Changes And Continuities In The Columbian Exchange

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When Columbus landed in the Americas in 1492, he brought drastic environmental changes. This initiated the Columbian Exchange, or the knitting together of cultures, which represented cultural diffusion at its finest. While there were numerous positive benefits, it also began a trend of ecological release. Species of plants and animals brought over by the Europeans began to flourish because they had no natural predators and a different climate. Additionally, due to the many Spanish explorers migrating to the Americas, large quantities of silver in Postosí and Huancavelica were found and the Spanish forced the natives to mine and refine said silver. The refining process, only possible through mercury amalgamation, was harmful to anyone who came …show more content…

With many Europeans journeying to the Americas in search of gold and silver, there was a large increase in “mercury amalgamation technique and forced Indian labor”, which “played a vital role in the development of the modern global economy” (Robins and Hagan 1). It also resulted in the poisoning and death of countless people, including workers and other residents of Huancavelica, Potosi, and other mining centers. One Spanish Missionary, José de Acosta, said that “if some smoke or vapor comes to the people who open the pots, they get mercury poisoning and die, or remain in a very bad state or lose their teeth" (Robins and Hagan 1). Therefore, the Spaniards were conscious of the negative effects of the process to obtain silver; nonetheless, this continued till the mines were devoid of silver. Furthermore, an advocate for the natives, Damian de Jeria, claimed that a cough and illness resulted from working in the mines and that “to force people to work in the mercury mines was to send them ‘to the slaughterhouse’” (Robins and Hagan 1). A large part of the Columbian exchange was depleting the Americas of its natural and abundant wealth. This is clearly seen in the harmful silver mining process, which brought illness upon anyone who came in contact with the mercury vapors. Thus, the Columbian Exchange negatively affected and caused the death of the Native

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