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Bartolomé de Las Casas: The Relentless Conscience of an Empire

10 November 2021

Watching youtube history videos, what I’ve seen about Mexico and Mexican history has generally been… shall we say… thin. The same holds true for much (if not all) of the new media presentations regarding Latin America that I’ve seen in English. However, there are standout exceptions to the rule.

The series, or rather youtube channel, “Heroes and Legends” features relatively unknown historial figures, although, being an Australian production, perhaps one should just say unknown or obscure to me. While there is a whiff of the “Great Man” about the biographies presented, and … from the others I’ve seen in the series (specifically the one of the navigator, James Cook), a conscious effort to “redeem” historical figures from unflattering, or downright negative, contemporary interpretations of the acts and intentions. While not sugar-coating Las Casas (who was a evil bastard in his youth), the author/producer (Alan Kalamar, PhD) may be over-estimating Las Casas’ role in ending the encomienda system (which, where it died out, as in Mexico, more for economic than human rights reasons, only to be replaced by peonage) and maybe under-estimating his unfortunate (if temporary) support for the transatlantic slave trade.

“Heroes and Legends” presents Las Casas’ story… warts and all… as more a story of Christian redemption, but, even with what might be critized as flaws, an excellent introduction to a genuine hero and a legendary one at that, who deserves to better recognition in the English-speaking world, and Dr. Kadama deserves credit for a well-down, long-overdue introduction to the “Relentless Conscience of (not just one, but all) Empires”.

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