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Views of the Western World Case Study Assignment
AL 161/161EL History and World
Views of the Western World
March 19, 2019
Unit 4 Writing Exercise
p.192 By the early 1600s, Spain gave up worrying about whether Moriscos had been converted or not and simply expelled tens of thousands of them to North Africa. Spain’s authorities enforced cultural uniformity as they built their new nation.
While Queen Isabella presided over the defeat of Muslim Granada, she gambled on an unusual plan to reach the lavish Indies. In 1492, an eccentric Italian ship captain, Christopher Columbus, proposed sailing westward across the Atlantic Ocean, rather than to the south around Africa (which would not succeed for six more years). Isabella’s advisors were correct to warn her that Columbus’s voyage should fail. Contrary to a popular yet incorrect myth, their advice was not based on a mistaken belief that the world was flat—since the time of the ancient Greeks, every educated person knew that the world was round or, more properly, a globe. Instead, Isabella’s advisors were correct to point out that Columbus had underestimated the distance from his last supply point in the Canary Islands to Japan. While Columbus thought that he needed to travel a mere 2,400 miles, Isabella’s advisors knew, in fact, the distance to be more than 8,000 miles. Columbus would have died at sea had he not stumbled upon the “New World.” For most of his life Columbus believed that what he had claimed for Spain was part of the true Indies of the East, just as he read in Marco Polo’s book. He did not want to give up a belief that seemed so close to reality. Instead, other explorers, like Amerigo Vespucci, quickly recognized that the islands of the Caribbean were the “West” Indies and that new continents lay just beyond. Therefore, mapmakers labeled the continents North and South America after Amerigo Vespucci, not Christopheria or Columbia after Christopher Columbus.
Columbus discovered the Americas at exactly the right moment for Europeans to exploit their advantages. There had been, of course, earlier contacts between the Old World of Eurasia and Africa with the New World of the Americas, going back even to the Vikings. In all these earlier interactions, however, the travelers lacked the interest or ability to dominate the “native” Americans who had been living there for tens of thousands of years. By 1492, however, Spain was ready to commit resources for conquest and lucky enough to have them succeed beyond expectation.
Columbus’s own domination of the natives (mistakenly, of course, called Indians after the East Indies) further tarnishes his legacy. He kidnapped natives and killed to seize land at will. In his desire to acquire gold, Columbus cut off the hands of natives who failed to turn in his quotas. Those who fled he had hunted down with huge hounds who tore off their limbs while still alive. His soldiers forcibly took native women for themselves. Following Columbus, other Spanish adventurers called conquistadors conquered much of the Americas, supported by a firm conviction in God’s blessing for their cause, rich financial backing, and a well-drilled military equipped with horses and guns.
Historians call the European takeover of the Americas and its consequences the
p.193 Columbian Exchange, a mutual transfer of goods and ideas. It mostly added up to be in the West’s favor, however. European settlers rushed into the Americas, grabbing control of vast expanses of land and actually and essentially enslaving native peoples. Wealth in precious metals and food products flowed into Europe, having been produced by the native peoples. Europeans ate better with foods from the New World, including peanuts, maize, potatoes, sunflowers, and tomatoes (although tomatoes were originally suspected of being poisonous because of their bright red color). Tobacco smoking provided a new social pastime. In turn, both native and immigrant Americans fed on cattle, pigs, chickens, sugarcane, coffee, rice, bananas, and even the honey of honeybees brought from the Old World to the new. Along with these new agricultural resources, the American natives gained new rulers and a new religion.
The European conquest came surprisingly easily, within a few decades after Columbus’s discovery. Natives on the Caribbean islands could not organize a strong military resistance since they were still at the socioeconomic level of hunter-gatherers or simple agriculturalists.
