<br><h3> Chapter One </h3> <b>Defining and Possessing</b> <p> <p> <i>The colonization of America, trade with the colonies, the increase in the means of exchange and in commodities generally, gave to commerce, to navigation, to industry, an impulse never before known.</i> -Marx and Engels, <i>The Communist Manifesto</i> <p> <p> AFTER COLUMBUS'S ORIGINAL encounter with the new continent, the priority of the Spanish crown was to define its rights of possession and its political jurisdiction. Equally important was the imperative to define the nature of the inhabitants of the new territories to enable the crown to develop a plan of action concerning the roles to be ascribed to the different participants. Lacking a frame of reference to interpret the portents they had found, European intellectuals, near and far, took their cue from Columbus, who interpreted the new continent through the principle of attachment, of "translating varieties of experiences from an alien world into the practices of his own." The newness of the world the Europeans encountered forced them to search deep into their past and to retrieve the concepts and values with which they were familiar in order to apply them to the land and the people they were attempting to define and possess. <p> <p> Interpreting an "Other World" <p> The practice of attachment, and its limitations, became evident in Columbus's earliest communication to the Catholic Sovereigns announcing the discovery of the "New World," where he wrote that "in whatever land I traveled, [the natives] believed and believe that I, together with these ships and people, came from heaven, and they greeted me with such veneration." The admiral did not hesitate to "attach" specific attitudes and perceptions to the natives despite his total ignorance of native languages and the people he encountered. What the statement reflects is not so much a perception of the natives but Columbus's response to a new situation that reflected and illustrated his own cultural milieu, his time, and his own deeply rooted messianic conviction rather than the reality of the world he had encountered. <p> Columbus, like other colonizing pioneers, assessed his encounter with the New World in the terms he knew best, religion and profit. Not only was there the possibility of immeasurable riches but also a vast captive audience of natives waiting to be converted to his faith, as he noted in the same letter: <p> Most powerful sovereigns: all of Christendom should hold great celebrations, and especially God's Church, for the finding of such a multitude of such friendly peoples, which with very little effort will be converted to our Holy Faith, and <i>so many lands filled with so many goods, very necessary to us in which all Christians will have comfort and profits</i>. <p> <p> Faith and profit had become an indissoluble whole for those who, leaping into the void, had followed the admiral. Even though they knew they had found "an other" world, they could only understand it within the parameters of their limited perspective and experience. Thus their urgency to translate the wonders they encountered into material and spiritual terms they could understand. Columbus, our earliest reference in acquainting Europe with the New World, interpreted everything he saw and learned through the filter of what was familiar to him, as, for example, his interpreting the Tainos' practice of fasting and abstaining from sex for twenty days before seeking gold as equivalent to Christian practices to obtain grace, which in effect, according to Anthony Pagden, was nothing more than attempting to conflate two different experiences. <p> European and Amerindian sacred rites are not said as many later commentators would say <i>often to be similar</i>, the one either a diabolic inversion or a residual memory of the other. Indeed the supposed effectiveness of the rituals of the "bestial Indians: excludes the possibility of any such claims. Instead what is familiar, abstention and self-denial, is employed to <i>"attach" one unfamiliar action to another familiar one</i>. <p> <p> Lacking any point of reference for the new practices they encountered, Columbus and his fellow Europeans were at a loss to assess the incalculable magnitude of encountering <i>terra incognita</i>. Perhaps it was ignorance paired with the newly gained sense of arrogance and belief in their innate superiority that might help explain the inhuman treatment of the natives by the earliest Spanish settlers and their successors. According to Stephen Greenblatt, the lives of the natives were of little importance to the Europeans because the latter approached the new continent as members of a group whose "culture was characterized by immense confidence in its own centrality, by <i>a political organization based on practices of command and submission, by a willingness to use coercive violence on both strangers and fellow countrymen</i>, and by a religious ideology centered on the endlessly proliferated representation of a tortured and murdered god of love." Thus from the beginning a hegemonic relationship was established with the Spaniards occupying the position of commanding masters, and the natives that of abject subjects. <p> As would be expected, the interpretive tools used by the Spaniards were the same ones that had served as