First of all, I would like to say that I find it very cool that there are texts from the 1600s. Although the text I read was not the original copy, nor is it in the original language, it gives details on how and who translated it to a legible copy and annotations corresponding with the letter text. It is a collection of letters by Gabriel Diaz Vara Calderón, a 17th century bishop of Cuba. The purpose of his letters are clearly to observe and record his observations of Indigenous peoples and their land and forward this information to the queen (of Spain). He mainly gives information about the land and how it is utlized by the Indigenous peoples. He also details the queen with estimates of Indigenous populations within each village he finds. I’m really unsure of what the purpose for this was. My only inference is that this bishop is scouting out the land for the queen to do something with, however it sounds like at this time it was already controlled by the queen. I am surprised that when giving information about the populations of villages, the bishop distinguished the different villages instead of referring to all of them as “Native Americans”.
I cannot make this post without noting the disrespectful language used by this bishop to refer to the Indigenous peoples. In one of his entries, he describes Indigenous Carribeans as savages. He also uses the words “heathens” and “savages” throughout his letters to the queen. Although, after looking up the word “heathen” I realized it could be used to refer to someone that is a non-believer (in Christ). In modern language (and my perspective) heathen is an insult but I never associated it with religion. Now that I understand the meaning behind the term, it’s unsurprising to see it being used by this 17th century bishop as one of the main goals of colonization was to assimilate that people being colonized.