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UNIT 15: MISSION – Catholic Missions (W15:D1)

Pope Julius II (The Warrior Pope) - Commissioner of the Sistine Chapel Ceiling to Michelangelo

One of the missions of exploring the Americas, for Spain and Portugal, even back to the time of Columbus, was to spread Catholicism and Christianity to the New World. In the beginning, Spain would send one or two priests to the Americas on each ship, then many began to sail to this new land by the dozens. These priests would set up settlements of faith, called missions, everywhere Spain and Portugal claimed, including all lands between modern-day Mexico, to Argentina, in the most Southern tip of South America, and even some parts of North America, such as Florida, Georgia, and Texas. Some priests would go further, living among the indigenous people, teaching them, and even protecting them from other European explorers (as well as their own countrymen). There was respect given to priests and faith-based settlements, so while other nations would attack Spanish settlements, most of the time, missions were held in higher regard,as being sacred. Pirates did not always hold them in such high esteem, though. But missions were not just for the Americas. Many were started in Asia and Africa, as means of conversion, and some ecclesiastical and political matters. The Catholic priests and missionaries worked with the royal courts in China to foster relations and increase trade with Spain and Portugal. Catholic missions were set up throughout West Africa, though under great threat by Muslim rulers. The priests and missions in Northern Africa, because they were religious institutions, were not often attacked, as much as they were pressured by the local rulers to leave. Those in the south, where Muslim rulers had less control, were less likely to feel the hostility from the locals, and thrived in that area. Some of the Jesuits were sent to minister unto the white Christian slaves, sold in the African slave markets. João Nunes Barreto was a Portuguese Jesuit who was assigned to Africa, between 1548 and 1554, to minister to these white Christian slaves. He returned to Europe, in 1554, to raise funds to buy their freedom; instead, he was named Patriarch for Ethiopia, and was not able to return to free them all. The Portuguese Jesuits set up entire villages throughout modern-day Angola and taught the natives in that area. The tribes would join their cities to find work and learn, including children and slaves. In 1508, Pope Julius II, Universalis Ecclesiae (Of the Universal Church), declared that the King of Spain would head the Church in Spain, and its empire. Soon after, the King declared “Patronato Real,” or Royal Patronage, which gave Spain absolute control over ecclesiastical - church related - matters within their empire. The document also gave the Spanish the responsibility of promoting conversion, education, civilizing, and keeping the indigenous people safe from being harmed by Spanish or other exploration. They were also responsible for building churches, convents, hospitals, and schools, throughout the Americas. This patronage also provided the Crown with more money to spend, including increased taxes among settlers, explorers, and merchants, to provide for their missions. The missions themselves were not always large churches or compounds; they were as simple as a single hut in the middle of a tribal village, as close to the Chief’s dwelling as possible. They were tasked with being the servant of the tribe, in matters dealing with the Spanish explorers, and all matters to do with the faith of the indigenous people. For villages that were spread out, they would construct a central compound, where they could hold mass and be centralized to move among the many villages. The Chiefs enjoyed becoming part of the mission system, because they were given deep respect by the Spanish, and were provided gifts and clothing that were traded by the Spanish. In some cases, the Chiefs would provide workers for Spanish settlements, who would work among the settlers to farm the land, teach them how to farm, and build great buildings. St Augustine, Florida, reports that nearly 300 mission Indians were drafted by the Chiefs to work in the settlements between March and September, being paid an agreed-upon wage. Because the Chief drafted them, there was less conflict among the tribe and the Spanish. Sadly, their interaction with the Spanish caused disease to spread among the native workers, and sometimes even back to their villages. Franciscan missionaries – The Franciscans were the first organized group to arrive in New Spain (modern-day Mexico), just after Cortez’s conquest over the Aztecs and Mexico. They were assigned to Mexico, Texcoco, and Tlaxcala. Their task, beyond conversion, was to teach all natives the skills that they deemed necessary, including reading and writing Spanish, and adult skills, such as carpentry, ceramics, and metallurgy. Pedro de Gante was one of the first to arrive in New Spain and saw some of the culture as needing a change, including ritualistic killing of their enemies. To help them change, he took the tactic of assimilating himself into their culture and influencing them from within. He learned their language and culture, and even participated in their games and other activities. He also worked to educate their youth and adults, and gained the trust of the people. It was then that he slowly showed them a different way to act. His classes were recorded to be as large as 600 indigenous children. His influence and success spread wide throughout the Franciscan community, and others took up the same methods of assimilation. By 1532, nearly 5,000 children were educated throughout all of New Spain. Because the friars believed that conversion, among the indigenous people, should be done by meditation and free will, which took longer, the Spanish Crown believed it was not happening fast enough. The local governments claimed that the friars were mistreating the people. In return, the friars began to report that the Spanish were enslaving the people, and mistreating the natives. Pressure from the Spanish crown made many friars flee, traveling west to other tribes they could help. The Franciscan parishes were almost all dismissed. The Jesuit Order in America (1570-1767) – After the fall of the Franciscan order in New Spain, the Jesuit priests arrived, around 1570. They set up missions (they called Reductions), to better control, convert, and protect