chapter  29
Mapping without Maps
Memory and cartography in Las Casas’s Very Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies
ByRicardo Padrón
Pages 9

The Very Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies, written by the Dominican friar Bartolome de las Casas in 1542, and subsequently printed in 1552, is without question the most controversial text to have issued from the pens and presses of early modern Spain. Las Casas's Spanish readers would have had little access to printed or even manuscript maps. The schematic map of the New World, in turn, constitutes the memory theater into which the images are placed. Mapping the Indies, and knowing what they mean, have become one and the same process. By understanding the Very Brief Account in this way, we come to appreciate in a more general way what was going on with all the mental mapping that was taking place in Spanish Americana and how deeply tied it all was to history, ethics, and politics.