph 5 is a photograph of the new Indian Army post-revolution.
The above picture shows hundreds of thousands of Indian soldiers wearing the British uniform. The Indian army was the largest army in the world at this time. The British oppression that led the entire India ocean world into a rebellion was once again restored as Indians continued to serve the British.
Both the American Southwest and India broke into rebellion. Their causes were similar as both countries suffered at the hand of their European conquerors. Photographs 3 and 4 both symbolize how dark Mexico became. The band of Mexican revolutionaries appeared very determined to fight against their oppression. Likewise, Painting 1 and Photograph 5 show the brutality of the British army. Colonialism was established with the use of military force to maintain control of society in both countries, and it eventually lead to civil war in India and Mexico.
European colonization turned from a great idea for countries to explore the world and make money, to a globalizing and imperialistic rule that led to economic oppression and revolution in its host countries. The Spanish sailed to the New World, dominated Mexico, and forced its own country to revolt by creating a huge wealth equality gap. Similarly, English settlers ventured to India, dominated the trade markets and dehumanized the native Indians to the breaking point of revolution. Colonialism is a topic that should never be forgotten. It is critical that we never forget what happen so we may understand the hardships still found in both countries today and not repeat the tragedies brought upon both nations.
1 Kasongo, Alphonse. “Impact of Globalization on Traditional AfricanReligion and Cultural Conflict.” Journal of Alternative Perspectives in the Social Sciences 309-322 2.1 (2010): 309-22. Web. http://www.japss.org/upload/16._Kasongo%5B1%5D.pdf 29 Apr. 2015
2 Nieto, Nubia. “Corruption In Mexico: A Historical Legacy.” Social Science Diliman 10.1 (2014): 101-116. Web. http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/96910015/corruption-mexico-historical-legacy 29 Apr. 2015.
3 Hart, John M. “The Crisis of the Porfirian Political Economy.” Revolutionary Mexico: The Coming and Process of the Mexican Revolution. Berkeley: U of California, 1987. 185. pag. Print.
4 McCaa, Robert. “Missing Millions: The Human Cost of the Mexican Revolution.” University of Minnesota Population Center (n.d.): n. web. http://www.hist.umn.edu/~rmccaa/missmill/mxrev.htm 29 Apr. 2015.
5 Coohill, Joseph. “Indian Voices From The 1857 Rebellion.” History Today 57.5 (2007): 48-54. Web. http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/24957088/indian-voices-from-1857-rebellion 29 Apr. 2015.