The discovery of the New World sent shockwaves throughout Medieval Europe. Sure, the Vikings had discovered the continent several centuries earlier, and even set up a few colonies there, but no one could understand what they were saying so they didn’t really count. Explorers were quickly sent across the ocean to exploit, or rather, to “chart” the territories, accompanied by missionaries to spread the word of God. Scores of settlers followed behind as well, starting villages and towns where they could escape old debts and build a new life for themselves.
The Conquistadors, meanwhile, just wanted to obtain as much gold as possible, and didn’t care who they had to go through in order to get it. They looked quite ridiculous in their funny hats, but they had firearms, and horses, and an odd tendency to swing their swords back and forth. They also carried quite a few virulent diseases with them that had never been experienced by the indigenous people before (among them, smallpox). As a result, a massive number of Aztecs, Incans, and other Meso-Americans were completely wiped out, and the once great empires were reduced to ruins. All in the name of progress, of course, though it’s funny how often that and merciless destruction seem to go hand-in-hand.