Bartolomé de las Casas

Bartolomé de las Casas demonstrates a complex perspective regarding indigenous people during colonization, believing they deserved humane treatment, yet supported their religious conversion, but not how it was done. For instance, de las Casas believed that the way indigenous people were treated wasn’t because of actual religious enlightenment but because, “the land is fertile and rich, the inhabitants simple, forbearing, and submissive” (De las Casas 5). This shows how de las Casas criticizes the motivation of certain Europeans because they take advantage of different groups for materialistic desires. He believed they were doing colonizations for monetary driven reasons. Bartolome demonstrates his empathy for the indigenous people with how they fled “from the brutal and ruthless cruelty that was being inflicted on them”(De las Casas 1). He’s emphasizing the violent aspect certain Europeans took when he believed that religious conversion should be more pacifistic. This sort of highlights the bias he had; he viewed indigenous groups as people that needed religious saving, and criticized how certain Europeans used Christianity as an excuse for their greed. He supported the superficial goal, but not the realistic one and the way it was done.

Bernardino de Sahagun’s “The Battle for Tenochtitlan” reveals more of an analytical perspective of the interaction between Europeans and indigenous people. For example when describing Moctezuma’s decision to send individuals and action of sacrifice, Sahagun described it as it was Moctezuma’s belief, involving deities (Sahagun 5). This shows more of how he’s familiar with indigenous culture and practices and that’s how he described them. He’s not really empathizing with them, but highlighting their culture. This is also shown with the Europeans with how when he was mentioning the massacre, he merely talked about “how the Spaniards killed”(Sahagun 7). Unlike De las Casas, he doesn’t really use words to emotionally talk about the massacre like “brutal” or “violent”, even while describing graphic events. He’s viewing both groups impartially without really showing support at least based on the text. Based on this information, Sahagun seems to portray a more objective description of the events. He doesn’t show any favoritism(even if he did have one) and just provides vivid description. It’s also quite important to understand that based on the note from the “Black Legend”, it was possible that writing was intended to portray Spaniards negatively hence a stronger bias. Both De las Casas and Sahagun might have had favoritism, but Sahagun’s was harder to identify.

Part 2:

Although the Atlantic Slave Trade typically sheds a negative light on European explorers, the growing connections of the world demonstrates how it’s a mass effort affected by other individuals, demonstrated through the Europeans exchanging with leaders and the interactions between the individuals in the ship. For example, in Philipps’ “A Journal of a Voyage Made in the Hannibal of London”, after choosing slaves, “[they] agreed in what goods to pay for them, the prices being already stated before the king”(Philipps 1). This meant that the African leader was well aware of his citizens becoming slaves, but it was also an opportunity to gain goods. This shows how while there were some being forcefully taken, there were also some that were knowingly sold by a higher up figure. It’s not just the Europeans, but also African leaders making it possible. This idea is further developed when Olaudah Equiano wakes up in the ship where he notices some African people who probably helped take him on board in return for cash(Equiano 1). This means that it wasn’t only authoritative figures taking advantage of possible wealth, but anyone who had an opportunity. The Atlantic Slave Trade was a multifaceted interaction between European colonizers, African Leaders, African opportunists, and victims. There were those who benefited and those who lost, and it’s not just Europeans. What’s interesting to see is what characteristics Europeans were looking for. Based on Philipps description of the examinations, they were probably looking for strong individuals, but because of how the noblemen made them look similar, it was more difficult(Philipps 1). This meant that they were probably looking for people efficient for labor as that was their intention for this trade. However, according to Equiano, he noticed multiple Africans having countless different characteristics(Equiano 1). This could either mean they had different needs and wants, or were tricked and just bought many because of it. Either way, they seemed to have favored stronger individuals for difficult jobs, but they couldn’t achieve that goal to their utmost capability.

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