Atrocities of the Spanish Conquistadors in the West Indies

c. 1513


This account is from Bartolome de Las Casas.  He was a missionary and conquistador.  He took part in the conquest of Cuba.  These accounts happened after this and one has to believe he was very troubled by what he witnessed.  There is no doubt about it; the Spanish were cruel in the conquest for gold and land.  Events like these listed below did nothing to help relations between the vastly different cultures.  Instead it was a major reason why the Taino and Arawak peoples became extinct.


The Spaniards with their horses, their spears and lances, began to commit murders and other strange cruelties.  They entered into towns and villages, sparing neither children nor old men and women.  They ripped their bellies and cut them to pieces as if they had been slaughtering lambs in a field.  They made bets with each other over who could thrust a sword into the middle of a man or who could cut off his head with one stroke.  They took little ones by their heels and crushed their heads against the cliffs.  Others they threw into the rivers laughing and mocking them as they tumbled into the water.  They put everyone they met to the edge of the sword.

One time I saw four or five important native nobles roasted and broiled upon makeshift grills.  The cried out pitifully.  This thing troubled our Captain that he could not sleep.  He commanded that they be strangled.  The Sergeant (I know him and his friends from Seville) would not strangle them but put bullets into their mouths instead. 

I have seen all these things and others infinite.  Most tried to flee.  They tried to hide in the mountains.  They tried to flee from these men.  Men who were empty of all pity, behaving like savage beasts. They are nothing more than slaughterers and enemies of mankind.  These evil men had even taught their hounds, fierce dogs, to tear natives to pieces at first sight. 

AND, when, although rare, the Indians put to death some Spaniards upon good right and law of justice; the Spaniards made an agreement that for every one Spaniard killed they had to slay one hundred Indians.

One time the Indians came to meet us and receive us with food and good cheer!  Instead, the devil, which had put himself in the Spaniards, put them all to the edge of the sword in my presence, without any cause whatsoever, more than three thousand souls.  I saw there such great cruelties, that never any man living either have or shall see the like.

In three or four months (myself being present) there died more than six thousand children, which the Spanish had sent into the Gold mines.