#9 from La Historia General de las Indias
(Francisco López de Gómara, 1552)

Suicide, Smallpox, and the Arrival of the Spaniards

Of all their laws, this is the most notable, that for whatever theft they impaled the thief, they also abhorred the avaricious a lot. They bury with the men, especially with the gentlemen, some of their most beloved women, or the most beautiful, for that is a great honor and favor. Other women want to be buried with them for love. The burial of these is ostentatious, they seat them on the tomb, and they put around them bread, water, salt, fruit, and arms.

…[Prediction of the coming of the long beards, who will conquer the people with their shining swords.] …

All these things happened exactly as those priests related and sang, for the Spaniards opened many Indians with knife thrusts in the wars, and even in the mines and struck down the idols on their altars without leaving one. They forbade all the rites and ceremonies that they found. They made them slaves through the actions where they divided them up, as a result of which they worked more than they used to, and in the case of others, they died and all killed themselves. Of the 15 times 100 thousand and more persons that there were on that single island, now there are only 500. Some died of hunger, others from work, and many from poxes. Some killed themselves with yucca juice, and others with poisonous herbs, others hanged themselves from the trees. The women acted like their husbands, they hanged themselves alongside them [their husbands], and aborted their children with art and drink, so as not to bear children who would serve strangers. It must have been a punishment that God gave them for their sins, but the first [the Spaniards] were greatly at fault for treating them very badly, inflamed with desire for gold more than [for the welfare] of their fellow [human beings].

[#9] “Suicide, Smallpox, and the Arrival of the Spaniards,” from Francisco Lopez de Gomara, La Historia General de las Indias (En Anvers: Casa de Juan Steelsio, 1554, pp. 35-36, 40), tr. Carolyn Morrow.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Americas, Central and South American Native Cultures, Indigenous Cultures

Leave a Reply