Las Casas Destruction of the Indies

On the Two Islands of San Juan and Jamaica

The Spaniards passed on to the Island of San Juan and the Island of Jamaica,  which were gardens of fruits and foodstuffs and hives of bees and honey, in the year 1509, for the same purpose and end with which they had entered into Hispaniola. And they committed the great offences and sins set forth above, and added many more singular and terrible cruelties besides, slaying and burning the Indians and laying them upon those aforesaid gridirons made of twigs and tree branches to roast them and setting loose savage dogs, and afterward oppressing and torturing and ill-treating them in the mines and other labours, until they had consumed and worn away all those poor innocents and slain them. On those two aforesaid islands there had once been above six hundred thousand souls, and I believe above a million, and yet today there are no more than two hundred persons on each, all having perished without faith and without sacraments.

On the Island of Cuba

In the year 1511, the Spaniards passed on to the island of Cuba,39 which, as I have said, is as long as from Valladolid to Rome (and where there were once great provinces of people), and they began and ended in the manners spoken of above and many more, and more cruelly.  Here there occurred most singular and abominable things.

There was a high cacique and lord, whose name was Hatuey, who had gone from the island of Hispaniola to Cuba with many of his people, fleeing the calamities and inhumane deeds of the Christians, and being at that time on that island of Cuba, and wishing to give certain news to the Indians there that the Christians would be coming on to that island, he gathered together many or all of his people, and he spoke to them thus: “You know that it is said that the Christians are soon to be coming here, and you have experience of what has happened to lords so-and-so and so-and-so and so-and-so; and how those Christians have used those nations of Haití (which is Hispaniola), and they are now coming here. And do you know perchance why they do this?” And they replied: “No, save that they are by their nature cruel and evil.” And he says: “They do it not for that reason alone, but rather because they have a god that they worship and love much, and to make us love him they work to subjugate us and slay us.”

He had a small basket nigh beside him, filled with gold and gems, and he said: “You see here the god of the Christians: let us do, if you think it right, areytos (which are their dances) to him, and perhaps we can please him and he shall command them not to do us harm.” And all the Indians there shouted out to him: “That is good, that is good.” And they danced before him until they had all wearied, and afterward the lord Hatuey said: “Look, even so, if we keep him, to get him from us they shall surely slay us; let us throw him into this river.” And all vowed to do that, and so they threw the basket into the river, a large river that was thereby.

This cacique and lord was constantly fleeing from the Christians,
from the moment they came to that island of Cuba, being one who
knew them well, and he would defend himself when he came upon
them, but at last they captured him. And for no reason but that he fled
such iniquitous and cruel people, and defended himself from those
who wished to slay him and oppress him until the death of him and all
his people and the succeeding generations, they burned him alive. And
when he was bound to the stake, a friar of the order of Saint Francis, a
holy father who was thereby, spoke some things to him concerning God
and our faith, which he had never heard before—or as much as what
that friar was able in the short time that the executioners gave him—
and the friar asked if the lord wished to believe those things that he told
him, for if he did he would go to the sky (that is, heaven), where there
was glory and eternal rest, but if not, he would certainly go to hell and
suffer perpetual torments and sufferings. And thinking a while, the lord
asked the holy father whether Christians went to the sky. The priest
replied that they did, but only those who were good. And the cacique
then said without thinking on it any more, that he did not desire to go to
the sky, but rather down to hell, so that he would not be where they
were and would not see such cruel people. And this is the fame and honour that God and our faith have won by the work of those Christians who have gone out to the Indies.

Once, some Indians were coming out to us to receive us with victuals
and gifts ten leagues from a great village, and when we came to them we
were given a great quantity of fish and bread and food and all else that
they were able. But suddenly the devil came upon the Christians, and
in my presence they took out their knives (with no reason or cause that
might be alleged in justification) and slew above three thousand souls
who were sitting there before us, men and women and children. And
there I saw such great cruelties that no living man had never seen the
like of them before, or thought to see.

Another time, a few days thence, I sent messengers to all the lords of
the province of La Habana, assuring them not to fear (for they had
heard of me to my credit), telling them not to absent themselves but to
come out to receive us, that no harm whatsoever would be done them
(for the entire land was stricken with horror at the slaughters that had been done), and this I did with the consent of the captain. And when we
arrived at the province, they did come out to receive us, some twentyone
lords and caciques, and afterward the captain, in breach of the assurances
that I had given them, took hold of them and desired the next
day to burn them alive, saying that it was right, because those lords must
at some time have committed some act to merit it. And it was most difficult for me to save them from the pyre, but at last they did escape it.
After all the Indians of this island were cast into the same servitude
and calamity as those of Hispaniola, seeing all of themselves and their
people die and perish without any help for it, some began to flee into
the wilderness, others to hang themselves in desperation and lack of
hope, and husbands and wives to hang themselves together, and with
them, hang their children. And because of the cruelties of one most
tyrannous Spaniard (whom I met), above two hundred Indians hanged
themselves. An infinite number died in this manner.

There was an officer of the king upon this island who was given as
repartimiento three hundred Indians, and at the end of three months
two hundred and sixty of them had died in the labours of the mines, so
that no more than thirty remained, which was the tenth part of them.
After that, he was given as many more again, or more even than that,
and he also slew these, and he would be given more, and slay more,
until at last he died and the devil had his soul.
In the three or four months that I abode there, above seven thousand
children starved to death, because their fathers and mothers had been
carried off to the mines. And many other such heinous things of that
kind did I see.
After that, they resolved to go out and search for the Indians who had
fled into the wilderness and the mountains, and there they wrought terrible havoc and devastation, and so thoroughly laid waste to all that island and left it unhabited, as we ourselves saw not long ago, that it is a
great shame and pity to see it bare and waste and rendered a very desert
of solitude.

On Terra Firma

 In the year 1514 a wretched governor came to Terra Firma, a most exceedingly harsh and cruel tyrant, of no pity nor even prudence, like unto an instrument of divine wrath, very much on purpose to inhabithat land with many Spaniard men. And although divers tyrants had gone to Terra Firma and robbed and slain and left many people outraged, it had been along the sea-coast, raiding and pillaging what they could. But this one exceeded all the others who had gone before him, and those of all the islands, and his most execrable and evil deeds exceeded all the abominations of the past; and he did not depopulate and slay only along the sea-coast, but also in great lands and kingdoms, casting great numbers of peoples and entire nations that lived within them into the fires of hell.  He slew the inhabitants from many leagues above Darién to the kingdom and provinces of Nicaragua, and Nicaragua itself with them, which is above five hundred leagues, and the best and most fertile and populous land that it is believed ever to have been seen upon the earth, where there were many great lords, infinite numbers of large settlements, and exceedingly great treasures of gold. Indeed, until that time in no place had there appeared upon the surface of the ground so much gold, because Spain had been filled almost to overflowing with the gold of Hispaniola, of finer quality, but it had been taken by the Indians out of the entrails of the earth, from those mines that we have spoken of, where, as we have said, they died.