One of the most significant effects of Spanish imperialism in Latin America was the devastation of indigenous peoples. The Spanish conquest of South and Central America reduced the local population from an estimated 50 million people to about 8 million.
Although many indigenous people were killed while resisting Spanish invasions, most of the deaths were due to the spread of European diseases. Native Americans had never been exposed to these diseases and had no natural immunity to them, causing common illnesses such as measles and whooping cough to have deadly consequences. Many who survived the diseases were forced into slavery by the Spanish, leading to more deaths due to malnutrition and overwork.
Spanish imperialism in Latin America also enriched Spain and helped finance its wars against other European powers. Spanish colonists sought out precious metals and gems, using slave labor to mine vast amounts of silver and other valuable materials.
Spain's involvement in Latin America also helped fuel the transatlantic slave trade. Spanish colonists believed that indigenous people were poorly suited to work in mines, so they imported African slaves to work instead. Spain was not the only European power to use African slaves in its American colonies, but it was a major buyer. This contributed to long-term devastation and destabilization in Africa. It also led to changes in the demographics and culture of Latin America as African slaves mixed with indigenous populations.