Christopher Columbus & Bartoleme de Las Casas

Christopher Columbus managed to sail all the way from Europe to America. As an ethnographer, Columbus was very much interested in learning how the people in the lands he had discovered lived. Christopher Columbus’ regard to the natives of the Indies as timid and primitive contributed to his belief that the land was supposed to be conquered by Spain.

As an ethnographer, the ability of Columbus to mingle with the natives gave him the chance to learn about them. In Indies, he took natives by force so that they might learn and give him information about that land (Lualdi, Katharine J, pg. 52). Columbus was good at understanding the people’s abilities and capabilities. For instance, he notes that the people had much love for the foreigners and very generous as they gave him numerous gifts. Columbus also noted that there was no diversity of language and appearance among the people from all the islands. Furthermore, while looking for affection from these people and due to his of interests of receiving expensive gifts from these people, he gave them inexpensive gifts which the natives treasured so much. He also gave them presents so that they could accept Christianity which he aimed to spread (Columbus, Christopher, and Richard Henry Major).

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From the letter, we can learn that being interested in discovering a shorter route to Asia by sailing west to get east, Columbus managed to discover America. From the letter, it’s evident that Columbus was very much interested in sailing and discovering new lands. Columbus had motives on conquering of the lands he had discovered. He explained the lands had fertile many rivers, lofty mountains, fertile soils and big trees and different types of palms. Further he adds that the lands were cultivatable, had honey, birds and mines of metals in the interior (Lualdi, Katharine J, pg. 51). Due to his motives in the colonization of those lands, Columbus built a fort and left men with artillery and provisions that could for a year. This would be used as the base for controlling those new lands. In the letter, Columbus is determined to convince the king that his mission was very fruitful as he had been able to discover very productive new land that if colonized could bring a lot of wealth to the kingdom. The act of Columbus giving inexpensive gifts and expecting treasures whose worth was much more presents him as a person who was interested in material gain from the new lands (Say, Jeremiah).

Bartolome de Las Casas was a voice of freedom for the indigenous in the Spanish America. He condemned the barbaric acts of the Spanish army in the new lands and claimed that such acts were contrary to the doctrine of the Most High and the teaching of the Catholic Church. Despite his vigorous defense of the native people, however Las Casas’ prejudices and assumptions much like Columbus’ assumptions and biases. Las Casas’ belief that God had delivered the New World to Spain as a reward (Lualdi, Katharine J, pg. 22)could be termed as a sort of encouragement to the throne to continue waging war on the natives and taking up their properties. Las Casas believed that God had led Spain to the New World, but believed it was because of a quite a different reason. His believe that his people from Spain were more superior show the bias that he had from these people. Having slaves in his farm also showed the low esteem which he held on the indigenous tribes. Just as Columbus had referred to the natives as timid people, De Las Casas, terming the indigenous people as “noble savages” also showed the prejudice that he had on these native people. Such statement encouraged the conquest of these people because (Forman, Shepard, and Elias Sevilla-Casas).


Works Cited

Columbus, Christopher, and Richard Henry Major. Select Letters Of Christopher Columbus. Surrey [England], Ashgate, 2010.

Forman, Shepard, and Elias Sevilla-Casas. “Western Expansion and Indigenous Peoples: The Heritage of Las Casas..” The Hispanic American Historical Review, vol 60, no. 3, 1980, p. 536. JSTOR, doi:10.2307/2513318.

Lualdi, Katharine J. Sources of the Making of the West. Boston, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2012,.

Say, Jeremiah. “3 Important Life Lessons We Can All Learn From Christopher Columbus The Explorer – Serving Joy – Inspire Through Sharing.” Serving Joy – inspire through Sharing, 2014,