In contrast, millions of American Indians on the mainland were quite civilized and organized. Two recently formed empires maintained societies based in cities as sophisticated as any in the Old World. One of the peoples who ruled the so-called Aztec Empire, the Mexica, gave their name to modern-day Mexico. Their political power reached southward toward Central America. The Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan (today, Mexico City) arguably possessed more comforts, and certainly more people, than any one city in Spain. The Incan Empire based in Peru controlled much of the west coast of South America. Each empire coordinated agriculture, war, and peace for millions of people, with armies well trained in conquest. These civilized societies were, ironically, even more vulnerable to conquest. They shared three serious disadvantages for competition with the Spanish: deification, ethnic conflicts, and vulnerable immune systems.
First, deification hurt the natives because they expected too much from their own human rulers, who were considered to be gods. The Aztec practice of sacrificing humans for religious reasons, carving out beating hearts with obsidian knives, also upset many subject peoples who did not believe in the Aztec gods. Even worse, the natives too often incorrectly believed the Europeans were gods themselves. The newcomers’ pale skins, shiny armor, and unfamiliar horses contributed to this falsehood, which the lying conquistadors exploited to the utmost. This sham allowed Cortés in Mexico and Pizarro in Peru to get close to, capture, and then execute the native emperors (see figure 9.6). Therefore, the embodiment of both church and state collapsed with one blow. Murdered emperors left the natives disorganized and doubting.
Second, the diversity of the Native Americans helped the Spanish defeat the native political states. The Incan and Aztec Empires, like many empires, centered on specific ethnic groups that dominated others. Enemies of these empires, tribes that remained unconquered or had been recently subjugated, readily cooperated
P.194 with the Spanish against the native imperial supremacy. The Spanish played various tribal groups against one another. Then, conquistadors replaced every native civilized political structure that ruled over good farmland. Only on the fringes of the Spanish Empire did Indians retain some self-rule. They usually survived as hunter-gatherer societies, protected by mountains, deserts, or jungles.
The third and worst problem for the natives was their vulnerability to diseases carried from Europe. We understand now how many diseases are caused by germs (see chapter 11). In the sixteenth century, though, many people felt that disease was a punishment from God. Such had been the case with the Black Death, which killed a third of the European population within a few years. Little knowledge existed on how to prevent or cure illnesses. The Spanish, naturally and unintentionally, brought with them various germs from Europe, from diseases as harmless as the common cold to the more lethal measles and chicken pox and the very deadly smallpox. The Europeans bore substantial immunities to these diseases, but the native Americans had never been exposed to them. In contrast, perhaps the only illness that the Europeans may have brought back from the Americas was the sexually transmitted disease of syphilis. It first appeared in Europe at about this time and for the next few centuries disproportionately afflicted sexually promiscuous people, especially prostitutes, soldiers, and aristocrats.
In comparison, the natives of the Americas were not so fortunate. Millions became sick and died. Spreading rapidly along imperial roads, pandemics (epidemics that range over whole continents and beyond) killed large portions of the population. Large regions were completely depopulated, and native sociopolitical networks broke down.
Through exploitation of political rivalries, military tactics, and disease, Spain quickly came to dominate the Americas, wiping out much of the indigenous cultures and civilization and replacing them with its version of Western civilization. At the time, the Spanish did not realize the complete extent of the devastation or fully comprehend their own role in the plagues. But they knew how to take advantage of the situation. Empty land was theirs for the taking. In the next three centuries, perhaps close to two million Spaniards migrated to what would become known as Latin America (from the linguistic origins of Spanish and Portuguese). The Spanish reduced to servitude and enslavement those natives who survived disease and slaughter. Only insufficient numbers of colonial settlers prevented the Spanish from expanding farther north than they did.
The Spanish masters exploited the defeated. Natives dug in the silver mines (of which there were plenty, but disappointingly few sources of gold). Or they labored in the fields for long hours under the southern sun. Many died from overwork and lack of care, exploited worse than animals. Only a few voices protested, notably Bartolomé de Las Casas, the first priest ordained in the Americas. He spoke out to claim human and Christian dignity for the Indians. He and others won the argument that Indians had souls and were human, capable of entry into heaven after death. But many continued to die. Within a few decades the native population of the Americas fell from what was probably eleven million to only two and a half million.
