Our America | Felipe Fernández-Armesto

Summary of: Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States
By: Felipe Fernández-Armesto

Introduction

Embark on a journey through the rich Hispanic history of the United States with Felipe Fernández-Armesto’s ‘Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States.’ This insightful book explores the crucial contributions Hispanics have made to the nation, often overlooked in mainstream historical accounts, and the importance of acknowledging these roots as the country embraces a multicultural future. Delve into the early Spanish exploration and colonization of North America, spanning from Christopher Columbus’s voyages to the expansion of Spanish strongholds in present-day territories. Discover the transforming impact of horses introduced by Spanish conquistadores on Native American lifestyles, the clashes between Mexicans and Anglo-Americans during territorial expansion, and the shifting US immigration policies throughout history.

The Importance of US Hispanic History

History professor Felipe Fernández-Armesto emphasizes the historic roots and contributions of Hispanics in the US. According to him, their presence preceded that of any other intruders from across the Atlantic, including Anglo-Americans. To embrace a multicultural future, Anglo-Americans must recognize the significant role of Hispanics in shaping the nation’s history.

Spanish Colonization in North America

Spanish presence in North America began with Columbus’s voyages, characterized by Indigenous loss and active slave trade.

The history of Spanish colonization in North America begins with classic figure Christopher Columbus, who arrived in Puerto Rico in 1493 and took control of the island from its Indigenous population. The Spanish explorers brought with them the aura of the divine horizon, which led the natives to view them with awe and willingly cede control. The author notes that the Spanish conquests were not without controversy and points out that the Indigenous populations eventually rebelled and were decimated as the Spanish brought diseases such as smallpox.

The book also discusses the African slave trade that populated Caribbean sugar plantations. The settlers brought unpaid laborers to work on these plantations, and by the early 1700s, Puerto Rico became the center of the Spanish Empire’s prosperity.

The author reports that Spanish explorers, such as Ponce de Leon, set foot in Florida between the 15th and 16th centuries. Later on, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés established strongholds in the area in 1565, expanding from St. John’s River to Chesapeake Bay. However, these encampments were short-lived, with only two of them remaining by 1574. The book provides a comprehensive look at the Spanish colonization of North America, shedding light on both its positive and negative aspects.

The Impact of Spanish Explorers on Native Americans

Spanish explorers, including Estebanico, Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, and Juan de Oñate, made significant impacts on the Native American populations in North America in the 16th and 17th centuries. Estebanico’s hallucinations about the emerald city of Cíbola inspired more Spaniards to explore North America, while Vázquez de Coronado’s introduction of horses transformed the hunting and war capabilities of Native Americans. However, the spread of smallpox by previous Spanish explorers decimated Indigenous populations. The impact of these explorers helped to halt Spanish expansion northward and push them into Arizona and California.

The Shifting Territories

Following the end of the Seven Years War in 1763, a massive power shift occurred in North America. The British seized Canada from the French and Florida from Spain. In response, Spain joined the American patriots in the Revolutionary War against Britain, leading to Spain regaining Florida and pushing France out of their Louisiana territory. This period marked a significant reorganization of boundaries and colonial powers in North America.

Immigration Patterns in American History

The United States’ territorial expansion created a wave of immigration that continued throughout the years. Mexico claimed independence from Spain, leading to a clash in Texas, and intruding Anglo-Americans established their customs and religion. The 1849 California gold rush intensified racial tension between Anglo-Americans and Mexicans, and immigration patterns fluctuated with America’s need for labor. Even though Open Mexican immigration ended in the 1870s, the country’s openness to immigrants would ebb and flow with time.

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