Gold, God or Glory?
You’ve just gotten out of prison after doing three years for taking part in burning a heretic. You’re not married, you have no kids and you don’t have too much going on for you right now. The minute you get out, you’re best friend is right there waiting for you. He’s got the let’s do something insane face you’ve grown to hate. You don’t know what he’s going to ask you but you know it’s crazy. He says, “Want to travel across the sea with me? ” Through word of mouth, he’s been asked by a man, who goes by Christopher Columbus, to travel with him and eighty other men on a ship across the Atlantic.
It’s crazy, it’s reckless but will you go? Why would a person living in Spain decide to pack up and leave everything he was use to in search for new lands? Did these men long to travel thousands of miles across the ocean facing and unknown death for simply religious reasons? Or was it because these men were willing to risk all, start a new beginning and take the chance at gaining massive wealth and glory? There is no doubt that for most men, gold was the main source of motivation for explorers, followed closely by fame and lastly God.
Gold, God or Glory? Essay Example
Especially apparent in Aguirre, or the Wrath of God, the Spaniard’s risking travel across the Atlantic did so because they wanted to receive the ultimate reward, gold and lots of it. The myth of the riches is not a myth at all but rather can be presented as fact. The desire to travel in search of riches dates back to before Spain’s dominance as a nation during time when the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon were still separated. Portugal’s ideal location near the Atlantic Ocean made it ideal for the country to travel up and down the cost of Africa.
As a result, the Portuguese nation grew tremendously wealthy due to its easy sea access along the coast allowing the trade of products and slaves. “Arguably, the quest for direct access to West African slaves led directly to the Iberian discovery of the Americas. ” The sudden growth of Portuguese attracted many other navigators, sailors and slave traders, Christopher Columbus to be included. Christopher Columbus believed that one could sail West across the Atlantic and hit Asia. The Portuguese did not believe him and in doing so, brought him to seek anyone else that would supply him on his journey.
He searched elsewhere and stumbled upon the support of the Spanish Crown through Queen Isabella. Columbus set off for Asia in 1492 and by mistake, hit an island in the Caribbean. It can be argued that the Spanish conquest of the new lands was not for economic gain but rather for religious purposes. Bartolome De Las Casas in his personal letter, a Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies (1542), he states that “the Americas were discovered in 1492, and the first Christian settlements established by the Spanish the following year.
The Spanish forming a Christian settlement in such a short time provides evidence that the Spanish placed religion high on their priority. He goes on later to say that “these would be the most blessed people on earth if only they were given the chance to convert to Christianity. ” To sum, the letters speak about the brutality of the Spaniards against the natives which has resulted in the abandonment of many islands once inhabited by natives. Bartolome De Las Casas, in his personal account of the New World, does not once speak of the colonies’ economic well-being or search for gold.
But does this mean that religious conquest was more important than the newly settle Spaniard’s desire to find gold? It does not. Remember, De Las Casas was a Dominican friar that owned slaves of his own. So how is it possible for the Spanish priests to save the indigenous people if they couldn’t even save their own from divine punishment? In Christopher Columbus’s letter to the Spanish crown in 1494, he states nine of his thirteen points to be about the transportation and the transfer of gold. Keep in mind that two years have already passed since his arrival to the new world.
In this letter, Columbus addresses issues dealing mainly with gold, placing with a lesser importance on conversion, spiritual conquest, and religion in general. Columbus only speaks of the conversion of Indians in a single point which states “That there shall be a church, and parish priests or friars to administer the sacraments, to perform divine worship, and for the conversion of the Indians. ” If Columbus and the Spaniards were more interested in the salvation of the indigenous people rather than for gold, it would only make sense that there would be more points about the conversion of natives than gold.
It would also make sense for him to go into great detail about the process of conversion as well as the acceptable consequences for natives unwilling to convert. Columbus does not go into any more detail than simply stating that a church, priests and the conversion of Indians be presence. Nowhere does it state number of people needed to be converted, or any other quota of the sort. Columbus’s letter makes it extremely difficult to believe the Spaniard’s number one motive was conversion.
But rather, the letter makes it quite clear that the Spaniard’s as well as Columbus’ motivation for exploration was more focused on gold, the search, transportation and the claim to any gold found in the New world. Fast-forward a few decades to 1560, the Spaniards have established their colonies and now are on the search for the golden city of El Dorado. In the movie, Aguirre or the Wrath of God, the director, Werner Herzog, makes it clear to the viewer that the conquistadors are in search of riches and riches alone.
There are multiple scenes where the missionary, Gaspar de Carvajal, and the slaves are together but never does the film show the missionary’s desire to convert them into Christians. In one particular scene as the Spaniards ride on a raft down the river, they stumble upon two natives in a nearby canoe. Aguirre and his men, capture both of the natives which are then presented to the rest of the crew. The Spaniards and missionary, upon sight of immediately ask where he had gotten the gold. Herzog pays particular attention-to-detail in the missionary’s expression when he notices the native man’s golden necklace.
Rather than the welcoming and holy image, one might think the missionary might have upon first-contact, the missionary instead morphs into a vicious and greed-filled man. The viewer is able to see the desire for wealth painted all over the missionary’s face and only after he finds out which direction the gold is in does he decide to convert the natives. The order in which the Spanish missionary went about his duties clearly shows to the viewer that in his mind, he had his material desires first and conversion of the native second.
This particular scene goes against the belief that the Spaniards were interested more in salvation than finding riches. Rather it gives clear evidence for the motives of the Spaniards on their quest to find El Dorado and ultimately, their desire for gold. Not only does Aguirre or the Wrath of God suggest a slight desire for conversion of natives, it also suggests the Spanish Conquistadores desire for wealth and glory. This can be backed up towards the end of the movie, Aguirre more than anything else, wants the fame and power that comes with obtaining new lands.
He twice refers back to Cortez, the Spanish conquistador that disobeyed the Spanish crown and in doing so discovered Mexico, as a way of rallying his men. In his mind, he has the obsession over the illusion of the city of El Dorado even when his men start to lose faith he pushes on and consequently, kills them all. The movie closes with Aguirre on the raft, everyone around him has died off from a fever or starvation, but even then he still continues searching until his death for the illusion of fame and fortune.
Aguirre’s last words, “I, the Wrath of God, will marry my own daughter and with her I will found the purest dynasty the world has ever seen. Together, we shall rule this entire continent. We shall endure. I am the Wrath of God! ” Herzog rightfully, portrays the Spanish in a historically accurate light. He sets them up as wealth and fame hungry men motivated solely on their unquenchable desire for power and fortune. Although many Spaniard’s did choose to travel overseas for a “Spiritual Conquest”, there is no doubt the Spaniard’s freely chose to look death in the face for the potential greater gain of wealth and glory.
It just doesn’t make sense for a person to pack up, and risk everything they had going for them in Spain for the sole purpose of religious conversion. Unless, a person is a missionary, there is no other reason for looking and searching for a person(s) to forcibly convert. And if even if you did happen to be a missionary, that still doesn’t mean gold, and the splendor of vast riches had no effect on you. Money is king. And it is rightfully king, because it continues to make the world go round.