While the depopulation guaranteed European domination, it also threatened the Western exploitation. Who would produce the silver and food that the Europeans desired and needed? How could they replace all the dead miners and peasants?
p.195 The Portuguese offered a solution with the Atlantic-African slave trade. In the year 1400, slavery hardly existed in Europe. Soon after, the Portuguese had gained an interest in slavery, which they had seen operating among the Africans. Beginning in 1444 they began to buy and sell black Africans, with the official excuse of the need to convert Muslim prisoners to Christianity. In reality, they wanted cheap, expendable labor. The new plantations for sugarcane, which everyone’s sweet tooth craved, promoted harsh labor practices. The crop required hard, nasty, and dangerous harvesting in dank thickets, where workers hacked away at rough, sharp stalks with machetes. So over the next few centuries, Europeans of various nationalities captured and shipped millions of diverse Africans to work as slaves in the Americas. The first boatload arrived by 1510, not even two decades after Columbus’s discovery.
Thus, the new Spanish rulers forcibly converted the native American “Indians” and the imported Africans to the ways of Western civilization, which largely supported and benefited the European masters. Of course, through most of history, in most civilizations, the masses, both free and slave, have supported the few at the top. The institutionalized racism of the Americas, though, has left an especially challenging legacy. “Black” skins were identified as inferior, while “white” skins claimed superiority. The periodic revolts by both the native American and African slaves always ended with the Western masters victorious.
An improved method of investing capital, the bourse or stock exchange, soon financed this slave trade and other colonial investments. First appearing in Antwerp in 1485, the stock exchange provided an alternative to banks as a place for capital to be gathered and invested. At first, members pooled their resources for new investment capital. But collective membership risked all of one’s own possessions to pay debts if too many of the collective’s investments failed. By 1600, joint-stock companies provided a better way to protect investments by restricting losses to only the number of shares any individual owned. This limited liability meant that someone who prudently invested only a portion of his wealth through stock in any one venture could not be ruined.
Remember, risk was always part of capitalism. Although the New World looked like a profitable investment, it had a mixed impact on the European economy. American silver mines added tons of bullion to the treasuries of Spain, which then filtered out to the other nations of Europe and even to China through world trade. But so much silver also led to a quick and devastating inflation. A “price revolution” of swiftly rising costs of goods and services hurt the middle and poorer classes of Spain, eventually weakening the Spanish Empire. The history of capitalism is rife with both growth in wealth and suffering caused by crises in investments.
The simple idea of capitalism, reinvesting profits, offered no real guidelines on how to best keep those profits flowing to everyone’s benefit. Some intellectuals attempted to figure out how to prevent economic disaster and promote economic growth. As part of the Commercial Revolution, they began to propose one of the first economic theories, sets of ideas that offered comprehensive explanations for how people carried out economic activity. Since then, many theories have tried to
p.196 suggest plans for action on how best to harness capitalism. Unlike scientific theories (see chapter 10), though, no economic theory has as yet sufficiently explained human economic activity.
The early economic theory of mercantilism linked the growing early modern nation-states to their new colonial empires. Theorists emphasized that the accumulation of wealth in precious metals within a country’s own borders was the best measure of economic success. Mercantilist theory favored government intervention in the economy, since it was in governments’ interest that their economies succeed. The theory argued that a regime should cultivate a favorable balance of trade as a sign of economic success. Since most international exchange took place in bullion, actual gold and silver, monarchs tried to make sure that other countries bought more from their country than they bought from other monarchs’ countries. By these means, the bullion in a country’s treasury continued to increase. Monarchs then obsessed about discovering mines of gold and silver, a practically cost-free method of acquiring bullion.
