Though the “New World” was a brand-new discovery to the Spanish, these lands were not really new at all. Native Americans inhabited both continents for thousands of years prior to European arrival. Over that time the Indigenous Peoples built multiple successful communities and empires that prospered. However, the appearance of the Spanish on their shores spelled disaster for much of the native population.
According to ThoughtCo., European colonization absolutely decimated the population of the Native Americans across both North and South America. Mexico’s population reportedly declined by the millions and the natives of Hispaniola and Cuba were pretty much annihilated. Almost every native community experienced loss of some kind. While there were many lives lost in physical combat, more of the casualties are tied to the introduction of diseases like smallpox, to which the Native Americans had no immunity.
As if the violence of war and illness ravaging the people was not enough, the Spanish made sure to also crush what was left of the Indigenous culture. The colonizers oppressed the Indigenous religions and cultural beliefs, by doing things like burning their libraries and other treasures. These items were believed to be the work of the Devil and in an effort to convert and save the souls of the natives, they had to be destroyed. The Native Americans were exploited and taken advantage of, while having their lives and cultures stripped from them. The papal bull granted to Spain gave permission for colonization to take place, but unfortunately resulted in devastating and long-lasting effects on the Native American people.