524 years ago today . . .

. . . the Pope divided the world in two, roughly speaking, in the bull Inter Caetera.

Inter caetera (“Among other [works]”) was a papal bull issued by Pope Alexander VI on 4 May 1493, which granted to Spain (the Crowns of Castile and Aragon) all lands to the “west and south” of a pole-to-pole line 100 leagues west and south of any of the islands of the Azores or the Cape Verde islands.

. . .

Columbus’s arrival in supposedly Asiatic lands in the western Atlantic Ocean in 1492 threatened the unstable relations between Portugal and Spain. With word that King John [of Portugal] was preparing a fleet to sail to the west, the King and Queen of Spain initiated diplomatic discussions over the rights to possess and govern the newly found lands. Spanish and Portuguese delegates met and debated from April to November 1493, without reaching an agreement.

Columbus was still in Lisbon when he sent a report of his success to the Spanish monarchs. On 11 April, the Spanish ambassador conveyed the news to Pope Alexander VI, a Spaniard native of Valencia, and urged him to issue a new bull favorable to Spain.

. . .

In response to Portugal’s discovery of the Spice Islands in 1512, the Spanish put forward the idea, in 1518, that Pope Alexander had divided the world into two halves. By this time, however, other European powers had overwhelmingly rejected the notion that the Pope had the right to convey sovereignty of regions as vast as the New World.

. . .

Various groups representing indigenous peoples of the Americas have organised protests and raised petitions seeking the repeal of the papal bull Inter caetera, and to remind Catholic leaders of the record of conquest, disease and slavery in the Americas, sometimes justified in the name of Christianity, which has a devastating effect on their cultures today.

There’s more at the link.

Certainly, the Spanish colonization of South America was a human tragedy of immense proportions.  I doubt whether the hapless indigenous peoples, if they had been able to record their opinions of the Pope’s grandiloquent gesture, would have approved.



  1. Aragón,however, didn't have rights to the Americas. Not until the XVIIIth century

    Take care


  2. "Certainly, the Spanish colonization of South America was a human tragedy of immense proportions."

    I read the link and am afraid the author is suffering from a bout of Rousseau's Noble Savage Syndrome. The Mayans were pretty much already exterminated by the Aztecs by the time the Spaniards got to Mexico. The Incas were already a memory of their former great self when Pizarro got around those parts.

    And I almost forgot the Human Sacrifices by the Aztecs (Super Bowl size) and that pretty much everybody else in the Caribbean basin and farther down were cannibals. Of course this fact has now been scrubbed by modern historians, but the piranha fish is called Caribe in non-Portuguese speaking regions of south america in commemoration of the human-eating tribes that populated the basin.
    Y'all remember Columbus leaving a small fort behind in his first trip and when he returned, he found everybody dead and he lost his shit?

    You got it. Spanish Barbacoa.

    PS: BBQ comes from barbacoa, the Taino name for slowly cooking meat (and flesh) over coals.

    Think about that the next time you are having a rack of ribs 🙂

  3. I drink coffee with Bob, a devout Baptist who contends that the Catholics in South America did better than many others. Bob, in general, is not overly fond of Catholics but willingly argues the following point.. Even though South Americans had slaves they did not, usually, split up families. Consequently, when slavery ended there was a social institution, the family, already in place to fill the vacuum.

    Slavery in the United States did not respect family ties. Dissolution of slavery unleashed chaos that we have yet to recover from.

  4. My wife is Indio, South American Indian. Grew up pounding a drum for her grandmother, a bruja, a voodoo witch (Candomble; South American voodoo). They converted to Catholicism and later, 7th Day Adventism when my wife was 10 or so. Later on, when she lived in the regional capital, she took a job as schoolteacher at a Fazenda, a Brazilian primitive farm a little smaller than Rhode Island, which supported about 130 Indio families.

    So in writing all that to establish her street cred, I asked if the people were happier for the presence of Christianity. She said 'some;' she contends that the colonial rule of the Portuguese was and is a greater source of discord and struggle than Christianity was, but that it's a very fine distinction because of the Portuguese habit of living one's faith, but with a morality that is based on whether or not anyone you respect can see you sin at a particular moment. Point being, distinguishing between the Church and the State in much of South America 500 years ago is deeply challenging, but very significant.

    It's fascinating stuff, and while I realize that the colonialism of Brazil and elsewhere was quite different, I had ice cream at the slave pen/auction house that supplied 90% of the slaves to the US and Caribbean. The history of slavery in South America is principally a Brazilian history.

  5. Mr. Grant,

    It is a sad anniversary indeed and one most are unaware of. When religion is removed from a personal choice and is chorused or forced upon people they are proving the hypocrisy of their faith. Too many times have I talked to clergy and they confide in me they don't believe what they teach: it's their preferred job.

    I think it was Benjamin Franklin who said in the deceleration of independence that 'when governments decide to take away the freedoms and rights of the people, those faiths less practiced are the first to feel those actions.'

    How long until those who don't think for themselves but as the Apostle Paul wrote Timothy, 'those not sticking to the word of God are mislead by every myth and spurious teaching. These then become like a ship tossed hither and thither in a storm.' When these thoughtless mobs decide that those who think differently than I have no rights. How long until we see World War II repeated and the Holocaust become a foreshadow of things to come: again!

    I don't know if you heard about how the Russian government is seizing property of the Jehovah's Witnesses to sell and keep the funds. Truly, a sad era returns when people can and are being convicted, jailed for praying at home. Who will be next?

    The Russian authorities claim Jehovah's Witnesses of being terrorists worse that ISIS. I have never met a group whose members, by and large, steadfastly refuse to bear arms, or learn martial arts. Now that a group who will not be radicalized or turn to violence against the governments have in reality been banned for not conforming, what writer, scientist, lawyer, etc. find no protection against being forced to "fit in"?

    My Russian colleagues are now discarding research that isn't 'Russian enough' and foresee living under times like Stalin's late 30's. Yes, when those in power feel they have the right to force others to behave just so; again we re-learn these words. If a man of conscience doesn't decry injustice, who will be there when they come for him?

    Saddened by the loss of freedom and seeing the forces that gave madmen like Stalin, Hitler, Mao soil to grow in,

    Anonymous historian.

  6. "Certainly, the Spanish colonization of South America was a human tragedy of immense proportions. "

    Really, look at how many from the region are still pushing Spanish colonization, sans Spain. That' what Hispanic means, having the culture, language and habit of the Spain.

  7. …if you want all your race, blood, and culture wiped from the face of Earth, and you only be remembered by the name of a few geographical features.

    Then, we have the Irish Potato Famine.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *