The Visualization of Nature in the 16th Century


The conquest of America comprised of several stages. The first stage involved the military invasion and occupation of a given territory. The second stage dealt with the comercial exploitation of the land and its resources.

The commercial success of this enterprise required the existence of an inventory of goods for sale. In the atmosphere of competition among the european nations that spawned the colonization of America, the assumption that the existence of such system could further establish Spain's hegemonic presence in the new world, is not unreasonable.

This is one among the reasons cited behind the organization and financing of the first scientific expedition on American soil. This enterprise which lasted from 1570 to 1577 was headed by Dr. Francisco Hernández, also known as "El Protomedico."

Among the other reasons may have been that a realization of the tremendous loss of knowledge and wisdom fueled a desire to find ways in which to preserve the ancient native traditions. It is believed that this was the main motivating factor behind the creation of works such as the Libellus and the Historia Natural de las Cosas de la Nueva España, a chronicle compiled by Fray Bernardino Sahagun, with the help of native informants.