Wednesday, August 09, 2017

The Requirement

Image result for the gold eaters by ronald wright

Alright, back from a grandparenting foray. Such fun, and then we get to return home! I did manage to finish a novel while away, Ronald Wright's The Gold Eaters. Wright is a historian whose Stolen Continents was an excellent and sobering examination of the European first contact and incursion into the Americas. The Gold Eaters is a fictional story of the Spanish conquest of Peru in the 16th century, although Wright is meticulous about his historical accuracy.

The story develops around an Incan teen, Waman, who is captured by the Spaniards and becomes the bridge between the sophisticated Incan culture and the "barbarian" interlopers. If it weren't for the catastrophe of smallpox, for which the Incans had no natural immunity, it's unlikely that the relatively small number of Spaniards would have prevailed.

I was interested to learn about "The Requirement," a declaration by the Spanish monarch which allowed Spanish explorers to subjugate, exploit, and to fight indigenous inhabitants, all by divinely ordained right. Priest accompanied the Spanish forces, essentially brigands, as part of this diabolical justification of conquest. Those who resisted The Requirement were considered to be defying God's plan, thereby justifying horrendous acts of violence and duplicity. Here is a chilling excerpt:

Wherefore, as best we can, we ask and require you that you consider what we have said to you, and that you take the time that shall be necessary to understand and deliberate upon it, and that you acknowledge the Church as the Ruler and Superior of the whole world, and the high priest called Pope, and in his name the King and Queen Doña Juana our lords, in his place, as superiors and lords and kings of these islands and this Tierra-firme by virtue of the said donation, and that you consent and give place that these religious fathers should declare and preach to you the aforesaid.If you do so, you will do well, and that which you are obliged to do to their Highnesses, and we in their name shall receive you in all love and charity, and shall leave you, your wives, and your children, and your lands, free without servitude, that you may do with them and with yourselves freely that which you like and think best, and they shall not compel you to turn Christians, unless you yourselves, when informed of the truth, should wish to be converted to our Holy Catholic Faith as almost all the inhabitants of the rest of the islands have done.

And, besides this, their Highnesses award you many privileges and exemptions and will grant you many benefits.But, if you do not do this, and maliciously make delay in it, I certify to you that, with the help of God, we shall powerfully enter into your country, and shall make war against you in all ways and manners that we can, and shall subject you to the yoke and obedience of the Church and of their Highnesses; we shall take you and your wives and your children, and shall make slaves of them, and as such shall sell and dispose of them as their Highnesses may command; and we shall take away your goods, and shall do you all the mischief and damage that we can, as to vassals who do not obey, and refuse to receive their lord, and resist and contradict him; and we protest that the deaths and losses which shall accrue from this are your fault, and not that of their Highnesses

The novel is very readable, and one more reminder of how Christianity has been coopted through the centuries by rulers and governments for the purposed of empire building and greed.


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