European and Native American Relations
Spanish interaction with the Americans began with Hernán Cortes and the complete demolition of the Aztec empire. Armed with superior weapons and disease, the Spanish quickly conquered the Aztecs, whom they viewed as barbarians, mainly due to the Aztec practice of human sacrifice (Give Me Liberty, 20). Later, the Spanish expanded their empire to include most of what is now the southwestern United States. In the Spanish empire Indians were viewed as a source of labor, and Indians, whom were forced into near slavery, performed most of the labor in mines and on farms (Give Me Liberty, 24). Not all Spaniards, however, saw the Indians as mere objects to be forced into slavery. Bartolomé de las Casas began to openly speak of his opposition to Spanish treatment of Indians and referred to them as “rational beings, not barbarians (Give me Liberty, 27). In his writings, he argues that that Indians were “totally deprived of their freedom and were put in the harshest, fiercest, most horrible servitude and captivity.” He goes on to describe the horrible treatment of the Indians, including their negligible pay and violent treatment. De las Casas then sarcastically adds, “this was the freedom, the good treatment, and the Christianity that the Indians received” (Voices of Freedom, 12-13). From Bartolomé de las Casas’s description, it becomes evident that the Spanish did not value Indian life as that of Spanish life, or arguably of even human life.
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