las Casas on the god of the Christians

Bartolomé de las Casas was a 16th-century Spanish historian, social reformer and Dominican friar. He became the first resident Bishop of Chiapas (southern Mexico), and the first officially appointed “Protector of the Indians.” In his Very Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies (published in 1552), he tells the story of an Amerindian prince named Hatuey, who had fled from Hispaniola to Cuba  to escape the brutality of the Christians. Listen as las Casas recounts Hatuey’s story:

Hatuey addressed his people: “You already know that it is said the Christians are coming here; and you have experience of how they have treated the lords so and so and those people of Hayti (which is Hispaniola); they come to do the same here. Do you know perhaps why they do it?”

The people answered no; except that they were by nature cruel and wicked.

“They do it,” said he, “not alone for this, but because they have a God whom they greatly adore and love; and to make us adore Him they strive to subjugate us and take our lives.” He had near him a basket full of gold and jewels and he said, Behold here is the God of the Christians, let us perform areytos before Him, if you will (these are dances in concert and singly); and perhaps we shall please Him, and He will command that they do us no harm.”

[Hatuey is then captured and ordered to burn at the stake. A friar tries to convert him as he is tied to the stake before the fire is lit.]

After thinking a little, Hatuey asked the friar whether the Christians went to heaven; the friar answered that those who were good went there. The prince [Hatuey] at once said, without any more thought, that he did not wish to go there, but rather to hell so as not to be where the Spaniards were, nor to see such cruel people.

This is the renown and honor that God and our faith have acquired by means of the Christians who have gone to the Indies…

Has anything really changed since then?


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