the foundations upon which their nation had built its complex legal, political, and cultural apparatus of domination. Rooted in a strong Greco-Roman tradition colored by seven hundred years of struggle against the Arab "infidel," they were transferred unchanged and applied without regard for their nuanced consequences in their new setting. <p> The newcomers saw America from a perspective influenced by their most recent historical experience, "through a filter of war with the Moors: a complex mixture of religion, heroic discovery, gold, and the self-justified conquest of infidels, a sort of <i>jihad</i>, or Holy War." The religious aspect of the exploration and conquest of the new territory lent to the enterprise an otherworldly dimension as it became "the irresistible march of Catholic civilization brought to the heathen by God's new Chosen People." Yet, soon after they took possession of the new territories and its inhabitants, they were chagrined to discover that even their vast knowledge of the classics and their reliance on their religious traditions were not sufficient to define the world they so wanted to dominate. <p> Incapable of finding suitable terminology to express the magnitude of the event, the Spanish chroniclers of the time resorted to superlatives and grandiose proclamations. These ranged from Columbus's and Las Casas's exalted and enthusiastic description of the land and its inhabitants to Francisco Lpez de Gmara's pronouncement that "the greatest thing, after the creation of the world, with the exception of the incarnation and death of its Creator, is the discovery of the Indies; so called the New World." <p> According to Las Casas, the ability to capture and describe this phenomenon was a privilege reserved for those whose authority was derived from first-hand experience. This "appeal to the authority of the eyewitness" is what Pagden has identified as the autoptic imagination. And it was the act of bearing witness to the new reality that became the ultimate validation of interpretation, as Las Casas indicated in the <i>Brevsima</i>: <p> Everything that has happened since the marvelous discovery of the Americas-from the short-lived initial attempts of the Spanish to settle there, right down to the present day-has been so extraordinary that <i>the whole story remains quite incredible to anyone who has not experienced it at first hand</i>. <p> <p> The vertiginous speed of unfolding events exacerbated the urgency of the demand to undertake the complex task of defining, organizing, and controlling a world encountered under such abrupt and unique circumstances. The unnamed continent offered the Iberians the unique opportunity to recreate it in their own image through the imposition of their sociopolitical and cultural norms and beliefs on the inhabitants of the new territories. Nevertheless, the absence of a referential framework to define and understand the New World posed complex and unparalleled challenges for the empire and its future colonies for the administration of the land and its people. <p> The transfer of institutions and beliefs from Europe to the New World was substantially justified by the deeply seated belief among Spaniards that after the <i>Reconquista</i> (Reconquest) they had become the vanguard of the chosen called on to conquer and to convert infidels wherever they were. To win converts to the "one true faith," Christianity, and save them from perdition had become an overriding priority and an integral component of their task. Columbus, although not a Spaniard by birth, fully identified with the Spanish messianic mission, thereby becoming one of the most important purveyors of the transfer of religious beliefs from Europe to America. Why else, if not by divine intervention, and intention, could the Creator have chosen Spain, and by extension Columbus himself, to carry out his gospel to illuminate the heathen in those faraway lands? <p> No other region of the world could offer the legions of avid Spanish evangelizers the innumerable candidates for salvation represented by those Amerindians being consumed by the infernal flames of idolatry and polytheism. The vanguard of the faithful, one of the dominant components in this equation of power, felt fully justified in its quest to colonize the poor forgotten souls dwelling in darkness. This ecclesiastical imperialism was fueled by the messianic zeal of the mendicant orders, and above all by a growing belief in the miraculous quality of their religious symbols and a quest for personal, national, and universal salvation. <p> <p> Dividing the Spoils <p> Columbus's extraordinary feat of doubling the size of the known world, almost overnight, inaugurated a new age for Castile and the rest of the European world, an age of new and vital imperial expansion. The original difficulties that Columbus had encountered in filling even the most essential positions required for safe navigation before his first voyage were absent in the second one. He had the luxury of selecting more than twelve hundred individuals, all of them lured by the promises of unbound opportunity offered by the new territory. Ultimately, the unnamed continent was physically conquered and colonized by the sheer driving power of a small group of enterprising conquistadores, but "force alone could not construct an