AfricanAmericanHistory (1)

Further complicating the issue were religious figures

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Further complicating the issue were religious figures like Bartolomé de las Casas, a Dominican friar that fought against the injustices of colonialism. He wrote numerous letters and works detailing the vicious mistreatment of the native Americans and urged the Spanish monarchy to stop the atrocities being committed in the new world. His works would eventually prove convincing as, “the commitment to an evangelical mission and doubts about the legitimacy of enslaving Christians pushed the Spanish Crown toward acceptance of American Indian 1Ben Vinson, and Herbert Klein, African Slavery in Latin America and the Caribbean, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007). 23
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autonomy.” 2 More and more efforts were being made to convert the natives, as opposed to trying to eradicate them. Las Casas' work would help to free the native Americans from the yoke of servitude, but in doing so he left a void of labor that needed to be filled. Luckily for the Europeans Las Casas provides a solution to this problem. In his earlier works Las Casas conjectured that Africans could be used to replace the native population. He argued that they were better suited for the harsh environment and the arduous labor that would be expected of them. His belief was that Africans would be treated better than the native Americans, and that under this new system all people would benefit. His desire to see the native Americans embrace the word of God blinded him to the possibility of the mistreatment of Africans. Las Casas would later recant his statements regarding utilizing African slaves but it was far too late. With the noblest of intentions Las Casas managed to accidentally help push Spain towards the African slave trade. Las Casas, while misguided, was correct in some sense. In every way that the native Americans failed as an ideal work force, the Africans excelled. They were an iron aged people, they were used to large scale agriculture, and centuries of contact with Europeans had rendered them immune to the diseases that wiped out thousands of natives. The climate of the region was also not that different from what the Africans would experience at home. The geography of South America simply favored African's above all else. Furthermore, “That Africans were the cheapest available slaves at this time was due to the opening up of the West African coast by the Portuguese...the commercial relations between western Africa and Europe now became common 2 Vinson and Klein, African Slavery in Latin America and the Caribbean. 38
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and cheap.” 3 The Portuguese had already littered the west coast of Africa with trading posts from their days searching for gold, it was a simple matter to convert them to slave outposts. Cheap, effective, easily accessible labor made African slaves seem irresistible.
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