GEOG 571
Intelligence Analysis, Cultural Geography, and Homeland Security

Overlapping Cycles of Conquest


Spain began its conquest of North America in the Valley of Mexico in the 1500s and for two hundred years expanded its influence. Other Europeans, especially the English, began to challenge Spanish hegemony in parts of this region in the 1800s. Eventually, European colonization in North America transformed the lives of millions of indigenous people through violence, assimilation, trade and commerce, and the spread of Christianity.

The transformation of Native Americans posed a significant challenge to European conquerors in the U.S./Mexico Border Region. In some cases, the rugged nature of the natural landscape made it difficult to directly control all native groups. Therefore, some indigenous nations such as the Apache were able to effectively resist European dominance for several centuries. Other groups, however, quickly came under the influences of European culture and European ways of life. Some tribal groups eventually completely disappeared.

Currently, many of the surviving tribal groups within the U.S./Mexico Border Region live under difficult circumstances. Some live on designated reservations on the U.S. side of the border. Others live in Mexico, where they occupy small enclaves and villages. Many continue to practice as best they can their traditional ways of life. Nevertheless, Native Americans remain under constant pressure to assimilate into the dominant cultures of either Mexico or the United States.