empire, royal regulation of the most important socio-political aspects of the new possessions became mandatory." <p> By the time the admiral found the new continent, Castile was already in full control of the Canary Islands, providing the nation with a springboard to the New World. Nevertheless, the Canaries had come at a high price. The Treaty of Alcaovas, signed in 1479, required that in exchange for the islands, Spain would be forced to recognize Portugal's rights to the Azores, Cape Verde, Madeira, and the African Coast. <p> The concessions made by Spain at Alcaovas only confirmed previous donations made to Portugal by popes Eugene IV and Nicholas V. Along with the territorial donations, the popes granted the Portuguese the possession of captured "Negroes" to convert them to the Catholic faith, marking in effect the beginning of the slave trade. The conversion clause eventually became the cornerstone of Spanish imperial practices in the New World, except that in America, the term "Negroes" was tacitly substituted by the term "Indians." The Spanish, vying for Iberian hegemony, saw with unease the papal donations to the Portuguese, which explains Spain's urgency to obtain an imperial charter from the papacy, the fountainhead of universal authority. <p> Like most other political practices of the time, the reliance on the papacy to grant temporal kingdoms was rooted in medieval practice, specifically the "Donation of Constantine" that surfaced for the first time in mid-eighth century. At the time of Charlemagne's coronation and proclamation as emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, 800 C.E., the <i>Donatio Constantini</i> was being quoted by jurists and theologians, who continued to use it as an authoritative source even though by the end of the medieval period it had been found to be apocryphal. <p> The overlap of authority between church and state, so evident in medieval times, was still in effect at the time of Spain's colonization of the New World. In the temporal-ecclesiastical equation, the balance of power leaned toward the primacy of spiritual power, allowing the papacy the authority to grant rights of conquest and territorial expansion while forcing the temporal authorities to request the approval of the papacy in order to carry out their imperialist designs. <p> From a moral and legal perspective Spain's "most holy march of civilization," having just concluded its first phase with the retaking of Granada in January of 1492, had to be regulated to conform to both international and domestic necessities. Consequently, as soon as Columbus returned from his first trip to the Indies, the Catholic Monarchs petitioned the Valencia-born pope Alexander VI to issue a proclamation granting them possession of the Indies. <p> In early May 1493, the Spanish pope obligingly issued two bulls of demarcation granting Ferdinand and Isabella's request: <p> [Christopher Columbus] discovered most remote islands and mainlands, until then unknown ... taking into consideration the propagation of the Catholic faith ... you have determined with the help of God to subdue and bring to the dominion of our faith the inhabitants of the aforementioned islands and lands ... [Authorized] by the fullness of Apostolic power, we give, grant and assign to you and to your heirs and successors each and all the lands and islands discovered <i>or to be discovered, as long as they are not subject to the actual temporal dominion of a Christian prince.</i> <p> <p> The first bull, <i>Inter Caetera</i>, gave the monarchs possession of the Indies and charged them with the responsibility of converting the infidels to Christianity and sending learned men and religious experts to carry out such designs. Further, it granted Spain possession of "all the islands and mainlands, found and discovered," beyond an imaginary line one hundred leagues west of the Azores Islands. This bull has been characterized by John H. Parry as the "juridical charter of Spanish imperialism, and its chief theoretical defence against intruders from abroad and against interfering humanitarians at home." <p> The second bull, <i>Eximiae Devotionis</i>, issued by Alexander only a day later, confirmed the privileges granted to Spain in the first. In addition, it granted "the Catholic Monarchs each and every one of the graces, privileges, exemptions faculties and liberties, immunities and indulgences previously conceded to the king of Portugal on the East Indies." A third bull, <i>Dudum Siquidem</i>, made public in September of that same year, further confirmed the donations made by the previous bulls while guaranteeing Spain's right to defend them against all challengers as well as conferring absolute dominion over these possessions. The Catholic Monarchs or their representatives were thus enabled to take material possession of all new lands and to retain them in perpetuity. Finally, the monarchs were given the option of defending them as they saw fit while granting others permission to colonize or visit the territory under their control. <p> <i>(Continues...)</i> <p> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>ANOTHER FACE OF EMPIRE</b> by <b>Daniel Castro</b> Copyright © 2007 by Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission.<br> All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.