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What do the two primary sources below reveal about the relationship between imperialist ideology and action in the sixteenth-century Spanish empire?

Background

The aim of the study is to shed light on the relationship between imperialist ideology and the actions during the sixteenth-century Spanish empire. The entire course of the discussion will evaluate what are the beliefs shaped Spain’s imperial ideology. In addition, the study will also analyze how this ideology played out on the ground. The whole discussion will be based on the two major sources namely the Requerimiento of 1510 and Account of the Destruction of the Indies of 1542. While the very first question that aims to figure out the beliefs shaped Spain’s imperial ideology will be based on the source named Requerimiento of 1510, the second part of the question in relation with identifying how the ideology played out on the ground will be based on the second source, Account of the Destruction of the Indies of 1542. Upon the completion of the entire anslysis, the study will provide a summarization of it in the concluding paragraph.

Spain, after the discovery of the New World or the Americas, lay claim on the lands and resources of the entire South America, other than Brazil. The conquests of the Conquistadors and their relationship and the wars with the Mayans and the Aztecs have been well documented in the history of the New World. However, these conquests by the Spanish forces were given a religious garb, and the justification of these atrocities was hidden behind the curtain of Christian ideologies, which were corrupted according to the needs of the conquest (Faudree).

According to The Requerimiento (Requirement), that was written by the Council of Castile in 1510, the Spanish forces were given the rights to continue their conquests in South America and the Caribbean islands, in the name of the Papal order and for the spreading of the Christian views among the indigenous population of the Americas. The document, stated different views from the Bible regarding the creation of the world by God and how the population had spread all over the world (Spalding). However, the Spanish believed that most of the population that were spread all over the world had swayed from the path of God and needed to be brought back to the order of God, that is Christianity. The name of the King of Spain, Don Fernando was used in the document along with that of his daughter Dona Juana, in order to bring legitimacy to the document. Moreover, the consent of the Pope and the papal order was also secured to give the Spanish the rights to conquest and convert the indigenous tribes to Christianity.

The Requerimiento of 1510

However, the conquests of the Spanish forces were much more than religious missions. The statements of the requirement, promoted aggression. Moreover, the requirement was often read out to the local people in Latin without the presence of any interpreter. The locals who had no idea about the language failed to understand the clause and faced the wrath of the Spanish forces. The language of the requirement was presented in the form of self-justification, which justified the violence and held the locals responsible for their own destruction (Boucher). The failure to accept God’s words resulted in the destruction of the locals, was the idea that made the Spanish justify their actions. However, the question arises as to how a religious mission would justify the plunder of gold or the killing of millions of people. Moreover, the subsequent slavery and the trade of the women and children highlighted a very treacherous aspect of the mission that was carried out by the Spanish (Lantigua).

In one of the historical accounts by Bartholome de las Casas written in 1542, A Short Account of The Destruction of the Indies describes in detail the various atrocities that were committed by the Spanish in the Caribbean islands as well as the entire South America. Bartholome was one of the early Spanish colonists who was a part of the Spanish abuse of the indigenous people of the America (Brunstetter). However, after a few years, he understood his mistakes and became a champion of the rights of the indigenous people. He abandoned his plantation and freed the slaves in order to fight for the causes of the indigenous people. He was later appointed as a bishop in Mexico. After becoming the bishop, in 1542, he states his accounts to Prince Philip II about the atrocities that have been met out to the indigenous people. The bishop compares the indigenous people to the gentle sheep and the Spanish forces to wolves (Orique). He recounts the cruelty with which the gentle people have been crushed in the name of religion, while the plunder and slavery that followed had nothing to do with slavery. The millions of people, who were eradicated in the name of religion, were by no means responsible for the violence and treachery that they were subjected to. As seen in the requirement, that has been already discussed, the Spanish were just self-justifying their actions with no logical outcome (Orique). The bishop believed that contrary to the idea of the requirement, which used the name of the King and Queen for justifying the violence, it is the duty of a true king to protect the subjects from the violence and atrocities.

