Who were the Europeans who colonized South America?

Feb 2017
I've read lately that it was predominantly single-men, and no women, who were sent to many regions of South America. But what else do we know about these people?

- what was the predominant character of these people?
- what was their socio-economic status in Europe?

And how did these factors affect the consequent development of different regions in South America?
Feb 2012
Depends, it covers many centuries, nations, religious denominations and a large territory with different native cultures if you look at the entire time probably all kinds of people. At the begining European women if any would probably be a rarity in most cases. Like Johnofcornwal wrote in another thread nobles would tend to come from the lower nobility, non aristocrats would include convicts and desperados.
The distance from the metropolis and the kind of people seems to have translated in the Catholic cases in breaking the protocol and more ruthless, greedy and lawless actions. Torturing and killing a monarch would be a big no in Catholic Europe at the time. Miscegenation was also common among Catholics and in the Portuguese case was actually promoted by the crown. However judging by the account of Jean de Léry you also had what seems to have been a different breed of settlers in the form of French Calvinists similar to the English Puritans which went there more with a mentality of doing their work rather than exploiting the Natives, in more self regulated communities where sexual interaction with the Natives was not tolerated. Reading the Conquest of Mexico by Bernal del Castillo and Léry's account gives you an idea of the different approach of Catholics and Calvinists.

But with time things changed, fortunes were made in the new world, important names in the Portuguese Restoration War came from Brazil, even the king and the court moved there during the French invasions and one Portuguese queen was born in Rio.
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Jun 2012
Yôḥānān post is very comprehensive we are talking about hundreds of years and huge different places, saying that only single-men migrated to south america, is a huge simplification, if you want to learn better it would be easy to study countries in particular, because the colonization was also very different from, place to place,
Although in the beginning it can be said that there are made of men, in different times the situation was different, taking Brasil as an example, in the golden cycle. hundreds of families migrated to Brasil, something like 400.000 in less than 100 years, most of them like I said were families, made of normal people seeking a new opportunity.
Jul 2007
@ Voltaire's Hat: I have just finished reading Tim Fanning's "Paisanos: the Irish and the Liberation of Latin America" - highly recommend it.
Fanning attempts to give readers a broader focus, highlighting the important events and leaders, whilst covering the Spanish colonies in central and southern America during the early 19th Century, and the significant role the Irish played in the independence movement.

The subject matter is so broad and as vast as the Continent itself, Fanning himself admits that he is barely toughing the tip of the iceberg. But its a good start.


Ad Honorem
May 2016
I've read lately that it was predominantly single-men, and no women, who were sent to many regions of South America.
Yôḥānān and Tairusiano already gave you some interesting tips of that Iceberg, but I always find it curious how this idea is so strong in this forum, and strongly repeated without any evidence, that in South America (and generalizing in the Spanish and Portuguese America) there were no migration from couples or from women from those countries to their colonies.

Recently I posted in another thread the numbers of Spanish migration to America, divided by gender that (for the all colonization time period) really contradicts that idea, and even more if we compare with the colonization of other countries.
Likes: Tairusiano


Ad Honorem
Dec 2014
Yes, thousands and thousands women travelled to the Spanish West Indies. The number of Spanish inmigrants to West Indies were:

16th Century: 200.000 (men and women)
17th Century: 350.000 (men and women)
18th century: 55.000 (men and women)
19th Century (till 1825): 20.000 (men and women)

Total: 625.000 (96,3% Spaniards in 16th Century, 98% in 17th Century, 95,7% in 18th Century, 94,4% in 19th Century till 1825). Between Spaniards mostly from Andalusia and Castile and Lion. Then Extremadura, Navarre and Vasconized Provinces. From Valencia only 1,1%, from Canary Islands 0,8%, Aragon 0,9%, Catalonia, 15,5%. From Balearic Islands only 0,2%.

The Spanish inmigration to america included Families, women, children etc etc... not only men.. I don´t know why the saxon myth about not women in the Spanish Dominions!!!!
Feb 2012
An article came out today only it is in Portuguese and it is more regarding the slave trade between Brazil and Africa, which is relevant for the topic because it influenced the demography and economy of Brazil but also because it shows how the distance between the mainland and the colonies played a role, it points out two interesting things one that in the Portuguese case the slave trade did not work so much in a triangular fashion involving the metropolis, and second that it was difficult for the crown to enforce laws upon or control the trade giving examples of the complexity of the trade involved.
Feb 2012
It is important to notice contrary to what the documentary seems to imply slavery already existed among the Natives, and in fact they were the ones selling the slaves at first. Latter the Natives were also involved in the expeditons of the bandeiras to capture the slaves and in guarding slaves for the Portuguese. Again it's a good example of oversimplification of a much more complex situation.