Because of this tangible wealth, governments frequently intervened by trying to promote enterprises to strengthen the economy. State-sponsored monopolies had clear advantages for a monarch. A state-licensed enterprise, such as importing tea leaves from China or sable furs from Siberia, could easily be supervised and taxed. Diligent inspections and regulation ensured that monopolies’ goods and services were of a high quality. The government could then promote and protect that business both overseas and domestically.
Fueled by this burgeoning capital and developing theory, more adventurers sailed off to exploit the riches of Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Unfortunately for imperialists, the world was fairly crowded already with other powerful peoples. Various kingdoms and states in East Asia (the Chinese Empire, Japan), the Indian subcontinent (the Mughal Empire), and Africa (Abyssinia) had long histories, rich economies, sophisticated cultures, and intimidating armies.
Even so, Spain and Portugal boldly divided up the world between them in 1494, even before Vasco da Gama had reached the Indies, with the Treaty of Tordesillas. The pope blessed the proceedings. The treaty demonstrated a certain hubris in those two states. They claimed global domination, notwithstanding their inability to severely damage the existing rich, powerful, well-established, and disease-resistant African and Asian kingdoms and empires. The European powers ruled the oceans but could only nibble at the fringes of Asia and Africa.
People of other Western nations did not let the Spanish and Portuguese enjoy their fat empires in peace for long. Outside the law, pirates in the Caribbean along the Spanish Main (the Central and South American coastline) and in the Indies plundered whatever they could. Some captains became legalized pirates, licensed by governments with “letters of marque.” For example, raids by the English Sir Francis Drake and his sea dogs helped provoke the Spanish Armada.
By 1600, the Dutch, the English, and the French had launched their own overseas ventures, with navies and armies grabbing and defending provinces across the oceans.
p.197 They all began to drive out natives in the Americas, Africa, and Asia. They also turned on one another. In Asia and Africa, the Dutch grabbed Portuguese bases in South Africa and the East Indies. The English, in turn, seized Dutch possessions in Africa, Malaysia, and North America (turning New Holland into New York and New Jersey). The English planted their own colonists along the Atlantic seacoast of North America. The French settled farther inland in Quebec. Likewise, in the Caribbean, India, and the Pacific, the French and English faced each other in disputes about islands and principalities while the native peoples were caught in the middle.
These European “illegal immigrants” seized power from the original native rulers and owners. The colonizers ravaged the native cultures, often with cruelty (scalping was invented by Europeans) and carelessness (smashing sculptures and pulverizing written works). Priceless cultural riches vanished forever. Land grabbing displaced the local farmers, while slavery (whether in body or wages) and displacement of native peoples by Europeans dismantled social structures. Where social bonds did not snap apart, European immigrants ignored and discriminated, trying to weaken the hold of native religions, languages, and even clothing styles. Robbed of their homes and livelihoods, most non-European subjects found resistance to be futile against the weight of European power.
As a result of the westerners’ expansion around the world, “Europe” replaced “Christendom” in the popular imagination. Nevertheless, these diverse Europeans continued to hurl insults and launch wars against one another, which they supported through grotesque ethnic stereotypes. While the people of one’s own nation were invariably perceived as kind, generous, sober, straight, loyal, honest, and intelligent, they might allege that the Spanish were cruel, the Scots stingy, the Dutch drunk, the French perverted, the Italians deceptive, the English boastful, or the Germans boorish. So Europeans remained pluralistic in their perceptions of one another while united in their desire to dominate the globe.
