Spanish Requirement of 1513
The Spanish Requirement of 1513 (Requerimiento) was a declaration by the Spanish monarchy, written by the Council of Castile jurist Juan López de Palacios Rubios, of Spain's divinely ordained right to take possession of the territories of the New World and to subjugate, exploit and, when necessary, to fight the native inhabitants. The Requiremento (Spanish for "requirement" as in "demand") was read in Spanish to Native Americans to inform them of Spain’s rights to conquest. Those who subsequently resisted conquest were considered to harbor evil intentions. The Spaniards thus considered those who resisted as defying God’s plan, and so used Catholic theology to justify their conquest.
The Requerimiento probably had its inspiration from sources as early as the 8th century in the Dawah messages sent to non-Muslim nations by Arab conquerors, demanding that their recipients submit to Islamic rule (see Aslim Taslam).
In 1452, Pope Nicholas V issued the papal bull Dum Diversas, which legitimized the slave trade, at least as a result of war. It granted Afonso V of Portugal the right to reduce any "Saracens, pagans and any other unbelievers" to hereditary slavery. However, the Dominican friars who arrived at the Spanish settlement at Santo Domingo in 1510 strongly denounced the enslavement of the local Indigenous residents. Along with other priests, they opposed the native peoples' treatment as unjust and illegal in an audience with the Spanish king and in the subsequent royal commission.
Throughout the sixteenth century the Europeans quickly subjugated native peoples, plundering their lands and their wealth. Europeans justified this with the view that natives were not Christian, and, particularly after witnessing the mass human sacrifices conducted by the Aztecs, and lack of traditional (that is to say, European) civilization by other natives, savage, and not deserving to possess the New World.
In Spain itself in 1492, the Moorish population of Granada had been given the choice by the first Archbishop of Granada, Hernando de Talavera: become Christian, or leave the country. In a letter to his religious brothers, Cardinal Cisneros, Talavera's successor, would celebrate the “peaceful domination” of the Moors of the Albaicin, a neighborhood of Granada, praising converts, lauding killing and extolling plunder. This letter came, however, after centuries of struggle by Christians in Spain to recapture their homeland, which had been under Muslim domination for generations. Thus the war in Iberia, between Christians trying to regain their land and Muslims defending their conquered territories, naturally heightened religious tensions and fervor on both sides.
Comparing the situation in the Old World and New World: in Spain's wars against the Moors, the clerics claimed that Muslims had knowledge of Christ and rejected Him, so that waging a Crusade against them was legitimate; in contrast, in Spain's wars against the Indigenous peoples of the Americas and Native Americans, wars against those who had never come into contact with Christianity were illegitimate. Responding to this impeding clerical position, the Requerimiento was issued, providing a religious justification for wars against and conquest of the local populations of pre-existing residents, on the pretext of their refusing the legitimate authority of the Kings of Spain and Portugal as granted by the Pope.
So, the Requerimiento emerged in the context of moral debates within Spanish elites over the colonization of the Americas, and associated actions such as war, slavery, 'Indian reductions', conversions, relocations, and war crimes. Its use was criticised by many clerical missionaries, most prominently Bartolomé de las Casas.
To the King and Queen of Spain (Ferdinand II of Aragon, 1452–1516 and Isabella I of Castile, 1451–1504) the conquest of indigenous peoples was justified by natural law, embodied in the medieval doctrine of “just wars”, which had historically been a rationale for wars against non-Christians, particularly the Moors, but which would now be applied to Native Americans. Coming shortly after the Reconquest, the realization of a centuries-long dream by Christians in Spain, the discovery and colonization of the New World was directly affected by religious and political conditions in a now-unified Iberian Peninsula.
Concerned that Spain ensure control of the natives in the newly conquered Americas, the “Reyes Católicos”, Ferdinand and Isabella, consulted theologians and jurists for religious and legal justification of Spain’s conquests. The treatment of the Native Americans was at first rationalized on the grounds that they were cannibals; any means of subjugation were acceptable. However, some of Christopher Columbus’s tactics with Native Americans had resulted in uprisings. In 1500, the king and queen again sought advice; the Native Americans were declared to be "free vassals". Despite their elevated status, the Native Americans remained subject to conquest in "just wars".
The Junta of Burgos of 1512 marked the first in a series of ordinances (“Ordenanzas sobre el buen tratamiento de los indios”) with the ostensible goal of protecting the Indians from excessive exploitation; natives could celebrate holidays, be paid for their labor and receive "good treatment". Similar legislation was adopted by the Junta of Valladolid in 1513 and the Junta of Madrid in 1516. However, none of the laws stopped the abuse; few were charged with illegal exploitation, and punishment was rare.
The Role of Religion
The colonization of the New World by European adventurers and the genocide of native populations to that end was "justified" at the time on spiritual and religious grounds. In the conquest of the Americas, the Christian duty to evangelize non-believers took form of (often forced) conversion of Indians and other pagans, at the hands of Roman Catholic priests. Christianity was also used to justify the state’s policy of enslavement of Indians, and the often violent pacification of native communities who resisted.
