Valladolid debate

Valladolid Debate

Valladolid debate

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The Valladolid debate (1550–1551) concerned the treatment of natives of the New World. Held in the Colegio de San Gregorio, in the Spanish city of Valladolid, it opposed two main attitudes towards the conquests of the Americas. Dominican friar and Bishop of Chiapas, Bartolomé de las Casas argued that the Amerindians were free men in the natural order and deserved the same treatment as others, according to Catholic theology.Crow, John A. The Epic of Latin America, 4th ed. University of California Press, Berkeley: 1992. Opposing him was fellow Dominican Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda, who insisted that “in order to uproot crimes that offend nature” the Indians should be punished and therefore reducing them to slavery or serfdom was in accordance with Catholic theology and natural law.

Although both Las Casas and Sepúlveda later claimed to have won the debate, no clear record supporting either claim exists. The debate however served Las Casas to establish himself as the outstanding defender of the Indians , and it also provided arguments for the movement seeking to ensure that the 1542 New Laws (the Laws of the Indies), which were initially designed to abolish the encomienda system, were to remain in effect, further promoting the Indian cause among the Spanish government and the Church.

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