Attitudes, Expectations, and Assumptions of 16th Century Europeans
The writings of Bartolome De Las Casas, Alavar Nunez Cabeza De Vaca and others in our text are excellent examples of how Native Americans were perceived by Europeans during the 16th century. The writings give you an idea about European attitudes and expectations and many prejudices they held about Native Americans. Many of these things can still be seen in the modern United States through the way that people from Latin America are perceived.
One of the primary expectations of 16th century Europeans was to get rich in the New World. The Europeans sought riches in the form of land, minerals, and flesh. The pursuit of wealth and greediness of Europeans is clearly expressed throughout De Las Casas’, Cabeza De Vaca’s, and Columbus’ writings. De las Casas’s writings describe the greediness of the Europeans clearly. He describes how native pearl divers are worked to death in the pursuit of fortune. The gain of perhaps one pearl could negate the life of a man. Cabeza de Vaca describes how casual the Europeans feelings about slavery were. Natives are taken as slaves almost as if they were herds of cattle in order to enrich the European who took them. Columbus takes every land he sees as property of his country. Greed is a powerful driving force and it can still be seen today. The European expectation to gain enormous wealth in the New World resulted in the death and enslavement of countless Native Americans.
One of the primary assumptions by Europeans that can be seen in the writings is the genuine feeling of superiority. Europeans felt free to accept food and other gifts from the native people as if it were expected. Cabeza De Vaca’s writings express this perfectly. When he and his entourage finally meet up with more Europeans the new group freely accepts food from the native’s. After they eat, the Europeans just expect to make slaves out of the same people that just...