Account of the Destruction of the Indies of 1542

If it was to be believed that the New World was a promised land that was gifted to the King of Spain, then it was his duty to care for his subjects. The people of the New World, as has been described by the Bishop were peace-loving, humble Indians who meant no harm to the Spanish. Moreover, the Spanish were considered to be higher beings who had descended from the heavens to bring prosperity in their lives (Cárdenas Bunsen). The Spanish agenda not only breached the trust of the local people but also wiped out islands in the quest of plundering and dominating. The requirement published by the Council of Castile, never had the intention of befriending the locals but to dominate them. It was the permit for the bloody wars that were carried out in the islands of the Caribbean.  The only cause that was evident from the violent actions of the Spanish conquests was the American gold that were there in huge quantities and the untouched pristine lands that promised fortune to the Spaniards for the rest of their lives.

The most noticeable part of the two sources are that, in the first source, the conquests and wars are proposed in the name of the Lord. It is like a warning to the infidels or people of other sects to be aware of the wrath of God. But in the second source, the Bishop is of the believes that the atrocities that were being done in the name of the Lord, would only draw the curse of the Lord upon themselves. He believed that the people of the islands who were peace-loving could be led to the way of God with love and understanding (Méndez?Montoya). The compassion that the Jesus had shown towards the people who killed Him, was not being reflected in the way of the Spanish. The Bishop who had lived for more than forty years in those lands and was aware that the conquests were not for spreading the love of God. It was more of a theft, brutality and murder. The reading out of the requirement often from the ships to the local pointed out the vexation that lay underneath the original intention of the Spanish conquests.

The futility of the crusades had already been established by then and the loss of lives and resources were catastrophic. People were persuaded in the battles in the name of God, where the purpose was not even clear to the people who died for it. Similarly, in the Americas, the purpose of the violence and objectives were not clear to the soldiers who fought for the Spanish and also the natives who died in the violence (Solodkow). The wealth and riches of the New World were not justified for the death of the millions of innocent lives.

Conclusion

Thus, in order to conclude it is apt to assert that the whole idea of the study was to analyze how Spain’s imperial ideology was influenced by several beliefs and how the ideology finally played out on the ground. The entire discussion is based on the two major sources: Account of the Destruction of the Indies of 1542 and Requerimiento of 1510. However, additional sources have also been referred during the time of analysis. In regard to the sources, it needs to be mentioned that The Requerimiento which actually alludes to the meaning of Requirement was drafted by the Council of Castle in the year of 1510. On the other hand, the second source namely Account of the Destruction of the Indies of 1542 is primarily an account that was penned down by Bartolome de las Casas in the year of 1542. The account deals with the atrocities against the indigenous Americans.

References:

Boucher, David. "Invoking a world of ideas: theory and interpretation in the justification of colonialism." Theoria63.147 (2016): 6-24.

Brunstetter, Daniel R. "Bartolomé De Las Casas." Just War Thinkers: From Cicero to the 21st Century (2017): 65.

Cárdenas Bunsen, José A. "Consent, Voluntary Jurisdiction and Native Political Agency in Bartolomé de Las Casas' Final Writings." Bulletin of Spanish Studies 91.6 (2014): 793-817.

Faudree, Paja. "Reading the Requerimiento Performatively: Speech Acts and the Conquest of the New World." Colonial Latin American Review 24.4 (2015): 456-478.

Lantigua, David M. "The freedom of the gospel: Aquinas, subversive natural law, and the Spanish wars of religion." Modern Theology 31.2 (2015): 312-337.

Méndez?Montoya, Ángel F. "Eucharistic Imagination: A Queer Body?Politics." Modern Theology 30.2 (2014): 326-339.

Orique, David Thomas. "A comparison of the voices of the spanish Bartolomé de Las Casas and the portuguese Fernando Oliveira on Just war and slavery." E-journal of Portuguese History 12.1 (2014): 87-118.

Orique, David Thomas. "The Life, Labor, and Legacy of Bartolomé de Las Casas." Peace Review 26.3 (2014): 325-333.

Solodkow, David M. "The Rhetoric of War and Justice in the Conquest of the Americas: Ethnography, Law, and Humanism in Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda and Bartolomé de Las Casas." Coloniality, Religion, and the Law in the Early Iberian World 40 (2014): 181.

Spalding, Karen. "Notes on the formation of the Andean Colonial State." State Theory and Andean Politics: New Approaches to the Study of Rule (2015): 213-233.

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