chapter  4
17 Pages

Bodies and Memories

Conquerors and colonists awarded grants of land-with-workers were known as encomenderos. Eager to extract as much labor as possible from their indigenes, these Iberian overlords were will ing and able to relocate entire populations to hard-work zones, further shortening local life expectancies. Spanish missionaries outraged by Spanish excesses dreamed of segregating their Indians in a v ast monastery far from the exploiters. Meanwhile, viruses and bacterial infections that arrived like stowaways in Spanish bodies brought about one of t he most notorious demographic catastrophes in memory. We can s carcely imagine the psychological wounds that accompanied the deaths of s o many-60 to 80 percent of the population in some areas (Cook 1998). For centuries epidemics continued to travel along the same commercial routes set up by the Spaniards for the liquor trade and for all other goods and services. Typhus, to take one example, came an d went at least thirty-two times ov er three hundred years, claiming victims from all races and classes.