Bartolome de las casas_A short account of the destruction of the Indies(1542) - THE MAINLAND It was in 1514 that a governor landed on the Mainland This

Bartolome de las casas_A short account of the destruction of the Indies(1542)

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THE MAINLAND It was in 1514 that a governor landed on the Mainland. 41 This man, who descended on the region like the wrath of God, was the cruellest of tyrants, totally devoid as he was of any feelings of mercy or even of common sense. He was determined to settle the whole area with Spaniards. The Mainland had seen its share of despots before, who had pillaged and murdered and alienated the local people, but their depredations and iniquities had so far been confined to the coastal areas. This individual, however, outstripped all his predecessors, transcending in cruelty even those that had ravaged the islands, and his devilish deeds surpassed all the abominations that had taken place before his arrival. Nor did he confine his attentions to the coastal area, but cut great swathes through the interior, driving the locals out, killing left, right and centre, and despatching everyone he encountered to Hell. He devastated the land for many leagues north of Darién right up to and including the kingdom and provinces of Nicaragua – a distance of more than five hundred leagues over some of the most fertile and densely populated areas that are to be found anywhere in the known world. It was a region in which there lived many great lords, and where there were countless large cities. Nowhere on the face of the earth had such an enormous wealth of gold been discovered, for, although the island of Hispaniola had filled Spain to overflowing with gold, and gold of the highest quality, this had all to be extracted from the bowels of the earth by the sweat 32 of natives who toiled down the mines and, as we have noted, perished there. This governor and his men dreamed up new ways of tormenting the native population and whole new techniques for torturing them in order to force them to reveal the whereabouts of their gold and to hand it over. A Franciscan friar, Francisco de San Román, witnessed at first hand an expedition, mounted by the governor and led by one of his right-hand men to wipe out the natives and rob them of everything they possessed. His report suggests that this expedition alone resulted in the deaths of over forty thousand natives, who were variously put to the sword, burned alive, thrown to wild dogs, or subjected to torture of one form or another. From the very beginning, Spanish policy towards the New World has been characterized by blindness of the most pernicious kind: even while the various ordinances and decrees governing the treatment of the native peoples have continued to maintain that conversion and the saving of souls has first priority, this is belied by what has actually been happening on the ground. The gulf that yawns between theory and practice has
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  • Nicaragua, local people

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