the indigenous people. In these missions, the indigenous people were given a home and land to farm. They would then collect all crops, and return them to the mission. In return, the Jesuits would distribute food and clothing to them. These people were used to build churches, schools, and hospitals. Two Jesuits were tasked to manage the workers and the local native leaders. This was a very feudalistic (or socialistic) system, where the few controlled the distribution of goods to the masses. Before the Jesuits were expelled from Mexico, there were over 140,000 Indians working in these farms and 1732 Reductions spanning throughout the Americas. The Dominican Order (W15:D2) - Bartolomé de las Casas was the first Dominican Bishop in Mexico. He came to Hispaniola as the son of a merchant, during Nicolás de Ovando’s expedition. Remember, it was Ovando who was to investigate and eventually arrest Columbus’s successor, the second Governor of Hispaniola, for lying to the crown about Columbus and his mistreatment of the Taino people. This was Las Casas’s first experience with mistreatment of the indigenous people. When Ovando took control and began to turn the territory around, this behavior fascinated Las Casas. Las Casas was given land of his own, to farm and mine, and used native slave labor to do so, even participating in slave raids and military expeditions against the natives. In 1510, he became a priest, and joined a group of Dominican friars who had just arrived in Santo Domingo. They saw the atrocities caused by the Spanish and began to deny confession to the slave owners. Las Casas was one of those denied Confession. He argued with the friars as to the need for “encomienda” - the practice of giving those who helped conquer land their own “property” of land and slaves. Diego Columbus sent a complaint to the King about the Dominicans, and they were recalled from Hispaniola. They were then dispatched to other Spanish areas in the Americas. When Las Casas accompanied the Spanish during the Conquest of Cuba, his perspective began to change. He wrote: "I saw here cruelty on a scale no living being has ever seen or expects to see”. This did not stop him from receiving more land and slaves through encomienda, though. His land produced much gold and riches for him. According to his biography, it was the study of Ecclesiastes, in the Bible, that finally opened his eyes. From that point forward, he renounced slavery, and encomiendas, and became an activist for indigenous people’s rights, and started to criticize the Spanish greatly for their atrocities. He began writing letters advocating bringing in African slaves, to reduce the suffering of Indian slaves (which, later in life, he retracted, when he began to see the error of using African slaves, as well). He initially desired to stop the harsh treatment of the indigenous people, and not the act of slavery - not until his later years. He even traveled back to Spain to convince the King to end encomiendas. The problem was that those in charge of these matters were also receiving encomiendas. His audience with the King was never granted to him and Ferdinand later died without meeting him. Ferdinand’s successor, Prince Charles, was too young to be bothered with these matters, and so, after hearing from Las Casas, Cardinal Cisneros sent a group of monks to take control of the islands and stop the harsh treatment of the indigenous people. These monks stripped a few of the encomiendas from those who were not living on the land, including a Bishop who owned land, but lived in Spain. These monks decided that the natives were incapable of living on their own, and so allowed the encomiendas to continue. Las Casas was furious and disbanded the commission. The Spaniards began to despise Las Casas, for trying to destroy their way of life, and he had to seek refuge with the Dominicans for fear of death. By 1517, Las Casas was forced back to Spain. None of these failed attempts stopped Las Casas, and he continued to work to promote a free indigenous people. The Dominicans were not only attacked by the Spanish, but were also under attack by other native tribes, such as the Caribs, who were sworn enemies of the Taino. The Caribs were provoked by the Spaniards, conducting slave raids on the native villages and taking more of their people as slaves. The Caribs saw themselves as being allowed to make these raids, but not when it came to their people being taken. When the Caribs attacked the missions, they would massacre everyone, including women and children. Las Casas’s enemies used this massacre in the Dominican mission to garner military support. The Nuevo Laws of 1542 established the disbanding of encomiendas; only, after the owner died, the crown would gain possession of the land, and all slaves would be released. This gradual abolition of indigenous slavery began to foster the need for more African slaves, and this empowered slave traders. There was more opposition in New Spain. Riots started, and threats were made against Las Casas’s life. Even the Viceroy of New Spain, who benefitted from encomiendas, decided he would not follow the law to abolish the encomiendas. Las Casas was not liked in the Americas, and when the Nuevo laws were repealed in 1545, riots broke out again. Colonists tried to take Las Casas’s life, forcing him to move back to Spain. He would write books and letters recounting the history of New Spain, that were sometimes refuted, but his desire was only to set the people free in the New World. Activity: Abolishing Slavery – Say you were a slave owner and your entire livelihood was dependent on using indigenous slaves. Then one day, you decided that slavery of natives was evil and wrong. What would you do? What could you do, considering your farm would collapse without slaves to farm your land? _____________________________________________ _____________________________________________ _____________________________________________ Now, consider a law was passed that said any native freed would then be recaptured and enslaved, if you freed them? What would you do? _____________________________________________ _____________________________________________ _____________________________________________ Lastly, consider you were given an alternative to use slaves from another country, and these slaves were not against the law to keep. What would you do? _____________________________________________ _____________________________________________


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