The elites also recognized certain common bonds in how they practiced their gentlemanly manners in ruling over the lower classes, expanded their many governments, grew their increasingly national economies, and revered the Christian religion (no matter how fractured). Some Europeans adopted a notion of the morally pure “noble savage” as a critique on their own culture. Missionaries preached the alleged love and hope of Christianity, while global natives found themselves confronted by new crimes brought in by the westerners, such as prostitution and vagrancy. The confidence in civilization of Western exceptionalism made Europeans feel
p.198 that they deserved superiority over all other peoples. These diverse Europeans insisted that they themselves were “civilized” and that their dominated enemies were barbaric “savages.” They increasingly viewed humans through racist lenses: “white” Europeans and “colored” others, whether “red” American Indians, “brown” Asian Indians, “yellow” Chinese, or “black” sub-Saharan Africans. All these other “races” by definition were believed to be less intelligent, industrious, and intrepid. Through increasing contacts with other peoples, the rest of the world seemed truly “foreign.”
This Eurocentric attitude is reflected in the early maps of the globe. Medieval maps had usually given pride of place in the center to Jerusalem. By the sixteenth century, geographers had a more accurate picture of the globe and could distinguish other continents as connected to one another by at most a narrow isthmus (Panama for the Americas, Sinai between Eurasia and Africa). Nonetheless, they “split” the continent of Eurasia into “Asia” and “Europe,” arbitrarily deciding on the Ural Mountains as a dividing point (although these hills hardly created a barrier—as the Huns and Mongols had demonstrated). Westerners saw vast stretches of eastern Europe as hardly civilized at all, a tempting target for building empires. The maps had changed to show that Europeans had moved from being located in one small corner of the map to the center. The explorers who led the voyages of discovery showed audacity and heroism, added to the scientific knowledge of Europeans, and allowed some mutually beneficial cultural exchange. Wielding a newfound global power, Western civilization had conquered much of the world by the seventeenth century. More was to come in the nineteenth century.
Bartoleme de Las Casas, Brief Account of the Devastation of the Indies. (1542) The Indies were discovered in the year one thousand four hundred and ninety-two. In the following year a great many Spaniards went there with the intention of settling the land. Thus, forty-nine years have passed since the first settlers penetrated the land, the first so claimed being the large and most happy isle called Hispaniola, which is six hundred leagues in circumference. Around it in all directions are many other islands, some very big, others very small, and all of them were, as we saw with our own eyes, densely populated with native peoples called Indians. This large island was perhaps the most densely populated place in the world. There must be close to two hundred leagues of land on this island, and the seacoast has been explored for more than ten thousand leagues, and each day more of it is being explored. And all the land so far discovered is a beehive of people; it is as though God had crowded into these lands the great majority of mankind.
And of all the infinite universe of humanity, these people are the most guileless, the most devoid of wickedness and duplicity, the most obedient and faithful to their native masters and to the Spanish Christians whom they serve. They are by nature the most humble, patient, and peaceable, holding no grudges, free from embroilments, neither excitable nor quarrelsome. These people are the most devoid of rancors, hatreds, or desire for vengeance of any people in the world. And because they are so weak and complaisant, they are less able to endure heavy labor and soon die of no matter what malady. The sons of nobles among us, brought up in the enjoyments of life’s refinements, are no more delicate than are these Indians, even those among them who are of the lowest rank of laborers. They are also poor people, for they not only possess little but have no desire to possess worldly goods. For this reason they are not arrogant, embittered, or greedy. Their repasts are such that the food of the holy fathers in the desert can scarcely be more parsimonious, scanty, and poor. As to their dress, they are generally naked, with only their pudenda covered somewhat. And when they cover their shoulders it is with a square cloth no more than two varas in size. They have no beds, but sleep on a kind of matting or else in a kind of suspended net called bamacas. They are very clean in their persons, with alert, intelligent minds, docile and open to doctrine, very apt to receive our holy Catholic faith, to be endowed with virtuous customs, and to behave in a godly fashion. And once they begin to hear the tidings of the Faith, they are so insistent on knowing more and on taking the sacraments of the Church and on observing the divine cult that, truly, the missionaries who are here need to be endowed by God with great patience in order to cope with such eagerness. Some of the secular Spaniards who have been here for many years say that the goodness of the Indians is undeniable and that if this gifted people could be brought to know the one true God they would be the most fortunate people in the world.
