The history of mankind shows remarkable examples of multicultural societies that existed long before the process of globalization started. Together with the emerging overseas trade and the creation of intercontinental trade networks, the nations from various cultures had to face the necessity of being in contact with each other.
This created one of the major problems as people from various cultural backgrounds had their own religious views, cultural values, and even attitude towards society and work. Narvaez Expedition is one of the excellent examples showing the Hispanic civilization invading into the American continent. At the same time, the evidence of the sugar cane production launch in Latin America also reveals interesting facts about the cultures of Hispanic people and African slaves.
The adaptation of both cultures to the new environment and social life is the theme of this research. It is believed that the social class formation was the key factor that regulated the process of adaptation. Literature suggests that there have been many factors that formed a unified society among slaves and the white people. However, the hypothesis of the paper is that the social class has been the most prominent driving force towards a uniform society, which is described in such sources as Chronicle of the Narvaez Expedition, the ‘sugar documents’, including the ones regarding Olaudah Equiano and Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua. Therefore, the research question concerns the way, in which adaptation happened and what role has the social class played in that process.
According to Cabeza de Vaca, the state was the primary reason, why people from the European continent started looking for something more than just life and work. The adventures of those brave travelers from the western civilization started with the overall dissatisfaction and the growing feeling of despair. As the monarchies got richer and richer, the other classes of society became increasingly poor (Cabeza de Vaca 14).
Notably, Cabeza de Vaca believes in good, and he possesses the best values of the European society. At the same time, the author is open to new cultures and religions. In a way, the description of the mindset of the author approximately reveals the mindset of many other people, who were part of the process of adaptation. That is why it is crucial to analyze Cabeza de Vaca and his attitude to the New World.
At the same time, together with the desire to see the new world of wonders (Cabeza de Vaca 36), many explorers from the western civilization, who went to the New World, were not only noble people, but soldiers and missionaries who “saw the New World as a place of enchantment, riches, and opportunity” (Norton Critical Editions, para. 4). Therefore, the period of adaptation to the multiple cultures that they had seen during their trips was long and painful in both physical and moral ways.
Many soldiers have died trying to fight the Indians and the African slaves. At the same time, many missionaries were found missing due to the lack of knowledge of the local culture. Indians were not ready yet to claim their social values on the continent, and there was a general lack of balance in the whole process of social adaptation.
Researchers believe that the start of common work after the exploration of the New World was the first step towards building a uniform society of African Americans, Native Americans, and European conquerors (Olssen; Sealsfield). The process that emerged in the form of social class slavery soon brought together various cultures and taught them a mutual respect. As noticed by Olssen, what became the product of the modern American democracy was established in historic time right after the state became independent.
Other researchers agree with such statement. At the period of exploration, there was a significant degree of uncertainty. Many explorers did not see the way, in which they could co-exist with Native Americans. At the times of Cabeza de Vaca’s expedition, Native Americans were Indians, who lived in tribes and whose social values differed dramatically from those of the explorers from Spain and other monarchies of Europe.
However, as every process develops, there is a need of a certain period, which enables the frames of the society and cultural barriers to disappear. The primary sources used for the research paper have been written in different times. Cabeza de Vaca described his first exploratory trip to North America, while the documents about the sugar cane trade networks were written during the period, when North America was already explored. The application of these sources means that it is possible to see the difference in the changing mindset of people and notice those changes.
Tutino implies that society, which was later created by the Spanish conquerors, was a conquest society, in which “a European minority ruled an indigenous majority; commercial profit depended on extracting produce and labor from indigenous communities reconstituted as Republicas de Indios” (33). Therefore, the fascination which Cabeza de Vaca showed in his narrative differs significantly from those views, which started to appear just as the European civilization invaded North and Latin America.
The society, which had passed through the period of adaptation, has three main cultures in its structure, namely European, American and African. These three cultures came from three different continents and had their own mindset and values. However, despite the fact that two of them were not native to the continent, Europeans have quickly balanced the social order in the way that other cultures owed something to them. In such circumstances, it is very hard to talk about any forms of unity among three cultures.
However, as Horn notes, people who came to North America from England were from very different classes of society. Those, who came from big cities, were not used to the natural environment and missed the streets of London that were filled with goods and merchants; while those, who came from smaller towns, were not used to the newly built cities (22). Nonetheless, Europeans have gained a dominant position in the newly created social order in both North and Latin America, they faced multiple problems and challenges on a daily basis, to which Indians and Africans were much rapidly used to.
According to Tutino, “in the new society concentrations of commercial power tied to global trade shaped social relations” (33). This may be the part of the capitalist society development. However, the monetization of the social relations, which is stressed by Olssen and Tutino, has resulted in the increasing role of the social class in the modern American society, which consisted of three different cultures.
The relationship between the three nations in the later stages of development was maintained by the life conditions and the salary they had. Monetization and capitalism in the trade networks with its early influences on both Native Americans and African slaves showed that the process of social class elimination had started. In the late eighteenth century, Native Americans could be in many cases richer than their white neighbors.
Finally, when looking at the primary source of data about the sugar cane production and the creation of the first trade unions, it is possible to notice the process of slow, yet stable amendments in how the social classes were accepted in the society. Thus, Sealsfield implies that there were no standard rules that existed for that process anymore.
In general, the views, which were presented by Wiesner-Hanks et al., reveal a degree of equality that was driven by the opportunities presented by the New World to its explorers. The opportunities of being rich created a unified working class of people that comprised “of sailors, of merchants, of tradesmen, manufacturers, mechanics, and labourers” (101). Finally, the hypothesis of the research paper is confirmed by the evidence. Therefore, the social class was indeed the major driving force for the society adaptation in the New World during the creation of the first global trade networks.
Cabeza de Vaca, Alvar Nunez. Chronicle of the Narvaez Expedition. USA: Penguin Books, 2002. Print.
Horn, James J. Adapting to a New World: English Society in the Seventeenth-Century Chesapeake. USA: The University of North Carolina Press, 1994. Print.
Norton Critical Editions. Chronicle of the Narv?ez Expedition, Oct. 2012. Web. 15 Feb. 2013. <http://books.wwnorton.com/books/978-0-393-91815-1/>.
Olssen, Erik. Building the New World: Work, Politics, and Society in Caversham, 1880s-1920s. Auckland, New Zealand: Auckland University Press, 1995. Print.
Sealsfield, Charles. Life in the New world, or, Sketches of American society. New York: New World Press, 1844. Print.
Tutino, John. Making a New World: Founding Capitalism in the Baj?o and Spanish North America. USA: Duke University Press, 2011. Print.
Wiesner-Hanks, Merry E., William Bruce Wheeler, Franklin M. Doeringer, and Kenneth R. Curtis. Discovering the Global Past, Volume I, International Edition. 4th ed. USA: Cengage Learning, 2012. Print.