I read a 17th century English translation of Casas' book on Early English Books Online (EEBO), entitled "The Tears of the Indians". The book was originally published in the 16th century by Casas writing to the King of Spain to let him know of the atrocities being done by his subjects in the "new world". The book was translated into English, and several other European languages, at this time. It is a horrifying description of atrocity and genocide on an unbelievable scale. The book mentions the torture and murder of millions of "Indians" at the hands of the Spanish. It covers the conquest of Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, Florida and the Indies. I came across it when I was researching a book on the history of Mexico at work. I was astonished to read a contemporary account that was so much in horror of the acts witnessed.
The version I read was released under Oliver Cromwell and clearly was its own piece of propaganda in a war against the Spanish. It's odd to think that nowadays the horror of the treatment of native people by colonisers is thought of as a new idea, but here is a contemporary condemnation that was very popular.
Casas was an interesting figure, he traveled to America and became a monk, he was hailed as the "champion of the Indians" and spoke to the King on their behalf. Of course he still wanted to convert everyone to Christianity, and as such he is still ridiculed in post-colonial discourse for being as much a coloniser as the Spanish. This I think is a harsh judgement as while he did want to convert people to Christianity he did not condemn the natives religion in his works, but praised their honesty and goodness. (No where did he mention human sacrifice the usual excuse by the Conquistadors for their behaviour).
This book goes very well with Broken Spears (the native account of the Spanish invasion). It's an area of history I know so little about but one I'm trying to learn more about. I have another book from the library about Casas' life which I am also going to read....Continua