chapter  4
32 Pages

Las Casas and the Other: The Tension between Equality and Cultural Othercide

Bartolomé de las Casas was perhaps the most adamant defender of the Indians during the fi rst century of conquest, and is certainly one of the most celebrated today (Gutiérrez 1993; Alker 1992; Beuchot 1994). As O’Gorman notes, the main purpose of his opus was to “combat the opinion about the rational incapacity of the Indians” (O’Gorman 1967: lix). This theme is present across his written work, but I will focus on his Argumentum apologiae adversus Genesium Sepulvedam theologum cordubensem, or In Defense of the Indians (henceforth Defense), which he composed for the Valladolid debates. Las Casas states that his goals in the Defense are to defend the “completely innocent people[s]” of the New World, “to set forth the true right” of the Spanish in the New World, and to restore Christianity (Las Casas 1999: 21). In other words, he sets the equality of the Indians and the establishment of the Christian constellation of values as the objective of his participation in the Aff air of the Indies, with the former integrally linked to the latter.