This volume presents a selection of the most compelling political writings from early colonial Latin America that address the themes of conquest, colonialism, and enslavement. It will be invaluable for students and scholars of Latin American political thought and other fields in the social sciences and humanities. Katherine Hoyt prepared extensive introductory material that introduces readers to each of the writers, contextualizing their ideas and the controversies surrounding them. The anthology centers the voices of Indigenous peoples, whose writings constitute six of the fifteen chapters while also including women’s, African, and Jewish perspectives. Included among the writings are the foundation narrative of the Kaqchiquel Maya and an example of “mirror of princes” literature in which Inca writer Guamán Poma advises the King of Spain on how to better govern Peru. Spanish priests Bartolomé de Las Casas and Alonso de la Vera Cruz make contributions to the philosophical writings of the School of Salamanca on natural law as they relate to the peoples of the Americas. Other writers protest the inhumanity of the trade in enslaved Africans and the Inquisition. A volume such as this one brings greater nuance to our understanding of the continent's past, helping us to envision a more inclusive future.
Katherine Hoyt holds a Ph.D. in Political Theory from Rutgers University and is the author of The Many Faces of Sandinista Democracy.
Chapter 1: The Kaqchikel Maya: “Go to Where You Will See Your Mountains.”
The Annals of the Cakchiquels
Chapter 2: Christopher Columbus: “Took Possession of That Island for the King and Queen”
Christopher Columbus’ Log of His First Voyage to America
Chapter 3: Antonio de Montesinos: “Are They Not Human Beings?”
The 1511 Sermon of Antonio de Montesinos
Chapter 4: Bartolomé de Las Casas: “This Is against All Divine and Human Laws”
The 1550 Debate of Bartolomé de Las Casas against Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda
Chapter 5: Alonso de la Vera Cruz: “The Spaniards Cannot Have Just Dominion.”
Defense of the Indians: Their Rights, A Discussion by the Reverend Father Alonso de la Vera Cruz (1553)
Chapter 6: Isabel de Guevara: “This Was Men’s Work.”
Letter of Isabel de Guevara to the Princess Juana
Chapter 7: Council of Huejotzingo: “Our Fathers Knew No Tribute.”
Letter from the Council of Huejotzingo to King Philip II, 1560
Chapter 8: Bernardino de Sahagún: “I Assembled All the Leaders.”
General History of the Things of New Spain: Florentine Codex
Chapter 9: The Inca Titu Cusi Yupanqui: “The Natural Lords that Used to Rule Peru”
Titu Cusi Yupanqui’s Account of the Conquest of Peru
Chapter 10: Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa: “The Horrible Tyranny of the Incas”
Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa’s History of the Incas
Chapter 11: Alonso de Illescas: “Suspend the Expedition”
Alonso de Illescas to the Crown, 24 February 1586
Chapter 12: Luis de Carvajal the Younger: “May the Lord God of Israel Enlighten Them”
The Autobiography and Inquisition Trial of Luis de Carvajal, the Younger
Chapter 13: El Inca Garcilaso de la Vega: “Past Greatness and Prosperity”
The Royal Commentaries of the Incas (1609) and General History of Peru (1617) of El Inca Garcilaso de la Vega
Chapter 14: Felipe Guamán Poma de Ayala: “Indians Should Not Be Abused”
The First New Chronicle and Good Government by Guamán Poma
Chapter 15: Alonso de Sandoval: “The Souls of Blacks Are as Important as Those of Whites.”
Alonso de Sandoval’s De instauranda Aethiopum salute
Unequal Encounters features influential political texts by writers from early colonial Latin America to 1630, focusing especially on themes of conquest, colonialism, and enslavement…. Each chapter offers an extensive introduction with biographical notes about its author and context. Some selections, such as the Kaqchikel Chronicles, allude to pre-conquest society and politics; others, such as the Council of Huejotzingo’s letter to King Philip II, describe conditions under Spanish rule and advocate for change. The editor's careful attention to including diverse perspectives of early colonial life and the clear and accessible prose of the chapter introductions make this volume an excellent resource for colonial Latin American history and political theory courses. Highly recommended. Undergraduates through faculty and general readers.
Unequal Encounters: A Reader in Early Latin American Political Thought by Katherine Hoyt is an excellent anthology of "encounter writings" of the Americas. It brings together pre-Columbian and post-encounter documents from indigenous writers and Europeans working at the margins, painting a rich and full picture of the problematic of the European conquest of the New World. Hoyt's social and political involvement in Latin America spans decades. She is as close as it gets to an organic intellectual working in this field in the US. Her judicious collection is a welcome addition to the literature, filling an existing gap in the area of Latin American thought, history, and culture.
One of the major lacunae of the burgeoning field of Comparative Political Theory-- which seeks to expand the purview of political ideas beyond the Western world-- is the field of pre-Columbian and early-modern Latin American thought. Unequal Encounters: A Reader in Early Latin American Political Thought will prove to be invaluable in addressing this gap. The reader provides a carefully selected set of texts that show why Latin American political thought helps us better understand issues related to race, gender, class, and the birth of the modern world.