Bartolome de Las Casas Bartolome de Las Casas (1474-1566) was a Spanish Dominican bishop of Chiapas in Mexico. Known as the “Apostle to the Indians” he was the fiercest and best-known activist of the rights of the American Indians in the sixteenth century. Las Casas was a prolific writer of histories, political and theological treatises, ethnographies and innumerable pamphlets.
Bartolome de Las Casas In 1511 a Spanish Dominican named Antonio de Montesinos gave a sermon before Spanish dignitaries and Bartolome de Las Casas which sparked a debate over the rights of conquerors. He questioned the Spaniard’s cruel treatment of the Indians with three questions. “Are these not men? Do they not have rational souls? Are you not obliged to love them as yourselves?” Following Montesino’s speech, Las Casas became a changed man and dedicated himself to tell the world that the American Indians were human and were true subjects of the Castilian crown.
Bartolome de Las Casas Today Las Casas is best remembered for two things; his chronicle of horrors against the Indians in A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies and his debate with Gines de Sepulveda. In 1544 Sepulveda had written a dialogue justifying the wars waged against the Indians against the Spaniards but the work was turned down by the theologians. Sepulveda was furious and demanded a debate before the Council of the Indies to plead his case for his book to be published. They both presented their case before judges in Valladolid but the outcome was inconclusive. Sepulveda’s book was not published until the nineteenth century which was later understood as a victory for Las Casas who later became a symbol of the fight against the injustices of colonialism.