Introduction
••
No need to heed your voice when I can talk about you better than you
can speak about yourself. No need to hear your voice. Only tell me about
your pain. I want to know your story. And then I will tell it back to you
in a new way. Tell it back to you in such a way that it has become my
own. Re- writing you I rewrite myself anew. I am still author, authority.
I am still colonizer, the speaking subject, and you are now at the centre
of my tale.
bell hooks, “Marginalizing a Site of Re sis tance”
Bartolomé de las Casas (1484–1566) is considered by some to be the
first human- rights advocate, a “larger- than-life archetypal hero.”1
Named Legal Advocate and Universal Protector of the Indios
(Procurador y Protector Universal de los Indios de las Indias), he
helped, through his tireless efforts, to eliminate the most egregious
forms of indigenous slavery in Spanish America.2 Biographies of
the influential man abound, some of them hagiographic, others
oriented toward his philosophy and po litical aspirations. One of
the most respected Latin Americanists of the twentieth century,
Lewis Hanke, dedicated several works to the study of Las Casas.
His most seminal work, The Spanish Struggle for Justice in the Con-
quest of America (1949), became essential reading for students and
aspiring Latin Americanists in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.3
But this volume is not about Bartolomé de las Casas and his
remarkable accomplishments. It is about indigenous men and
women called indios who were interviewed by famous friars like
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