Yet into this sheepfold, into this land of meek outcasts there came some Spaniards who immediately behaved like ravening wild beasts, wolves, tigers, or lions that had been starved for many days. And Spaniards have behaved in no other way during tla! past forty years, down to the present time, for they are still acting like ravening beasts, killing, terrorizing, afflicting, torturing, and destroying the native peoples, doing all this with the strangest and most varied new methods of cruelty, never seen or heard of before, and to such a degree that this Island of Hispaniola once so populous (having a population that I estimated to be more than three million), has now a population of barely two hundred persons.
The island of Cuba is nearly as long as the distance between Valladolid and Rome; it is now almost completely depopulated. San Juan [Puerto Rico] and Jamaica are two of the largest, most productive and attractive islands; both are now deserted and devastated. On the northern side of Cuba and Hispaniola he the neighboring Lucayos comprising more than sixty islands including those called Gigantes, beside numerous other islands, some small some large. The least felicitous of them were more fertile and beautiful than the gardens of the King of Seville. They have the healthiest lands in the world, where lived more than five hundred thousand souls; they are now deserted, inhabited by not a single living creature. All the people were slain or died after being taken into captivity and brought to the Island of Hispaniola to be sold as slaves. When the Spaniards saw that some of these had escaped, they sent a ship to find them, and it voyaged for three years among the islands searching for those who had escaped being slaughtered , for a good Christian had helped them escape, taking pity on them and had won them over to Christ; of these there were eleven persons and these I saw.
More than thirty other islands in the vicinity of San Juan are for the most part and for the same reason depopulated, and the land laid waste. On these islands I estimate there are 2,100 leagues of land that have been ruined and depopulated, empty of people.
As for the vast mainland, which is ten times larger than all Spain, even including Aragon and Portugal, containing more land than the distance between Seville and Jerusalem, or more than two thousand leagues, we are sure that our Spaniards, with their cruel and abominable acts, have devastated the land and exterminated the rational people who fully inhabited it. We can estimate very surely and truthfully that in the forty years that have passed, with the infernal actions of the Christians, there have been unjustly slain more than twelve million men, women, and children. In truth, I believe without trying to deceive myself that the number of the slain is more like fifteen million.
The common ways mainly employed by the Spaniards who call themselves Christian and who have gone there to extirpate those pitiful nations and wipe them off the earth is by unjustly waging cruel and bloody wars. Then, when they have slain all those who fought for their lives or to escape the tortures they would have to endure, that is to say, when they have slain all the native rulers and young men (since the Spaniards usually spare only the women and children, who are subjected to the hardest and bitterest servitude ever suffered by man or beast), they enslave any survivors. With these infernal methods of tyranny they debase and weaken countless numbers of those pitiful Indian nations.
Their reason for killing and destroying such an infinite number of souls is that the Christians have an ultimate aim, which is to acquire gold, and to swell themselves with riches in a very brief time and thus rise to a high estate disproportionate to their merits. It should be kept in mind that their insatiable greed and ambition, the greatest ever seen in the world, is the cause of their villainies. And also, those lands are so rich and felicitous, the native peoples so meek and patient, so easy to subject, that our Spaniards have no more consideration for them than beasts. And I say this from my own knowledge of the acts I witnessed. But I should not say “than beasts” for, thanks be to God, they have treated beasts with some respect; I should say instead like excrement on the public squares. And thus they have deprived the Indians of their lives and souls, for the millions I mentioned have died without the Faith and without the benefit of the sacraments. This is a wellknown and proven fact which even the tyrant Governors, themselves killers, know and admit. And never have the Indians in all the Indies committed any act against the Spanish Christians, until those Christians have first and many times committed countless cruel aggressions against them or against neighboring nations. For in the beginning the Indians regarded the Spaniards as angels from Heaven. Only after the Spaniards had used violence against them, killing, robbing, torturing, did the Indians ever rise up against them….
