The Destruction of the Indigenous Peoples of Hispano America: A Genocidal Encounter

The Destruction of the Indigenous Peoples of Hispano America: A Genocidal Encounter

by Eitan Ginzberg


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It was not the original intention of the Spanish to harm the Hispanic-American natives. The Spanish Crown, Councils and Church considered the natives free and intelligent vassals entitled to be embraced by Christianity and by the Hispanic civil culture. However, it was the same monarchy's decision to exploit the natives as taxpayers and as a reservoir of forced labor that made its rule in America exceptionally destructive. The recruitment of the natives to serve the interests of the Spanish Empire under what can only be considered near to slave conditions, compounded by systematic annihilation of their cultures and by cyclical epidemics, led to the near total eradication of the Indians. Based upon primary sources and current research on the relationship between colonialism and genocide, this book examines whether the Spanish actions were genocidal.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781845199210
Publisher: Sussex Academic Press
Publication date: 02/01/2019
Edition description: None
Pages: 400
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Eitan Ginzberg is the author of two books and serves as a researcher at the Sverdlin Institute of Latin American History and Culture at the University of Tel Aviv. His research focuses on questions of infra-political resistance, history and culture of Latin America, and the study of genocide.

Table of Contents


Genocide and the Hispanic American dilemma
The concept of genocide and its referential limitations
The Limited Approach to the question of genocide
Genocide as a twentieth-century phenomenon
The Jewish Holocaust: a unique genocidal phenomenon?
Should cultural extermination be viewed as genocide?
The question of intent
Settler colonialism as piecemeal genocide?
The extended approach to the question of genocide
Is genocide without intent possible?
Genocide as a universal phenomenon
Genocide as an extermination of culture
Genocide as a colonial condition: Lemkin’s observation
The Hispanic American dilemma according to Lemkin
Focus and aims of this study
Historical sources

Chapter 1 America and the Native Americans: on the Eve of a Tragic Encounter
The population of America on the eve of the conquest
Cultural background
Origins of the Central and South American cultures
Creating existential frameworks for daily life
The dimension of time
Material culture and social life
Spiritual life and ritual
Writing and literature
Political structure and imperial territory on the eve of the conquest
Human sacrifice and cannibalism
From discovery to concealment

Chapter 2 Spaniards and Indianos at the Onset of the Conquest
Emergence of the Spaniard as a “frontier man”
The consolidation of Spain
Spanish momentum and expanding horizons

Chapter 3 The Discovery and Conquest of America
The discovery and exploration of the New World
The conquest of Mexico
The conquest of Peru
Factors that contributed to the Spanish victory

Chapter 4 The Conquest: A Strategy of Cruelty and Destruction
Dynamics of mass killings
“Pacification”: The horrors of an expanding conquest
The Chichimeca Affair
Devastation of infrastructure
Violence as logic of conquest
Cultural destruction

Chapter 5 Institutions of Subjugation and Acculturation
The Encomienda
The repartiemento (allocation) system
The repartimiento on trial: The Third Provincial Council of the Mexican Church (1585)
Background, framework, and agenda
Pedro de Pravia’s response
The Franciscan position
Ortíz de Hinojosa’s standpoint
Life under the repartimiento system
Debt bondage
The head tax (tributo)
Indian resettlement and destruction of regions of memory

Chapter 6 Debating the Appropriate Treatment of Native Americans (1511–1539)
The groundbreaking sermons of Antonio de Montesinos (1511)
The Council of Burgos (1512)
The Requerimiento
The Valladolid Conference of November 1526
In the name of the humanity and wisdom of the Indians: the Papal Bull of Paul III
Francisco de Vitoria and the justification of the Spanish rule in America (1534–1539)
Proposal for a new legal order
The conceptual framework
The Indis and the false claims on America
De Indis and the seemingly legal Spanish claims to America
De iure belli: Was the war against the Indians a just one?

Chapter 7 Debating the Appropriate Treatment of Native Americans (1542–1585)
The new laws of 1542
The idea of restitution (1547)
The debate: Bartolomé de Las Casas versus Juan Gines de Sepúlveda (1550–1551)
The Codex of 1573
The Third Provincial Council of the Mexican Church (1585)

Chapter 8 Unintended Calamity or a Genocidal Encounter? What did actually happen in Sixteenth-Century Hispano-America?
The Inevitability of the Spanish Colonization
The Logics of Spanish colonialism and its consequences
The Debate about the plagues and their causes
Unintended calamity or a genocidal encounter?
Denying responsibility
From denial of responsibility to denial of the Indian

Epilogue: Lessons about Genocide and the Destruction of Culture
The policy of Indian rehabilitation and its critics
The emergence of Spanish American Indianism
Lessons to be drawn from the extermination of the Indians

Glossary of Terms
Vocabulary List

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