Paula's Reviews > A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies

A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies by Bartolomé de las Casas
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Jul 15, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: non-fiction, history
Read from July 08 to 15, 2010

A must read only because it's a classic and an important historical document. de las Casas intended to write a legal and moral argument, 16th century style, detailing the murder and mayhem perpetrated by the Spanish Conquistadors in the Antilles (Caribbean islands, coastal Mexico, Central and South America)from Columbus's landfall in 1492 until the middle of the next century. But I knew that already. I didn't need to read this book to find that out. De las Casas's prose style is repetitive and numbingly dull(the following quote is something of an exception) while at the same time what he documents is still shocking, 500 years after the fact ("the Spaniards have a number of wild and ferocious dogs which they have trained especially to kill the people and tear them to bits . . . . they run a kind of human abattoir or flesh market, where a dog-owner can casually ask, not for a quarter of pork or mutton, but for 'a quarter of one of those likely lads over there for my dog'"). His account moves from one "peaceful" and "innocent" indigenous group to another (the inhabitants of Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Jamaica, Florida,etc.)describing their encounters with the Europeans who arrived ostensibly to bring them "civilization" and Christianity. de las Casas wanted to draw the Prince of Spain's attention to the brigands and butchers operating in the name of Spain and the Church, hoping that "if he only knew," the Spanish Crown would put a stop to the genocide. Not much success there, I'm afraid. The inhabitants of the islands were particularly unlucky. Nowhere to hide when the real estate is circumscribed by water on all sides . . . the particularly dire fate of the Arawak. I was reading this book while following the recent World Cup. Irrational as it sounds, A Short Account . . . didn't make me feel like cheering for Spain.
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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

I tried to work a few excerpts into my grad classes but always got dinged for politicizing otherwise perfectly good information about history of the americas. When Jesse had to do a report on one of the Spanish "Conquistadores" for grade school, I was beside myself with the heroic accounts of the explorers of the new world. Insert your own ironic textual markers.


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