Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen, 1995, Excerpts
Christopher Columbus introduced two phenomena that revolutionized race relations and transformed the modern world: the taking of land, wealth, and labor from indigenous peoples, leading to their near extermination, and the transatlantic slave trade, which created a racial underclass.
Amassing wealth and dominating other people came to be positively valued as the key means of winning esteem on earth and salvation in the hereafter. Merchants and rulers collaborated to finance and authorize them. As Columbus put it, “Gold is most excellent; gold constitutes treasure; and he who has it does all he wants in the world, and can even lift souls up to Paradise.”
Typically after “discovering” an island and encountering a tribe of Indians new to them, the Spaniards would read aloud [in Spanish] what came to be called “the Requirement.” Here is one version:
“I implore you to recognize the Church as a lady and in the name of the Pope take the King as lord of this land and obey his mandates. If you do not do it, I tell you that with the help of God I will inter powerfully against you all. I will make war everywhere and every way that I can. I will subject you to the yoke and obedience to the Church and to his majesty. I will take your women and children and make them slaves. The deaths and injuries that you will receive from here on will be your own fault and not that of his majesty nor of the gentlemen that accompany me.”
Having thus satisfied their consciences by offering the Indians a chance to convert to Christianity, the Spaniards then felt free to do whatever they wanted with the people they had just “discovered.”