Published on December 29th, 2013 | by admin0
The Requerimiento (Spanish) “requirement” as in “demand”) was a written declaration of sovereignty and war, read by Spanish military forces to assert their sovereignty (a dominating control ) over the Americas. Written by Council of Castile jurist Juan López de Palacios Rubios in 1513, it was used to justify the assertion that God, through historical Saint Peter and appointed Papal successors, held authority as ruler over the entire Earth; and that the Inter Caetera Papal Bull, of 4 May 1493 by Pope Alexander VI, conferred title over all the Americas to the Spanish monarchs. The Requerimiento probably had its origins 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).
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.
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.
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.
The 1513 Requerimiento, 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…”
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.
The Requerimiento document: written in 1513 by jurist Juan López de Palacios Rubios of the Council of Castile:
- “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.”