To the European mind, the lands of the New World belonged to no one, and could therefore be seized. The radical differences in thought and behavior of the Aztec and Mayan states, with their worship of entirely new, fierce gods, human sacrifice by the thousands, and complete unfamiliarity with European styles of diplomacy, created a sense that conquest was not a war between states but the conquering by a civilized society against a ferocious, barbarous enemy. Moreover, since the native population was non-Christian, Europeans’ Christian religion conferred upon them the right, indeed the obligation, to take possession of the lands and the peoples in the name of God and the throne.
More particularly, Catholic theology held that spiritual salvation took precedence over temporal and civil concerns. The conversion of pagan natives to Christianity was the rationale for and legitimized Spain’s conquests. The Pope, being the recipient of divine authority and having the obligation to propagate the faith, empowered Spain to conquer the New World and convert its peoples. Thus “informed” by the Spanish, the Native people of the land had to accept the supremacy of the Catholic Church and the Spanish Crown. The state was authorized to enforce submission, by war where necessary.
The Spanish requirement of 1513
The 1513 Requerimiento (see "Spanish Requirement of 1513"), in relation to the Spanish invasion of the Americas and subsequent Spanish colonization of the Americas, demanded that the local populations accept Spanish rule and allow preaching to them by Catholic missionaries; on pain of war, slavery or death. The Requerimiento did not demand conversion, although the Indian Reductions through the Encomienda and Mission systems often did. This claim provided a legal loophole for enslavement of the population as rebellious vassals if they resisted, and the document stated: "We emphasise that any deaths that result from this [rejection of Christian rule] are your fault…"
The European view of the inherent right to conquest and domination in the New World was captured in a declaration addressed to Indian populations known as “El Requerimiento” (The Requirement). The document was prepared by the Spanish jurist Juan López Palacios Rubio, a staunch advocate of the divine right of monarchs and territorial conquest. It was first used in 1513 by Pedrarias Dávila, a Spanish explorer who had fought the Moors in Granada and who was later to become Governor of Nicaragua.
The Spanish Requirement, issued in the names of King Ferdinand and Queen Juana, his daughter, was a mixture of religious and legal justifications for the confiscation of New World territories and the subjugation of their inhabitants. At the time, it was believed that Native Americans resisted conquest and conversion for one of two reasons: malice or ignorance. The Requirement was putatively meant to eliminate ignorance.
A member of the conquistador’s force would read El Requerimiento in Castilian before a group of Indians on the shore, who, with or without translation, remained uncomprehending. All the region’s inhabitants were thus considered to have been advised of Spain’s religious and legal rights to conquest and forewarned of the consequences of resisting. The true nature of the Spanish Requirement, however, was one of absolution; the symbolic act of reading the document relieved the crown and its agents from legal and moral responsibility for the conquest, enslavement and killing of Native Americans. Readings were often dispensed with prior to planned attacks.
As the Spanish Requirement matter-of-factly sets forth, so brazenly from five centuries’ retrospect, God created heaven and earth, and the first man and woman from whom all are descended. God directed St. Peter to establish the Roman Catholic Church. St. Peter’s descendant, the Pope, lives in Rome. The Pope has given the New World territories to the King of Castile and directed the conversion of the Indians. If they listen carefully, the Indians will understand and accept what is happening as just; if not, Spain will make war on them. Here what the document does is to create an ontology into which these new lands and their peoples fit; it is creating a place for them in the existing Spanish and European political structure and Christian belief structure.
Many critics of the conquistadors' policies were appalled by the flippant nature of the Requerimiento, and Bartolomé de las Casas said in response to it that he did not know whether to laugh or to cry. While the conquistadors were encouraged to use an interpreter to read the Requerimiento, this was not absolutely necessary, and in many cases, it was read out to an uncomprehending populace. In some instances it was read: to barren beaches and empty villages long after the indigenous people and communities had left; to prisoners after they were captured; and even from the decks of ships once they had just spotted the coast. Nevertheless, for the conquistadors it provided a religious justification and rationalization for attacking and conquering the native population. Because of its potential to support the enrichment of the Spanish royal coffers, the Requerimiento was not generally questioned until the Spanish crown abolished its use in 1556.
Text of the document
- "On behalf of the King, Don Fernando, and of Doña Juana I, his daughter, Queen of Castille and León, subduers of the barbarous nations, we their servants notify and make known to you, as best we can, that the Lord our God, Living and Eternal, created the Heaven and the Earth, and one man and one woman, of whom you and we, all the men of the world at the time, were and are descendants, and all those who came after and before us. But, on account of the multitude which has sprung from this man and woman in the five thousand years since the world was created, it was necessary that some men should go one way and some another, and that they should be divided into many kingdoms and provinces, for in one alone they could not be sustained.
- Of all these nations God our Lord gave charge to one man, called St. Peter, that he should be Lord and Superior of all the men in the world, that all should obey him, and that he should be the head of the whole Human Race, wherever men should live, and under whatever law, sect, or belief they should be; and he gave him the world for his kingdom and jurisdiction.
