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Bartholome De Las Casas

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In 1566, Bartolome de las Casas wrote the Apologetic History of the Indies (Human 1) in which his purpose is ostensibly to "gain knowledge of all the many nations of this vast new world" (Las Casas 1). In the Apologetic History of the Indies, Las Casas states that the native peoples, "had been defamed," and that, "From such slander can come great harm and terrible calamity, particularly when large numbers of men are concerned and, even more so, a whole new world" (1). This seems the real aim of Las Casas's Apologetic History of the Indies: to dispel myths, shed light on the real nature of the native peoples of the New World, to point out the fact that, "We are as barbarian to them as they are to us," and finally, to illustrate that the suffering the Spanish inflicted on these peoples was unjustified (Las Casas 8).

In 1492 Christopher Columbus, seeking a western route to Asia, happened upon the island of Tienos - the second largest island in the Caribbean. Columbus described the people of this new land as "simple children of nature, timid, generous, and guileless" (Calloway 77). Seeing that Tienos was of an exceedingly lush landscape, that it's native peoples -- judging by their good-naturedness and temperament -- would make, "good and intelligent servants" (Calloway 77), and, "the gold, also, which they wear in their noses, is found here" (Christopher Columbus: Extracts from Journal 2), Columbus returned to Spain in order to procure more supplies for the impending conquest of Tienos, which he renamed Hispaniola (Presti Lecture 2).

Columbus arrived for the second time in Tienos in 1493 with a military flotilla, settlers, livestock, seeds, the intent to colonize, and the belief that the Spanish possessed, "a divine and royal mandate to reduce Indian peoples to submission" (Calloway 80-83). Upon Columbus's return, however, the population of Tienos had been reduced to a fraction of what it had previously been (Presti Lecture 2). This was because the Spaniards had, during their first voyage, unwittingly exposed the native peoples to foreign germs to which they had no immunity. This proved to be merely the beginning of the ravages on the New World as a result of the Columbian Exchange - the transfer of invasive plants, animals, peoples, ideas, and germs - and would ultimately work towards the European's advantage in the conquering of the New World and its native inhabitants (Presti Lecture2).

In 1502, Bartolome de las Casas first set foot upon the New World. Born in Seville, Spain in 1474, Las Casas witnessed Columbus's return from his first journey to the Caribbean, was presented with an Indian for use as a personal servant in 1498, and became enamored with, "the simplicity and gentle nature of the Native Americans" (Human 1). Thereafter Las Casas chose to devote his life to the salvation of the native peoples in the New World (Human 1). However, in 1550 the treatment of native peoples and their lands by the Spanish sparked a formal debate in regards to the morality of the Spaniard's actions during the conquering of the New World. Bartolome de las Casas was at the forefront of this debate along with Juan de Sepulveda, Las Casas's opponent (Calloway 87). It was the opinion of Las Casas that, "What we committed in the Indies stands out among the most unpardonable offenses committed against God and mankind" (Calloway 87). Juan de Sepulveda was of the belief that, "Indians were naturally inferior and therefore were meant to be slaves," and therefore, if they refused submission, the Spanish had no recourse save to use means of force (Calloway 87).

Throughout the text in the Apologetic History of the Indies, Las Casas extols the virtues of the native peoples of the New World and their societies through the lens of a 16th century Franciscan. As a result, Las Casas on many occasions peppers the praises with ethnocentrism. To illustrate:

Thus it remains stated, demonstrated and openly concluded...throughout this book that all these peoples of the Indies possessed - as far as is possible through natural and human means and without the light of faith - nations, towns, villages and cities, most fully and abundantly provided for. (Las Casas 3).

Although the above quote states favorably that the peoples of the Indies are capable of governing and caring for themselves, Las Casas exhibits ethnocentrism in the statement, "without



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