Bartolomé de las Casas protests the seizing of idols, 16th century

English Translation
Gómara [Francisco de Gómara, the biographer of the conquistador Hernán Cortés] further says here [in his account of the Spanish conquest of Mexico] that Cortés decided to remove the idols of this town and erect crosses on that Island [Yucatan peninsula] after Jerónimo de Aguilar [a shipwrecked Spaniard who understood Maya] arrived. But this is one of the errors and stupidities that many have made in these parts. Because after not having thoroughly taught the indigenous people or any other idolatrous peoples for such a long time, it is a great delusion to seize their idols so to counter their idolatrous beliefs–something none of them would willfully allow. Because not a single person can willfully or enthusiastically abandon belief in something he has held for so many years to be the true god, a god received along with his mother's milk and taught to him by his elders, without first understanding that that which is being given to him [in the form of the cross] and replacing his previous god, is in fact the True God...

But this is not the final stupidity that has been carried out in the Indies in putting up crosses, and inducing the Indians to revere them. It would seem to be a good idea to get the Indians to understand some significance of the fruits that they may take from [Christian worship], if there is time. But lacking the time, the language, the ripe moment, erecting crosses is a superfluous and useless act, because the Indians might think that they are being given just another idol [in the form of the cross], one that the Christians believe to be God. Thus they will simply idolize the object, adoring the wooden planks as if they were God.
   

Spanish Original
Dice aquí más Gómara que Cortés determinó de quitar los ídolos de aquel pueblo y poner cruces en aquella isla, después que vino Jerónimo de Aguilar; pero esto es uno de los errores y disparates que muchos han tenido y hecho en estas partes, porque, sin primero por mucho tiempo haber a los indios y a cualquiera nación idólatra doctrinado, es gran desvarío quitarles los ídolos, lo cual nunca se hace por voluntad, sino contra de los idólatras, porque ninguno puede dejar por su voluntad y de buena gana aquello que tiene de muchos años por Dios y en la leche mamado y autorizado por sus mayores, sin que primero tenga entendida que aquello que les dan o en que les conmutan su Dios, sea verdadero Dios...

Pero no fué aquéste el postrero disparate que en estas Indias cerca desta materia se ha hecho; poner cruces, induciendo a los indios a la reverencia della, si hay tiempo para ello, con significación alguna del fructo que pueden sacar dello si se lo pueden dar a entender, parece ser bien hacerse, pero no habiendo tiempo, ni lengua, ni sazón, cosa superflua e inútil parece, porque pueden pensar los indios que les dan algún ídolo de aquella figura que tienen por Dios los cristianos, y así los harán idolatrar, adorando por Dios aquel palo....
   








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