- And he commanded him to place his seat in Rome, as the spot most fitting to rule the world from; but also he permitted him to have his seat in any other part of the world, and to judge and govern all Christians, Moors, Jews, Gentiles, and all other Sects. This man was called Pope, as if to say, Admirable Great Father and Governor of men. The men who lived in that time obeyed that St. Peter, and took him for Lord, King, and Superior of the universe; so also they have regarded the others who after him have been elected to the pontificate, and so has it been continued even till now, and will continue till the end of the world.
- One of these Pontiffs, who succeeded that St. Peter as Lord of the world, in the dignity and seat which I have before mentioned, made donation of these isles and Tierra-firme to the aforesaid King and Queen and to their successors, our lords, with all that there are in these territories, as is contained in certain writings which passed upon the subject as aforesaid, which you can see if you wish.
- So their Highnesses are kings and lords of these islands and land of Tierra-firme by virtue of this donation: and some islands, and indeed almost all those to whom this has been notified, have received and served their Highnesses, as lords and kings, in the way that subjects ought to do, with good will, without any resistance, immediately, without delay, when they were informed of the aforesaid facts. And also they received and obeyed the priests whom their Highnesses sent to preach to them and to teach them our Holy Faith; and all these, of their own free will, without any reward or condition, have become Christians, and are so, and their Highnesses have joyfully and benignantly received them, and also have commanded them to be treated as their subjects and vassals; and you too are held and obliged to do the same. Wherefore, as best we can, we ask and require you that you consider what we have said to you, and that you take the time that shall be necessary to understand and deliberate upon it, and that you acknowledge the Church as the Ruler and Superior of the whole world, and the high priest called Pope, and in his name the King and Queen Doña Juana our lords, in his place, as superiors and lords and kings of these islands and this Tierra-firme by virtue of the said donation, and that you consent and give place that these religious fathers should declare and preach to you the aforesaid.
- If you do so, you will do well, and that which you are obliged to do to their Highnesses, and we in their name shall receive you in all love and charity, and shall leave you, your wives, and your children, and your lands, free without servitude, that you may do with them and with yourselves freely that which you like and think best, and they shall not compel you to turn Christians, unless you yourselves, when informed of the truth, should wish to be converted to our Holy Catholic Faith, as almost all the inhabitants of the rest of the islands have done. And, besides this, their Highnesses award you many privileges and exemptions and will grant you many benefits.
- But, if you do not do this, and maliciously make delay in it, I certify to you that, with the help of God, we shall powerfully enter into your country, and shall make war against you in all ways and manners that we can, and shall subject you to the yoke and obedience of the Church and of their Highnesses; we shall take you and your wives and your children, and shall make slaves of them, and as such shall sell and dispose of them as their Highnesses may command; and we shall take away your goods, and shall do you all the mischief and damage that we can, as to vassals who do not obey, and refuse to receive their lord, and resist and contradict him; and we protest that the deaths and losses which shall accrue from this are your fault, and not that of their Highnesses, or ours, nor of these cavaliers who come with us. And that we have said this to you and made this Requisition, we request the notary here present to give us his testimony in writing, and we ask the rest who are present that they should be witnesses of this Requisition."
- Francis, John Michael (Ed.), Iberia and the Americas: culture, politics, and history, Volume 1, ABC-CLIO 2006, p. 903, ISBN 1-85109-421-0
- Allard, Paul (1912). "Slavery and Christianity". Catholic Encyclopedia XIV. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved 4 February 2006.
- Thomas, Hugh (2003). Rivers of Gold: The Rise of the Spanish Empire. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. pp. 258–262. ISBN 0-297-64563-3.
- Newcomb, Steven, Pagans in the Promised Land, Fulcrum 2008, p. 32-36, ISBN 1-55591-642-2
- Williams, Robert A, The American Indian in western legal thought, Oxford University Press US 1992, p. 91-93, ISBN 0-19-508002-5
- Thomas, Hugh (2003). Rivers of Gold: The Rise of the Spanish Empire. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 266. ISBN 0-297-64563-3.
- Williams, p. 93
- Full Requerimiento text in Spanish - Todos en Español
- Galeano, Eduardo: Genesis
Calderón, Annie Badilla, Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica, “La información y los textos jurídicos de la colonia (II). El poder político Latina”, Revista Latina de Comunicación Social 13 –enero de 1999. Recuperado el 2 de marzo de 2008 de: http://www.ull.es/publicaciones/latina/a1999c/149badilla2cr.htm
Hernández, Jesús Contreras, Universidad Central de Barcelona, “La cara India, la cruz del 92”, Gaceta de Antropología No. 8, 1991 Recuperado el 3 de marzo de 2008 de: http://www.ugr.es/~pwlac/G08_01Jesus_Contreras_Hernandez.html
“La Guerra justa y el requerimiento”, arteHistoria, 17 de febrero de 2008 Recuperado el 2 de marzo de 2008 de: http://www.artehistoria.jcyl.es/historia/contextos/1508.htm
Pereira-Muro, Carmen, "La ‘conversión’ de los moriscos", en Culturas de España, 2003, p. 92.