Letters from readers: Spain and the laws of the Indies

Just eight years after the Discovery, Queen Isabella, the Catholic, prohibited the slavery of American Indians, condemned mistreatment and ordered them to be considered subjects of the Crown, like all Spaniards. Spain, not only because it is the greatest world power and beloved daughter of the Church, could do whatever it wanted in America, but also because there was no legislation that dealt with such a formidable event: the discovery of an immeasurable territory, inhabited by aboriginal tribes, more or less wild and aggressive, facing each other. Who could have questioned Spain? Absolutely no one, in the entire world. So, Spain questioned itself. She wondered about the legitimacy of the conquest of America. She asked herself all the serious questions that such an event would generate in Christian Europe. Especially in the catholicity of the same Spanish people. Those beings found there, similar to humans, but with an almost animal primitivism, some even cannibals, half-naked or naked, many with rudimentary, guttural languages, full of gestures and shouts, with a sense of good and evil barely conditioned by the nature; Those beings, the discoverers wondered, are they human beings, like them? and, therefore, -here is the definitive question-: would they have a soul? Because if they didn’t have it (and everything seemed to indicate that they did), they would be animals, and could be treated as such. Weren’t Africans treated like this by Europeans and North Americans, who, three centuries later, when their Civil War began, were still debating the issue in the supposedly abolitionist Union, and even Lincoln had his doubts? (England declared Australia “terra nullius”, that is, uninhabited, considering the aborigines as “things” and not as men, and did what it wanted: it separated their families, the children with lighter skin were made slaves and they pushed the rest to the most arid regions, condemning them to an atrocious life). Isabel and Fernando, on the other hand, summoned prominent scholars to study these very new realities and elaborate legislation to remain themselves, and all of Spain, subject to it. Is it to say that she created a legal tool, non-existent and unimaginable at the time, to control herself? And without any need, not the slightest pressure or demand from anyone? Indeed. And why did she do it? To save her soul. Catholic Spain, which had victoriously waged war for eight centuries against the Muslim invader, and faced the gigantic national enterprise of America, taking the Cross to the ends of the world, as Jesus Christ requested, needed the certainty that it was doing Good. This is how this extraordinary work saw the light: the Laws of the Indies, the founding pillar of Universal Human Rights. In 1542, these Laws affirmed that, in effect, the Indians had a soul, that they were human beings and, therefore, they enjoyed all their rights, including that of being owners of land and goods and, mainly, that of being catechized and baptized, that is, to also be considered brothers in Christ and subjects of salvation and holiness. Of course, some Spaniards perpetrated cruelties against their dignity, but behind their backs or in violation of these Laws, and they were regularly harshly punished, while in other colonizing processes they were carried out under the protection of the metropolis and even with the help of its armies. colonials. Unlike the English, who limited themselves to establishing factories in a narrow strip on the Atlantic coast to take the products, the Spaniards came to live here, to found a new Spain here, to occupy the gigantic and multifaceted continent, to get to know and committing to the Indians, mixing with them, marrying and founding families, giving rise to a unique historical phenomenon in the world: the American race -brown as the Virgin of Guadalupe-, daughter of the most generous and fertile miscegenation that shaped the Creole – neither Spanish, nor Indian, nor American-, to whom Spain donated the marvelous gifts of the Catholic faith, the Castilian language and its epic tradition. All of which, the Anglo-Saxons never even thought of doing with the North American tribes, which they only considered as mere objects of extermination and dispossession.

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Deborah Acker

I write epic fantasy; self-published via KDP. Devoted dog mom to my 10 yr old GSD, Shadow! DM not a priority; slow response at best #amwriting #author.

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