All the World is Human

The Debate at Valladolid took place in 1550. By that time, Cortés had conquered Mexico and Pizarro had destroyed the Incas. Despite Las Casas' technical victory at Valladolid, Charles V had allowed further violent conquest in the Americas. Half a century later, the results of their policy with forced Christianization or punishment were obvious.

The Confession, 1589

On his death-bed in Cuzco on September 18, 1589, at the age of 78, Mancio Sierra de Leguízamo addressed this remarkable testament to King Philip II:

"For the peace of my soul and before I start this will, I declare that for many years now I have desired to speak to the Catholic majesty of King Philip our lord, knowing how Catholic and most Christian he is, because I took part in the name of the Crown in the discovery, conquest and settlement of these kingdoms when we deprived those who were the lords, the Incas, who had ruled them as their own. And it should be known to His Most Catholic Majesty that we found those realms in such good order that there was not a thief or a vicious man, nor an adulteress, nor were there fallen women admitted among them, nor were they an immoral people, being content and honest in their labor. All things from the smallest to the greatest had their place and order. And that the Incas were feared obeyed and respected by their subjects as being very capable and skillful in their rule, as were their governors.

I wish your majesty to understand the motive that moves me to make this statement is the peace of my conscience and because of the guilt I share. For we have destroyed by our evil behaviour such a government as was enjoyed by these natives. They were so free of crime and greed, both men and women, that they could leave gold or silver worth a hundred thousand pesos in their open house. So that when they discovered that we were thieves and men who sought to force their wives and daughters to commit sin with them, they despised us. But now things have come to such a pass in offence of God, owing to the bad example we have set them in all things, that these natives from doing no evil have turned into people who can do no good, something which must touch your Majesty»s conscience as it does mine, as one of the first conquistadors and discoverers, and something that demands to be remedied."

I inform your Majesty that there is no more I can do to alleviate these injustices other than by my words, in which I beg God to pardon me, for I am moved to say this, seeing that I am the last to die of the conquistadors."

Amerindians Practice Cannibalism Amerindians Practicing Cannibalism
The ritual of human sacrifice in the New World remains the most extreme divergence from western ideas of civilization. Theodore de Bry and other Europeans depicted this practice in drawings and woodcuts.
Credit: Theodor de Bry, British Museum