As I Like It!

Southern Culture Hall of Fame



January 2, 2017





In 1513, Spaniard, Ponce de Leon was the first European to set foot on the southern part of what is now the continental United States. In the five hundred years since de Leon, there have been thousands of men and women who have contributed to what today we call Southern Culture, but only a handful have made lasting contributions. Many are well-known figures in history, and others have faded into obscurity. Here is one of their stories.




Bartolome de las Casas advocated the abolition of the Spanish system of encomienda, which allowed the Spanish Crown to grant a patent to men who participated in the conquest of foreign people, granting them “ownership” of these people. Encomienda predated the conquest of the Indies but became the instrument used to justify the enslavement of native populations for agriculture and mining.

De las Casas had come to the new world with his father in 1502 and participated in slave raids and military actions against the natives. In 1510 he was ordained a priest but continued to support the subjugation of the natives. In 1513 he joined the expedition to complete the conquest of Cuba and took part in and witnessed atrocities that compelled him to write,

“I saw here cruelty on a scale no living being has seen or expects to see.”

He was awarded an encomienda, rich in gold and slaves, and he settled into the life of a rich and powerful hacendado while continuing his work as a priest. In 1514 he underwent a spiritual awakening that led him to preach fiery sermons against the policies of encomienda. He began to advocate the freeing of the native populations but replacing them with African slaves.

He returned to Spain and presented his case to the Royal authorities, which along with the annihilation of the natives, resulted in the introduction of African slavery into the New World. In my opinion, no one man has contributed more to the development of our southern culture, as well as the culture of the Western Hemisphere, as de las Casas.


De Las Casas image is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to Wikimedia commons

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