Last Updated 13 Oct 2022

Juan De Sepulveda Belittes the Indians

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Juan Sepulveda was a man who strongly felt he could define a person or group as “civilized or “barbarians.” Sepulveda’s purpose in his article/primary source analysis was mainly to inform the Spanish about the Native Americans “barbaric” society and how could either try and convert them to Christianity or destroy them. His audience is mainly the Spanish royalty, and also the Christian community. Sepulveda explains what the government and activity of the Natives are like, and degrades who they are so his audience could have a feeling whether they should be enslaved or converted.

During Sepulveda’s article/primary source, he mentions how he saw the government with “… [No] written laws, but barbarian institutions and customs … what temperance or mercy can you expect from men who are committed to all types of intemperance and base frivolity, and eat human flesh? (lines 17-20).” So far Sepulveda has had nothing positive to say about the Natives, and feels that they are far from civilized. Personally, this doesn’t seem too barbarous because everyone has a custom to something Sepulveda writes in a way that persuades that the natives are basically cavemen who know no better, compared to the Spanish norms.

Although he is not lying since the natives eat human flesh, which would be barbarous, but its only safe to say that the natives are far from modern day society and the roles. Another piece of evidence that Sepulveda shares is that the natives would “wage continual and ferocious war upon one another with such fierceness that they did not consider a victory worthwhile unless they sated their monstrous hunger with the flesh of their enemies. (lines 22-24).” This time he proves a point that they would be barbarous, stating that the only reason Natives fight other Natives would be for food. As true as this may be, Sepulveda fails to tell the whole story.

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Indians would not fight daily for the flesh of other humans, or else they would be extinct. And hidden to Sepulveda mind, he didn’t think about the diversity of the Natives and their different groups, so it becomes more clear that his Goal is to make them seem like savages so the Spanish would feel more bias on enslaving them rather than them being converted first. On one positive note, it is clear Sepulveda wanted to say something positive about the Natives, saying “… Although some of them show a certain ingenuity for various works of artisanship, this is no proof of human cleverness. (lines 28-29).”

If all Sepulveda has been saying was negative things, and have one positive note, then it must have really caught is attention that the Natives have a thing for artisanship. This may be a key point in Sepulveda’s persuasion to converting the Natives to slavery. To say they are crafty would show that they are of use to something. This sentence he writes can be easily summarized that they have a talent, but the Spaniards will always be the superior to the Natives, as said in line 33, “ [New Spain] … are considered the most civilized of all.” To break down my analysis of Sepulveda’s article would be easily described in lines 57 and 58 that the “[Natives] have stated quite clearly that they have been born into slavery and not to civic and liberal life.”

All that Sepulveda wants is a group of slaves that would later be converted to Christianity for the use and the good of the Spanish goals. It was clear s day Sepulveda wanted to make the Natives look bad (and good enough) to make the Spanish ruler feel they would come good use to slavery. Broken down into a nutshell, if the Indians look useless enough, but they have “artisanship,” then what better place to be than slaves. And the goals of the Spaniards are to spread their Christianity, so why not make them Christians as well.

Juan De Sepulveda Belittes the Indians essay

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