Penn Library

CULTURAL READINGS: Colonization & Print in the Americas

Black Legends

The Tears of the Indians
In 1552, Bartolomé de Las Casas, formerly Bishop of Chiapas, began what became known as the "Black Legend" by publishing a powerful and lasting indictment of Spanish behavior toward Indian populations in the New World.
At the Legend's core are two intertwined stereotypes: that of the peaceable, childlike, innocent Indian and that of the cruel, rapacious, self-serving Spaniard.
What gave the Black Legend its strength and resiliency was not Las Casas himself, but the printing press. By the third quarter of the 16th century, Las Casas's writings had been translated into French, Dutch, and English, while other accounts like that of Benzoni were also in circulation.
The Spanish Colonie...
For Protestants, Las Casas's condemnation of his own people and catalogue of their injustices allowed them to quote the Catholic devil against his cohorts and to argue for a greater non-Spanish European presence in the New World.
The tears of the Indians title page

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