Carlos R. Hortas
More than three hundred years after the death of Bartolomé de Las Casas, his monumental Historia de las Indias, written from 1527 to 1565, was finally published in 1875. Las Casas had wanted this important work to be published after his death, but the question remains: why was publication delayed for over three centuries?
The answer is to be found in the publication of his Brevísima relatión de la destructión de las Indias (1552), a virulent attack on the injustices perpetrated against the Indians of the New World. His attack on the system under which Indians were apportioned to landowners made him many enemies among those with vested interests in the system. When it was translated and reprinted abroad, many of his own countrymen criticized the author for exaggeration and hyperbole; they saw the publication of the Brevísima relatión as a disservice to Spain and as a weapon in the hands of its enemies. It is true that his tone was accusative, that his rhetoric was not evenhanded, and that his main purpose as a writer was to make evident the need for urgent reform in the treatment of the Indians. In fact, although his constant enumeration of atrocities served to gain him many supporters, his accusations also alienated and made enemies of powerful and influential men in the Indies and in Spain. Those in power believed that his writings had led to much of the anti-Spanish feeling in Europe; thus they were banned in Spain. The controversy spawned by the Brevísima relatión may have led him to ask that his longer Historia de las Indias not be published during his lifetime.
Bartolomé de Las Casas was born in Seville, Spain, in 1484. His father, Pedro, and three uncles accompanied Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to the Indies in 1493 and returned to Spain in 1498 on one of five ships loaded with slaves. Pedro presented his son with a little Indian boy, whom Bartolomé