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The Role of Religion in Contributing to Animosity Between Spaniards and Indians in the 1540s

1. Introduction

The contribution of religion to the animosity that subsisted between the Spaniards and the Indians in the 1540s was massive. The Spaniards were mostly Catholics led by a Catholic King while the Indians were Christians who upheld strict religious practices. It has been severally argued that the religious practices built the values of the Indians and increased their vulnerability to slavery. The religious differences between these to groups led to unfairness in the slavery market. This, in turn, led to a lot of mistreatment of Indian slaves and it too led to war between the Spaniards and the Indians.

2. Religion in del Castillo’s “The True History of the Conquest of New Spain”

In his book, “The True History of the Conquest of New Spain”, Bernal Diaz del Castillo vividly describes how Cortes and his men burned down temples which held great value to the Mexicans. He writes about how Montezuma II tried to stop them from such destruction but Cortes continued nonetheless (Diaz del Castillo 19). According to Diaz, it was only after all the temples in Mexico were destroyed that Cortes felt he had conquered Mexico (Diaz del Castillo 19). This event is significant because it best portrays how little value Spaniards placed on religions other than their own.

Diaz goes ahead to describe an instance where some soldiers stole idols from a temple, something which got them into a lot of trouble with their commanders (Diaz del Castillo 20). This again goes ahead to show how much contempt the Spaniards had for religious practices that weren’t their own. It is also evident that they viewed such practices as barbaric and primitive. Consequently, they sought to destroy them so as to ‘civilize’ and ‘Christianize’ the natives.

3. Religion in de las Casas’s “A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies”

De las Casas’s “A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies” is an important piece when discussing how religion contributed to animosity between Spaniards and Indians in 1540s Hispaniola. In his book, De las Casas details how Spaniards would force Indians into Christianity by any means necessary even if it meant burning them at stake or beheading them (De las Casas 43). He further argues that such forceful conversions only increased hostilities between both groups (De las Casas 43).

De las Casas’s account is significant because it brings out how little effort was placed in trying to understand Indian cultures before ‘civilizing’ them through Christianity. Forcing them into a religion they didn’t understand only resulted in more hatred and resentment towards Spanish colonizers who were perceived as nothing more but tyrants out to destroy their way of life. Consequently, this only made matters worse since it resulted in more violence on both sides.

4. Conclusion

In conclusion, religion played a very big role in contributing to animosity between Spaniards and Indians during 1540s Hispaniola. The Spaniards sought to destroy Indian religions and sacred sites while also forcing them into Christianity through violent means. Such actions only resulted in more hostility and resentment from Indians who then took out their anger on Spanish colonizers leading to more violence.

FAQ

Bartolomé de las Casas' book, A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies, is a much more detailed and personal account than Bernal Díaz del Castillo's The True History of the Conquest of New Spain. De las Casas was an eye-witness to many of the events he describes, while Díaz del Castillo was not.

Both authors depict religion in their respective books as being very important to the people of colonial Mexico. However, de las Casas is much more critical of the Catholic Church than Díaz del Castillo is.

De las Casas offers a negative view of religion, while Díaz del Castillo offers a positive view.

De las Casas' book had a much greater impact on colonial Mexico than Díaz del Castillo's did because it was much more critical of the Catholic Church and its role in the conquest and colonization of America.

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