A p p e n d i x T w o
S el ec ti ons f r o m
T he D ef ense of W e s t er n C onq ue s t s ,
c a. 1603
he following is a brief selection from Bernardo de Vargas
Machuca’s Defense of Western Conquests (also known as the Apolo-
getic Discourses), a manuscript he rewrote while serving as gover-
nor of Margarita Island in 1612. He says in a portion of his advice to the
reader not included below that he had initially written this proposed book
(about 100 printed pages’ worth in all) while serving in Portobelo, on the
Caribbean coast of Panama, but that his original manuscript was stolen
while on its way to a publisher in Lima. Unfortunately for the author, per-
mission to print the 1612 rewrite was denied repeatedly in Spain, and the
manuscript remained unpublished until 1879, when it appeared in a larger
collection of miscellaneous colonial writings.1
Bartolomé de Las Casas’s Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las
Indias (often translated as A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies),
on the other hand, circulated not only in Spanish but also in several other
European languages by the end of the sixteenth century. Although this
was hardly its author’s purpose, the Brevísima relación served very well
as propaganda against the expansive empire of Catholic Spain, particu-
larly in England and the Low Countries, but also in Protestant regions
of France and Germany (Vargas Machuca refers vaguely to “Huguenot”
versions of the text). The militiaman from Simancas was not alone in his
distaste for Las Casas’s writings, but up to his time few had been willing
to challenge the famed “Protector of the Indians” head-on. As some schol-
ars have noted, Vargas Machuca was in fact in the vanguard of a Spanish
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