Steven Newcomb: A cruel history in conquest of Native people

"In Sir Arthur Helps’s book The Spanish Conquest in America (1855), we find a memorable and heart wrenching story of Spanish cruelty and treachery.” A female Indian leader named Anacaona of Xaraga, whom Helps calls “a queen,” lived on the island of Hispanola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic).

It was July, 1503, only eleven years after Cristobal Colon’s first voyage to the Caribbean. Anacaona had warmly greeted Cristobal Columbus’s brother Bartolomé Columbus, and, as a result, was initially said by the Spanish to be “a wise woman, of good manners and pleasant address.”

The story concerns the Spanish Governor Nicholas de Ovando, and a number of conquistadors who had been filling the governor’s head with rumors of an Indian revolt. Ovando arranged a meeting with “the Queen.” Anacaona and her brother received Ovando “with all courtesy and honour.” At a previous gathering, another such greeting was described as involving “many dancings, singings, maskings, runnings, wrestlings, and other trying of masteries.”"

Get the Story:
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