The bottom line: A troubling and repetitive account of the Spanish invasion of the Americas in the 16th century.
The Destruction of the Indies was written in the 16th century by a church leader, Bartolomé de las Casas. The purpose of his exposition was to bring to light all the atrocities committed by the Spaniards in the Americas, so that such bloodthirstiness would come to an end.
What the reader is left with is a gritty and gruesome first-hand eyewitness account of what Bartolomé de las Casas witnessed: murder, genocide, torture, cannibalism, infanticide, rape, and many other forms of wretchedness.
On the one hand, The Destruction of the Indies serves a very important historical purpose: to describe the heinous acts of terror, wanton violence, and inhumane brutality executed by the Spaniards against the indigenous people of the Americas in the 16th century. It also describes the brave, prophetic voice of religious leaders with the courage to speak out for the rights of the vulnerable and oppressed. Our history is bloody and brutal, and this book describes a crucial part of history that must never be forgotten. If we do not remember, then we are doomed to engage in the same destructive behaviors again.
On the other hand, this book is very repetitive. After reading about the monstrous acts in one area of the Americas, you get the idea: “The Spaniards came, they were merciless, and many innocent natives suffered at the hands of these devils.” In the subsequent accounts of different locales, the individuals and places may change but the main idea remains the same. On top of that, at times this translation is difficult to read because of the choppiness in the language.
I read this book as required by a graduate level seminary course and would not have read it otherwise. The Destruction of the Indies is not for everyone, but certainly this book serves a focused historical purpose.