Preferring Hell to the Spanish – A voice from Aboriginal America

Posted on February 21, 2011

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One of the leading local lords, a cacique who went by the name of Hatuey, had fled to [Cuba] from Hispaniola[Haiti] in order to escape the miseries that arose from the inhuman treatment meted out to the natives of that island by the Spanish…. But, eventually, he was captured and, although his only crime was that he tried to escape the clutches of these cruel and iniquitous monsters because he knew only too well that they were out to kill him and that, if he did not defend himself, they would hound him and all his people to death, the Spaniard’s verdict was that he should be burned alive.

Once he was tied to the stake, a Franciscan friar who was present, a saintly man, told him as much as he could in the short time permitted by his executioners about the Lord and about our Christian faith, all of which was new to him.  The friar told him that, if he would only believe what he was now hearing, he would go to Heaven there to enjoy glory and eternal rest, but that, if he would not, he would be consigned to Hell, where he would endure everlasting pain and torment.

The lord Hatuey thought for a short while and then asked the friar whether Christians went to Heaven.  When the reply came that good ones do, he retorted, without need for further reflection, that, if that was the case, then he chose to go to Hell to ensure that he would never again have to clap eyes on those cruel brutes. [27-29]

Bartolomé de las Casas, A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies [1542], Penguin Books, London.  Translated by Nigel Griffin.