The effects of conquistadors on women

Prior to the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors, women in Incan society were, at least from my perspective, not necessarily viewed as inferiors to their male counterparts.  Rather, they too were recognized as vital sources of economic contribution to their respective households.  It is true that men were typically the “representative” of the family, but that does not necessarily presuppose that women were not distinguished benefactors to the sustentation of their families.  This, naturally, sheds a new light on the allotment of goods to the family of a newly wed bride from the husband’s family.  This was done as a way of compensating for the loss of the woman’s economic input for the family.  Women were also important to early Incan society in religious respects as well.  Certain women were held with such high religious regard that no Incan males would dare to approach them in any kind of physical sense.

            However, all of the customs and traditions for women in Incan society were figuratively thrown out the window upon the arrival of Spaniards.  The Spanish, unsurprisingly, held minimal regard for the native ways of the indigenous peoples that they encountered.  Thus the Spanish treated the Incan women exactly as they saw fit, which of course was not precisely similar to the treatment that they had been previously accustomed to.  I am of the opinion that the ensuing changes brought about by these European conquerors had an entirely negative effect on Incan women.

            The Spaniards did not have the same appreciation for the value and contributions of indigenous women as the native men did prior to their conquering.  The restructuring of Andean society by the Spanish was absolutely based on an aggressive and authoritative mentality towards the aboriginal peoples.  The Spaniards utilized women as a tool of this.  In raping the Incan women, or forcing them to become their brides, the Spanish displayed their dominance over the natives, physically and wholly.  Also, bearing children or marrying the right women was a faster way for many Spaniards to be considered members of the community and less as invaders or outsiders.  The importance of women was quickly measured less by their economic and religious contributions, and more by their value as tools of political advancement.

            It is true that many women would willingly or often intentionally wed themselves to a Spaniard.  However, when this was the case it was usually for the advancement in lifestyle for the woman and her children.  In a sense I find this trend a mere tool of climbing the social ladder.  These marriages were, to me, unfortunate because it was often what the women were reduced to in order to preserve themselves and their families.  It is deplorable that in order to do this women had to take part in these political marriages.  It was, to me, no more than women being forced to “work inside the system.”