In an insightful post on why he travels to Mexico, Peru and Bolivia, Hari Jagannathan Balasubramanian writes about the intentional assault on local civilizations by Europeans.
While the predominantly tribal societies of North America had been conquered by European Protestants, the massive empires of the Central and South had been downed by a band of daring conquistadors from Catholic Spain. The Caribbean natives faded in the decades after Columbus’ arrival; Argentina’s natives were exterminated in the eighteenth century. But in Mexico and the Andean nations (Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia) the descendants of the Aztecs, the Mayans, the Incas (and many other indigenous groups) are still there. The conquests were no less devastating, but a forcibly imposed Catholicism had brought Indians into its fold, even as it erased earlier beliefs.
The arrival of the Europeans to America was a Black Swan – an unprecedented event that had a massive impact. No one could have predicted the consequences. Millions of American Indians died, either due to disease or conquest, and the Americas (especially North America) lost their voice and culture. Europe and Asia benefited immensely from the crops and foods domesticated in the Americas (corn, tomatoes, potatoes, chilies to name a few). Europeans found a new place to emigrate to – for them it was a positive Black Swan that unleashed new energies. [The motivation behind the travel]
In the case of Easter Island, locals and rats were blamed for the decline and Western missionaries and invaders were absolved. Now it turns out that Western missionaries and invaders indeed are to be blamed for eradicating a culture.
Archaeological evidence supporting a theory of pre-European internal-collapse is thin on the ground. “Rather than a story of self-inflicted deprivation, I agree with the view that substantial blame has to rest with Western contact,” said Dr Croucher. “Visitors brought disease, pests and slavery, resulting in the tragic demise of the local population and culture.” [Easter Island Was Devastated by Western Invaders and Not Internal Conflict]
The missionaries converted the remaining population to Christianity, encouraging them to abandon their traditional beliefs. Even then, several hundred inhabitants were driven off the island to work on sugar plantations in Tahiti. By 1877, a population of just 110 people was recorded. [Outsiders blamed for Easter Island’s historic demise]