Many know who Christopher Columbus was and what he did. I heard a saying a while back that said, “Christopher Columbus was awful. He discovered the New World much like a meteorite discovered the dinosaurs.” (Unknown) Many, including myself believe that we should not be celebrating Christopher Columbus, but we should instead, celebrate Bartolome de las Casas.
I say this with good reason, if you read, “Bartholomew de las Casas: His Life, His Apostolate, and His Writings” you’ll quickly learn that he was a great humanitarian. He studied human rights in his daily encounters with the people of Central and South America during the sixteenth century. During the European invasion of the Americas. He used his office as Dominican friar and later Bishop to uphold the human rights of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.
“So as not to keep criminal silence concerning the ruin of numberless souls and bodies that these persons cause, I have decided to print some, though very few, of the innumerable instances I have collected in the past and can relate with truth, in order that Your Highness may read them ….” (319) What Las Casas did is what human rights workers have done ever since: they collected evidence of human rights abuses and drew them to the attention of those in authority so as to bring these terrible atrocities to an end.
He is quite literally a record of what is the beginning of an apocalypse that devastated entire civilizations, engulfed cities, towns and villages of the Americas. Horrifically, that colonial process by which the Europeans subjugated most of the world for nearly 400 years, Las Casas demonstrated his moral compass and showed his attempt to draw attention to these horrific atrocities.
De las Casas underwent a radical transformation in his life. After witnessing the violent atrocities committed against the Natives, he gave up his land, freed his slaves, became a priest, and spent the rest of his life fighting the brutal colonization of the New World. The only way he could make peace with the horrors that he witnessed was to try and help as many people as possible. His stand against the cruelty and imperialism of the Spanish Crown eventually earned him the moniker, “Defender of the Indians.” De las Casas spent the next 50 years fighting for the equal rights of the indigenous people of both Central and South America.
With Columbus Day coming up, I felt like this was the perfect topic to talk about because I really do not believe that we should not be celebrating him, but we should celebrate Bartolome de las Casas. The reason for this is when I think about Bartolome de las Casas, putting into consideration what he did and the person he was I really do think that other people should be celebrating him as well. Christopher Columbus left his home and found a new world. Bartolome de las Casas left his home and found his humanity.