On the Island Hispaniola was where the Spaniards first landed, as I have said. Here those Christians perpetrated their first ravages and oppressions against the native peoples. This was the first land in the New World to be destroyed and depopulated by the Christians, and here they began their subjection of the women and children, taking them away from the Indians to use them and ill use them, eating the food they provided with their sweat and toil. The Spaniards did not content themselves with what the Indians gave them of their own free will, according to their ability, which was always too little to satisfy enormous appetites, for a Christian eats and consumes in one day an amount of food that would suffice to feed three houses inhabited by ten Indians for one month. And they committed other acts of force and violence and oppression which made the Indians realize that these men had not come from Heaven. And some of the Indians concealed their foods while others concealed their wives and children and still others fled to the mountains to avoid the terrible transactions of the Christians.
And the Christians attacked them with buffets and beatings, until finally they laid hands on the nobles of the villages. Then they behaved with such temerity and shamelessness that the most powerful ruler of the islands had to see his own wife raped by a Christian officer.
From that time onward the Indians began to seek ways to throw the Christians out of their lands. They took up arms, but their weapons were very weak and of little service in offense and still less in defense. (Because of this, the wars of the Indians against each other are little more than games played by children.) And the Christians, with their horses and swords and pikes began to carry out massacres and strange cruelties against them. They attacked the towns and spared neither the children nor the aged nor pregnant women nor women in childbed, not only stabbing them and dismembering them but cutting them to pieces as if dealing with sheep in the slaughter house. They laid bets as to who, with one stroke of the sword, could split a man in two or could cut off his head or spill out his entrails with a single stroke of the pike. They took infants from their mothers’ breasts, snatching them by the legs and pitching them headfirst against the crags or snatched them by the arms and threw them into the rivers, roaring with laughter and saying as the babies fell into the water, “Boil there, you offspring of the devil!” Other infants they put to the sword along with their mothers and anyone else who happened to be nearby. They made some low wide gallows on which the hanged victim’s feet almost touched the ground, stringing up their victims in lots of thirteen, in memory of Our Redeemer and His twelve Apostles, then set burning wood at their feet and thus burned them alive. To others they attached straw or wrapped their whole bodies in straw and set them afire. With still others, all those they wanted to capture alive, they cut off their hands and hung them round the victim’s neck, saying, “Go now, carry the message,” meaning, Take the news to the Indians who have fled to the mountains. They usually dealt with the chieftains and nobles in the following way: they made a grid of rods which they placed on forked sticks, then lashed the victims to the grid and lighted a smoldering fire underneath, so that little by little, as those captives screamed in despair and torment, their souls would leave them….
After the wars and the killings had ended, when usually there survived only some boys, some women, and children, these survivors were distributed among the Christians to be slaves. The repartimiento or distribution was made according to the rank and importance of the Christian to whom the Indians were allocated, one of them being given thirty, another forty, still another, one or two hundred, and besides the rank of the Christian there was also to be considered in what favor he stood with the tyrant they called Governor. The pretext was that these allocated Indians were to be instructed in the articles of the Christian Faith. As if those Christians who were as a rule foolish and cruel and greedy and vicious could be caretakers of souls! And the care they took was to send the men to the mines to dig for gold, which is intolerable labor, and to send the women into the fields of the big ranches to hoe and till the land, work suitable for strong men. Nor to either the men or the women did they give any food except herbs and legumes, things of little substance. The milk in the breasts of the women with infants dried up and thus in a short while the infants perished. And since men and women were separated, there could be no marital relations. And the men died in the mines and the women died on the ranches from the same causes, exhaustion and hunger. And thus was depopulated that island which had been densely populated.
Source: Bartoleme de Las Casas, Brief Account of the Devastation of the Indies. (1542
Pavlac, Brian A.. A Concise Survey of Western Civilization: Volume 1: Prehistory to 1500 . Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
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