Analytic Summary of “A Short Account of The Destruction of The Indies”
Bartolome de Las Casas
The novel "A Short Account of The Destruction of The Indies" was written by Bartolome de las Casas and published by Penguin Classics in 1552. This novel was written for the King of Spain, in which the author explains the events that followed their arrival. Most specifically, the assaults on the Natives that held the land. Additionally, the Spaniards enslaved the Indians and forced them to mine gold, which they stole. Furthermore, they wanted them to "embrace the Christian Faith, and submit to the obedience of the Spanish King" (p22). It is increasingly important to question if these events focused on religion, land, or the pure wrath the Spainards held for humanity.
A significant piece of the book revolves around the Spaniard's journey on the Caribbean Island; these cities include Magua, Marien, Xaragua, and Hiquey. The mission of the Spaniards originally was to enlighten the Indians to Christianity and conclude by saving them from eternal damnation. This, however, was not the result of their conquest. Moreover, Las Casas, who was a priest, changed his mission as well. He became an advocate for the other. Many massacres occurred in the Caribbean islands. Las Casas wrote, "The number of those I saw here burnt, and dismembered, and rackt with various torments, as well as others, the poor remnants of such matchless villainies, who surviving were enslaved, is infinite" (p19). In this quote, Las Casas explains the torments the Spaniards inflicted upon the Indies, but this was only the beginning. The Spaniards murdered and enslaved every Indian in each village that they could. In each Kingdom, the Christians were met with gifts of gold, emeralds, and hospitality. However, they burned every welcoming King and murdered the men and women by sending them to work until themselves to their inevitable death. The underlying theme of this story is gold and greed, which is prevalent in New Spain.
In New Spain, the monks and priests succeeded in their mission to enlighten the Indians to Christianity. Las Casas explained, "Thus to the great joy and hope of these priests reducing them to the knowledge of Christ they were received by the inhabitants of the kingdom..." (p53). However, this was one of the only instances described that the Indians followed the Catholic faith. Instead of teaching the Indians, the Spaniards were busy raping, tormenting, and burning "eight hundred towns to ashes" (p48). The Spaniards would hang the princes, kings, and men, forcing them to share the location of their gold. Stealing, and stealing, and stealing it from them until they had none left. Then later, they would die from their injuries.
The Spaniards embarked on the native land to spread the word of their God but instead killed and enslaved thousands of "innocent sheep" (p3). They forced the Indians to mine gold to steal endlessly and enslaved the Indians against orders from their King. Inevitably, the Indian on his death bed shared he would "...rather go to hell than heaven, for fear he should cohabit the same mansion with so sanguinary and bloody a nation" (p24). The Spaniards failed their mission to spread Christianity as they became too focused on gold and greed.