Epidemics and demographic collapse in Mexico and the Andes in the sixteenth century: contributions from evolutionary biology.

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Summary of "Epidemics and demographic collapse in Mexico and the Andes in the sixteenth century: contributions from evolutionary biology."

The role of epidemics in the demographic collapse of the Amerindians in Mexico and Andean America after the arrival of the Spanish is discussed. Ernst Mayr's categories of ultimate (or evolutionary) and proximal (or functional) causes are used to argue that ultimate causes, such as genetics, which gave the Spanish immunological resistance, were manifested in a very stratified setting, triggering the destruction of the Incas and Aztecs. Recent interpretations of colonization have played down the importance of epidemics or combined them with social, economic, and political factors, interpreted here as proximate causes. We understand that only by articulating these two categories can the importance of epidemics in the Spanish conquest of Latin America be understood.


Journal Details

This article was published in the following journal.

Name: Historia, ciencias, saude--Manguinhos
ISSN: 1678-4758
Pages: 391-407


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