When traveling in Latin-America, most tourists seek out designated spots favoured by those seeking beautiful and exotic landscapes. Few though look around and see with their own eyes the exploitation around them that is part of the local society. This is both material exploitation and mental oppression. Local media portrays all-white characters in almost all roles except the negative ones. Advertisements and beauty parlors show only white faces. A different landscape however appears on the streets, with various shades of brown bodies moving around working the menial low-paying jobs. Those people with various degree of Native American origin, make up the lower class formerly called mestizos. Below them are the indios, the Native Americans, that are oppressed and exploited by everyone.
The media however tells the brown-skinned ones that they are ugly and stupid because of their skin colour, origin and social status. And, it isn’t just the media. The whole social system established by the Spanish conquistadors and first settlers from Spain, was built upon exploitation of native labour and resources. This exploitation is still the fundamental base in Latin-American societies in modern times. Reforms to the system is mainly aimed to benefit the middle and upper classes, largely of Spanish or European origin. The ‘ugly’ ones, the brown-skinned ones, are still at the bottom of the social ladder.
Violence to enforce this exploitation is perpetrated by mestizo-henchmen that work for the white elite. Sometimes they even work for themselves as this is the accepted way in their society. Criminal gangs work in that same atmosphere of fear and intimidation. Government officials and the legal system have always worked for the people in power, not for the common man. This is of course illegal and unethical in every sense of the word. This is a ripe and fertile ground for immoral criminals seeking to get rich by exploiting the common man. The Latin-American society was built upon the values of greed and exploitation sustained by intimidation and violence. The criminal gangs profiting from cocaine and human trafficking, are just the newest enterprise of this society of exploitation.
This was what Bartolomé Las Casas (1484-1566) warned about in his writing in the middle of the 16th century, about the grave injustice and genocidal behaviour of contemporary conquistadors and settlers. Together with European and Asian derived diseases, they reduced the Native American population by 80-90% in just the first 50 years of Spanish colonization of the Americas. Although Las Casas tended to inflate the figures as was customary among Spanish chroniclers of his time, modern historians maintain that his general picture of a violent and abusive conquest, represent reality.
Las Casas witnessed some of the horrors himself. It made him open his eyes to the terror perpetrated by the Spanish towards the Native Americans. From that time on, he championed the cause of the Native Americans. The Spanish murdered, raped, stole property and enslaved people, and killed with such insane delight and in so many disgusting ways that Las Casas spared his readers many of the accounts he witnessed or heard about. Man-eating dogs, deceit and treachery was the mainstay of Spanish raiding and killing. No one was spared, no one. The aim was to get rich quick without thinking about the consequences or having any longer-term goals in mind. The Spanish conquistadors were like raving mad dogs sick with greed, set loose without any prohibition, using the skills learned from the reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula from the Moors.
This system is still oppressing the poorest of the poor, the so called ‘ugly’ people that have no voice in society. The ones everyone else in the social ladder can exploit as much as they possibly can. But the Native Americans are still there and some are trying to fight for justice and liberty, against the odds. This struggle is not easy. Many leaders and advocates have been murdered. Atrocities are still occurring and the tight grip of oppression is also still in place. This will not change until the society changes it’s attitude and acknowledges the crimes that have and are still committed. Awakening is needed.