Bartolomé de Las Casas
as seen by Ignacio Anzoátegui
Taken from: info-caotica.blogspot.com/2012/.../las-casas-visto-por-anzoategui.html
Translated from the Spanish by Roberto Hope
On occasion of the homage to Argentine writer Ignacio B. Anzoátegui, we offer our readers a fragment of his authorship.
Whether Columbus was an Italian or a Spaniard is of no interest, nor whether his name was Columbus or Pinzón, because, anyway, the Discovery of America was made by Spain. And for Spain. It was not due, by the way, to the much talked-about genius of the allegedly Genoan navigator (“for the execution of the enterprise of the Indies, neither reason nor mathematics nor world maps, were profitable to me”), but the Spanish generosity, which compelled God — “noblesse oblige”, as the saying goes — to grant Spain the glory and the responsibility for the Discovery. God has His own logic, which at times scandalizes the proprietors of logics. But it cannot be denied that God's logic is terribly logic. He can arouse in the highest or in the most insignificant of beings — a Spaniard or a Jewish Genoan — the most glorious of enterprises — to make him serve as an instrument of His designs; but in the economy of each of those designs, the need for that instrument to serve a Divinely transcendental end is logically implicit.
Because it is indubitable that, for God — no matter how much the liberals of all creeds may frown upon — the ends justify the means: from the great light which threw Saul down from his horse to the dark thirst which drives this or that conquistador to the golden conquest. This or that conquistador I have said because the Conquest of America was not a commercial enterprise even when certain merchants, indisputably heroic, may have taken part in it, used by God so that they would also serve in the chivalrous adventure.
The Conquest was to be made by heroes which would open the way to the saints, even though this or that hero may have thought more about his worldly profit than about his heavenly profit. The means always believes he is the end; our immediate objectives always concern us more than our ultimate end. Thrust to the hazards of the sea, disembarked upon the hazards of the land, the adventurer had to wage the first struggle in his campaign, which was that of his own self against his own self: that of the self which impelled him to give up, against the self which impelled him to triumph; that of the self which dreamed of Heaven, against the self which dreamed of El Dorado; that of the self which aspired to eternal youth, against the self which aspired to the fountain of Juvencia. And always, inevitably, in the realm of the perishable as in that of the imperishable; demanded and raised by the same wind of sacrifice and of commitment of his own personality, always the same landscape of heroism which encourages all our virtues as well as all our iniquities. It is difficult to be great but much more difficult to quit being so. This is why the conquistador is great even when he may be iniquitous, but he also finds it easy to be iniquitous.
This does not mean that the conquistador was necessarily iniquitous. It only means that the minor pamphleteer who went by the name of Bartolomé de las Casas was incapable of understanding said greatness; if he did have the vocation of a proselytizer he did not have that of a missionary, because to be a missionary it is necessary to possess that acute political and religious sense which compels a man to know not only the subject upon which his apostolate should fall but also know the instruments with which he has to carry it out. Las Casas understood the Indians but did not know the conquistadors. He knew that the Indian was a physically, morally and intellectually inferior being as compared with the European and that for this reason, he deserved to be treated in a compassionate manner. But he failed to understand that the European also deserved a humanitarian treatment. And Bartolomé de las Casas, full of compassion towards the Indian, was full of inhumanity towards the conquistador. Full of inhumanity towards the religion he had solemnly vowed to serve, and which at that time played one of the most audacious offensives in its history, and in Europe it defended itself against one of the most prestigious counteroffensives, as was the Protestant Reformation.
Las Casas, a demagogue of the Rights of the Indians, forgets the rights of man to be pardoned. And in defending the former, puts the latter at risk. He is the Hispanic American Calvin who, in protesting so much, sounds like a Protestant. And by protesting, serves Protestantism.
He had erected himself with the charge of Apostle of the Indians, without considering the consequences of his attitude. The stick of virtue flourished in his hands, but it was a shopkeeper's stick for Justice, made to “give each man what is his” as long as that man is one of his. Because it must be remembered that the fanatic Apostle was the negation of the ecumenic, and to save the American Indian from an alleged slavery, he propitiated the importing of African slaves. The liberator turned into a slave driver; the evangelic friar into a vulgar pro-Indian maniac.
Meanwhile, Spain suffered the consequences of its own grandeur. Barely recovered from Mohammed's tyranny, it raised to fight against the tyranny of Luther, who threatened Christendom. And, beset by Turks and Protestants, Spain dared to attempt the conquest of an unknown continent, of a continent monstrously burdened with human sacrifices, which she was to serve, in a pure sacrifice, as the Gospel bearer, ending up with the Sacrifice par excellence.
Against this Spain wrote and lied one of her sons who, in addition, was a priest of the Crucified: Bartolomé de las Casas, bishop of the Indians, honorary reporter of the liberals of that time and patron saint of the enemies of the missionary Spain. Conscious or ignorant of his historic responsibility — I don´t know; but God knows —, Las Casas, with his pamphlet, served the anti-Spanish black legend, carefully organized by the Protestant enemies, to nullify Spain's anti-Protestant action in Europe — especially in Flanders, the hub of the religious neuralgia.
Undoubtedly, it is sad to be a traitor; but it must be still much sadder to be a traitor without being one.
From the Limbo of the clowns, the Bishop of Chiapas must, without doubt, yearn for the opportunity given to him not to be a clown. And he will yearn for it especially having to suffer the company of so many blabbering clowns as have been born from him in America and who have thrived from his teachings.