Biography of Bartolomé de las Casas (1474-1566)

Dominican priest, chronicler, theologian, Bishop of Chiapas in Mexico and champion of native Americans, considered the Apostle of the Indies, was born in Seville in 1474 and died in Madrid in 1566. His father, Pedro de las Casas, merchant by profession, was born in Tarifa and was of converso lineage; his mother, Isabel de Sosa, descended from old Christians. Bartolomé de las Casas was 19 years old when could contemplate, on March 31, 1493, return to Seville of Christopher Columbus he/she had just discovered America, "with great display of indigenous, parrots and parrot". (See Christopher Columbus, discovery of America - in voice discovery - voyages).

A few months, made preparations for the second voyage of Admiral and Bartholomew's father as one of his uncles, Peñalosa Francisco, embarked on the second expedition, poblador character, who went to America on 25 September of that year. In the meantime, Las Casas, who had started primary education at the cathedral school in the colegio de San Miguel, had a brief war experience as a soldier in Seville periculis militia, sent to fight the first uprising of Moorish Granada in 1497. Back to Sevilla reportedly acquired solid knowledge of latin in the Cathedral Academy directed by the famous Antonio de Nebrija. Returning his father from the Indies in 1499, brought it as a gift a Taíno Indian, who would remain with him until he/she was seized in the middle of 1500, by Decree of Isabel La Católica ordering return to their lands of origin to all Indians that the conquistadors had brought with them (Royal Decree of July 20, 1500). At the beginning of 1502, Bartolomé de Las Casas embarked for India with his father and his uncle, in the fleet of the new Governor Nicolás de Ovando. He/She was then 28 years old and had conducted religious studies but had not yet ordained priest. He/She was moving an ideal of Evangelical expansion, along with the thirst for adventure, desire for riches and new experiences of a restless spirit. Since arriving in Hispaniola (now Dominican Republic and Haiti) on 15 April 1502, acted as one settler, since he/she was a miner and encomendero and participated in the Suppression of the insurrection of indigenous peoples from the regions of Jaragua and the Higuey. It also had a farm on the banks of the river Janique and devoted himself to exploit the land using for their jobs to indigenous people. 1506 late returns to Seville and continues his journey to Rome, where completed his humanistic and religious preparation to receive the deacon and the subdeacon. Back to Hispaniola in 1508, Admiral Diego Colón gives an excellent inheritance with repartimiento of Indians near his court in La Concepción, where he/she began to evangelize as doctrinero. By then Las Casas had received the priesthood from the hands of the Bishop of Puerto Rico, D. Alonso Manso, and is usually to say that it was the first priest ordained in the new world. There it had heard the protests of the Dominican fray Pedro de Córdoba and Antonio de Montesinos, who denounced the mistreatment to the Indians, which led to both friars traveling to Spain to defend them, achieving his efforts to encourage review and moderation of the Ordinances of Burgos on the work of indigenous peoples, dated 26 July 1513 in Valladolid. Castellnas laws had declared the free Crown subjects Indians, although subject to guardianship, by what they had right to their personal freedom and the possession of their property. On the other hand, it is only admitted that they work for the conquerors voluntarily, in Exchange for a wage and spiritual care. This situation was not accepted by the Trustees, so the gap between law and practice would mark the conquest and colonization of the new world.(See Encomienda).

Houses went to Cuba in 1513 as a chaplain and counselor from Panfilo de Narvaez, who had undertaken together to Diego Velázquez conquest and population of the island. Houses are separated from it soon, disgusted by the torment of Hatuey Indians and the killing of Caonao. In Cuba he/she obtained a new distribution which progressed remarkably, but in 1514 the news brought by some Dominican friars who had come from the Spanish about the abuses committed by the Trustees and the bad treatment received by the indigenous people of the island raised doubts about the legitimacy of the system of encomiendas, which Indians were under the theoretical protection of the encomenderos in Exchange for a benefit at work or money. In a sermon preached the day of María Asunción, August 15, 1514, Las Casas denounced the iniquity of all these procedures and renounced what had obtained. In 1515, back to the Spanish and encouraged by fray Pedro de Córdoba, resolves to return to Spain to present in court the situation of indigenous peoples. The thesis that would defend on the peninsula and that would always keep was that Spain and the Indies were part of an indivisible unit, and that the duty and right of the Spanish colonization in the new world was the carry the light of the Gospel; Spain was an instrument of Providence to carry out this mission. In December 1515 Las Casas is Plasencia interview with Fernando the Catholic, than already very sick it referred it to responsible for Indian Affairs, Rodríguez de Fonseca and Lope Conchillos, that not granted greater attention. Following the death of the King in 1516 Las Casas found understanding for his cause in the Cardinals Cisneros and Adriano de Utrecht, future Pope Adriano VI.(See Cardinal Cisneros).

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