The University of Valladolid, during worldwide celebrations of the Las Casas quinquennial, held a symposium in May 1974, to study Spains Indian policy. The numerous papers read there are being published in three volumes. The first was reviewed in the HAHR (May 1977, pp. 329–331). This second volume discusses the themes indicated in its secondary title, with emphasis on the natives’ reaction to Christianity, forced personal services and the tribute demanded of them by the encomenderos or by the Spanish king.
Spain’s experience with a foreign non-Christian people—the Moriscos—is analyzed in two studies in order to explain the nation’s attitude in dealing with many of its New World subjects: Antonio Garrido, “La educación de moriscos y mexicas como factor de asimilación cultural,” and Nicolás Cabrillana, “Posibles precedentes de la encomienda en el Reino de Granada.” Unfortunately, the basic documentation for both contributions is too sparse to justify any important valid conclusions. Thus, further research would have revealed fifty-seven Indian schools conducted by the Mexican Jesuits instead of the three mentioned by the author of the first article.
One of the most novel studies discusses the role played by the Indians of Guayaquil and vicinity in the development of the area: Dora León, “Los indios balseros como factor en el desarrollo del puerto de Guayaquil.” Long before the arrival of the Spaniards, these Indians had been using their large light rafts to transport products and to fish in the river, harbor and high sea. Early in the Spanish era, they increased this activity and took on new and very remunerative tasks: they became pilots and sailors on Spanish ships. One cannot but regret that such gratifying economic benefits were not generalized throughout Spanish America.
In my opinion the most important study (and, incidentally, the only one that draws heavily on Las Casas’ writings) is Luciano Pereña’s, “La pretensión a la perpetuidad de las encomiendas del Perú.” In 1554 the Peruvian encomenderos sent their representative, Antonio de Ribera, to Madrid to obtain from Charles V the perpetuity of their encomiendas. The Emperor turned over the thorny problem to Philip II. The junta summoned by Philip soon learned that the encomenderos not only guaranteed to preserve in peace the vast viceroyalty but to give outright several million ducados to an almost bankrupt Spain. A tempting offer, indeed. But then came the bombshell: the Peruvian natives’ counteroffer, inspired by Las Casas, to top by 100,000 ducados any offer made by the encomenderos. Pereña cites (p. 468) Las Casas’ De thesauris, but I think he failed to recognize its real significance: the treasures found in the Peruvian tombs, Las Casas contended, belonged to the natives and they could pay for the ransom offered by the caciques. Still to be investigated is the link between Bartolomé de Carranza’s defense of the Peruvian natives and his subsequent imprisonment.
The last article, Eufemio Lorenzo Sanz’ “Los indios de Nueva España y su pugna con las pretensiones encomenderas en la época de los comisarios,” gives a brief and far less documented version of the Peruvian encomenderos’ offer, before he goes on to analyze a similar offer made by their counterparts in New Spain. The author would have found a wealth of information on the Mexican situation, especially on the complicated problem of tithes there (pp. 492–496), had he consulted the writings of Alonso de la Vera Cruz.
Nearly every one of the twenty studies in this volume is a worthwhile contribution to Hispanic American history and is based mainly on unpublished sources. Since the symposium was held, Helen Rand Parish and Harold E. Weidman, S.J., have found evidence which establishes that Las Casas was born some ten years later than the traditional date of 1474—see their article in the HAHR (August 1976, pp. 385–403), which is now being published in Spanish translation in the third volume of these Valladolid symposium papers.