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The Other Side of the Destruction

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Mah Gul Rind HIST 13001 Prof. Maria Fusaro 02/10/2005 The Other Side of the Destruction History repeatedly hails Las Casas as the Protector of the Indians for his countless efforts to put an end to the Spanish brutality of the Indians. These efforts of his include his famous work A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies, which questioned the moral and legal basis of the Spanish occupation of the Americas.1 Although the text does serve a purpose that is inherently noble in nature, it exaggerates the atrocities committed to an extent which are increasingly difficult to overlook for the reader. Further his account must also be read with skepticism because it is filled with overstatements and inaccuracies about the conquests themselves. The ways in which Las Casas distorts facts and exaggerates the simplicity of the Indians and barbarism of the Spanish achieve his propaganda goal, but at the same undermine his arguments to an extent that they lose credibility. From the beginning of his account, Las Casas exaggerates the simplicity of the Indians to an extent which is almost unbelievable. He calls them "the simplest people in the world - unassuming, long-suffering, unassertive and submissive - they are without malice or guile, and are utterly faithful and obedient both to their own native lords and to the Spaniards in whose service they now find themselves." ...read more.


of the civilized world during a span of several decades, yet he fails to convince the reader with concrete reasons as to why each acted the way they did. He simplifies the reasoning down to the innate meekness of the Natives and the inherent greed and cruelty of the conquering Spaniards. Moreover, in each account of the violent invasion of a different island, the general story is recurrent to a point of casting a shadow on its credibility. Conquests in each of the areas - Cuba, Bahamas, New Spain, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Yucatan along with the others bear a striking similarity and repetitive description of events. Most accounts start with the natives "com[ing] out to welcome the Spaniards with all due pomp and ceremony" (Pg. 45), followed by the Spaniards "duping the unsuspected leaders of this welcoming party into gathering into a building" (Pg. 22), and ending with the Spaniards setting fire to the building and burning alive the victims. Such recurring depiction of the slaughter and slavery at the hands of the Spanish gradually undercuts the effect Las Casas provokes from the reader initially. Further, over an area as huge as South America and Mexico, Las Casas characterizes the natives of these territories all into the same category: "naturally gentle and unaggressive" (Pg. ...read more.


This raises the question of whether Las Casas was more of a missionary rather than a champion of self-determination. The widely held opinion of this work is that it was a sincere and brave attempt in the 16th century to alert His Majesty of the atrocities being committed by the Spanish invaders in the Americas. 4 Las Casas has been championed as the Apostle of the Indians and his ideas hailed as the voice of 16th century Spanish conscience. However, A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies itself falls short of being historically true and convincing. The blatant inaccuracies and exaggerations in Las Casas' account were implanted to have a quick and decisive influence on the royal court which would have catalyzed the spread and increase in popularity of Christianity in the captured areas. But in the process of trying to win over the readers and royal support, it loses its credibility as the plausibility of certain aspects of the book appear to be debatable. Professor John H. Parry of Harvard University, for example, asserts in his work of synthesis The Spanish Seaborne Empire that Las Casas' writing is "vituperative, one-sided, and at times extravagant".5 In the face of its own contradictions and exaggerations, A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies weakens and challenges the purpose it is striving for. ...read more.

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