Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Tears of the Indians, 1656

It's that time of year again. Turkey and stuffing and cranberry sauce and a side of pondering the oppression of native peoples. Also sometimes there's pumpkin pie!

Bartolomé de las Casas (1484-1566) wrote this happy little book. It's about Spain's mistreatment and eventual genocide of Indians in Central America and the Caribbean. His father accompanied Columbus on two of his trips to the New World, bringing back Bartolomé a Taino slave, which was nice for him. He and his father immigrated to Hispanola in 1502, where his witnessed firsthand how much it sucked to be a native in the Caribbean. He felt super-bad about all the genociding, so he became a priest and an advocate for abolishing the enslavement of Indians. He was sort of successful, but when Spain was all like, "but we need people to work for us and we don't want to pay them!" de las Casas came up with the perfect solution . . . African slaves! Because they don't count. Everybody thought this was a racist abominable hypocritical great idea.

So while he's pretty cool for being nice to Indians, he totally sucks for contributing to one of humanity's greatest horrors -- black slavery in the New World. Even-Steven? Not really, no. So happy Thanksgiving and American Indian Heritage Month, with respective apologies to Turkeys and Indians.