The Carnage of Christianity: Bringing Civility To Native Peoples

Czareena Dotchev

Professor Alvarez

English 255

15 February 2012

The contradictions that exist between the teachings of Christianity and the actions of the Christians of the time of De Las Casas portray a gruesome picture that is more similar to that of an act of war than an enlightenment. We see the barbaric attacks of the bloodthirsty Christians as unjustifiable for the cause of the conversion of savages. The following passage takes a snapshot of what De Las Casas saw on the island of Hispaniola. In his account, De Las Casas writes:

And the Christians, with their horses and swords and pikes began to carry out massacres and strange cruelties against them. They attacked the towns and spared neither the children nor the aged nor pregnant women nor women in childbed, not only stabbing them and dismembering them but cutting them to pieces as if dealing with sheep in the slaughterhouse. They laid bets as to who, with one stroke of the sword, could split a man in two or could cut off his head or spill out his entrails with a single stroke of the pike. They took infants from their mothers’ breasts, snatching them by the legs and pitching them headfirst against the crags or snatched them by the arms and threw them into the rivers, roaring with laughter and saying as the babies fell into the water ” Boil there, you offspring of the devil!” (De Las Casas 18)

De Las Casas highlights the cruelty the Christians inflict on the indigenous peoples by referring to  women and children repetitively. From the perspective of a supposedly pious man the cruelties imposed upon the natives are “strange” indicating that the violence seen here is unusual. Perhaps the definition of strange can be extended to include the irony of killing people in a manner used to slaughter sheep. It is peculiar that De Las Casas makes the comparison to sheep because this further supports his religiosity by comparing the ravage of a group of people with the symbolism of sheep that implies a religious undertone.  This passage suggests that Christianizing was not the main concern of those involved in butchery of men, women, children of all ages.  The Christians “spared neither the children nor the aged nor pregnant women nor women in childbed”, which suggests that the carnage was not merely the side effects of war but a destructive pillage without respect to the lives of the natives.  The contradiction is highlighted when the natives are crudely referred to as men by the Christians. Bets were placed on  who “could split a man in two”  but then later those same “people” were capable of producing children who were “offspring of the devil”.  This passage shows how Christianity was used as a blatant excuse for Christians to exert power over inferior natives.

Works Cited

De Las Casas, Fray Bartolome. “From the Devastation of the Indies: A Brief Account.” Trans. Herma Briffault. The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature. By Ilan Stavans. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2011. Print.

 

 

Czareena Dotchev

Professor Alvarez

English 255

15 February 2012

History is an active part of reality. The events that shaped the past can be so monumental that they continue to affect the generations that descend from the original historical event. The Mission is a juxtaposition of the past within the present and shows how history can literally come to life when in literature. Father Junipero Sera is one example of how a character from the past influenced and continues to influence Latinos and how they are positioned in the world. In the Mission Father Serra says:

I took away their pagan dances and gave them true culture! La opera, el ballet, los Gipsy Kings! I took away their primitive tongue and taught them Espanol, and you better speak spanish now my little ones before English becomes the official language! I took away their religion; now they fear God! And with a little help from the whip , the gun and the cross…they respect me, despite my lisp. ( Culture Clash 2441)

The subjectivity of what “true culture” encourages the idea that one culture must possess superiority over another. When Serra describes the native language as a “primitive tongue” exposes Father Serra’s ego. Ironically it also portrays him as an inferior, insecure man with a complex relationship with his method of speech or his “lisp.”  The insecurities are supported by the need for weapons that overpower indigenous people into submission. What is referred to as “respect” is merely a fear that is derived from helplessness to go against floggings and shootings. The connections to the present day show that the character of Father Serra feels satisfaction with the historical turn of events and his involvement in shaping the course of society in the present world.

 

Works Cited

Clash, Culture. The MissionThe Norton Anthology of Latino Literature. By Ilan Stavans. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2011. Print.

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