Bartolome de las Casas once stated that “Upon this herd gentle sheep, Spaniards descended starving like wolves, tigers and even lions.” Las Casas believed Natives weren’t deserving to be subjected the torment, persecution, and torture they received. Why did the conquistadors think otherwise? Seeking gold to make it easy and quickly. This is a way to increase your social status and spread the doctrine. Spanish settlers brought many traditions and customs to Brazil from Spain when they arrived. The Encomienda, a New Spain custom, was created with the intention of caring for and providing for Native Americans. However, it quickly became one of the most destructive and abusive systems in New Spain.
An encomienda was a gift to a Spaniard. It meant that the encomendero received a piece of land and property rights for a specific Native population. An encomendero would have more than fifty natives included in his encomienda. They would then need to teach one the concepts of Christianity and writing. The Law of Burgos would require this native boy to continue teaching the principles to the natives. Spain and Portugal were a part of Europe and believed that teaching religion was the right thing. Some made risky journeys around the world to spread the gospel of Christ. Las Casas recalls that the Spaniards made Indians slaves and made their work more difficult than they could bear. Some died, while others were left to die. ” The conquistadors came to the island with nothing but the Tupi as their first target. They were even willing to trade with them. The King from Portugal became afraid of the French ships that appeared off Brazil’s coast, until one day. He sent more Portuguese settlers into Brazil to secure his claim on the island. The Portuguese were now in possession of the land they wanted. For the Portuguese, clearing out forest and native land was the only way to settle land. Sugarcane, a crop grown in plantations, was one of those crops that eventually replaced the land. Spanish and Portuguese began enslaving natives and attacking them for manual labor, which was contrary to their success views. Tupi’s were the first to be enslaved to free labor and take their land. This was in stark contrast to their semi-sedentary life style. Chasteen points this out: “Extracting land, labor, and other resources from semi-sedentary forest dwellers was a complete destruction of their society, and they died as a result. The Portuguese enslaved another group, the Tupinambas. This was due to contagion that ran through sugar plantations close by. Francisco Cervantes de Salazar says, “There is no nation more barbarous or so full of flaws than there are some intelligent and virtuous men within it.” The Spanish didn’t just want to Christianize Natives.
Spanish believed that Native Americans weren’t sufficiently educated and too wild to live the Christian lifestyle. The Spanish encomienda system was based on this ethnocentric view. Spanish encomenderos provided education and clothes for Natives. Encomenderos were to pay Natives for their labor and provide them with the necessities of life. Encomenderos asked slaves to pay them tribute as they had previously cared for Natives. The encomenderos didn’t have to visit the encomiendas just for the sake of reducing abuse. Instead, Natives were to pay tribute to the Encomenderos by taking long, strenuous walks.
The Spaniards would often take more than they needed in order to survive, unlike the Natives, who only needed what was necessary. This shows the Spaniards’ greed and how they are willing to work for others to get ahead. Spanish colonists wanted wealth but didn’t want the work required to achieve it. Natives were made to work hard all day, every night. The encomenderos abused them and eventually caused a decline of their population. Many natives died from starvation to satisfy their work quotas. Others would also fail to complete the work requirements and were punished by the Encomenderos. The Spanish Crown finally decided enough was enough, and in the mid-1700s ordered that the colonists from overseas not abuse Native American early Americans. In the meantime, there had been an 18 million Native fatalities due to abuse, leading a huge decline in Natives.
Under the guise Christianity, the Encomienda system allowed overworked Natives to die in fields and mines.