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Requerimiento, a legal document ("requirement") drawn up in 1513, to be read before initiation of the conquest of Amerindians. The famous 1511 sermon of the Dominican friar Antonio de Montesinos raising the question of Spanish mistreatment of the native peoples of the island of Hispaniola led to a review of whether or not conquest of the New World was justified, and if so, under what conditions. Spanish jurist Juan López de Palacios Rubios articulated the rationale for Spanish action in a treatise Of the Ocean Isles (1513). He argued, as did Bishop Hostiensis earlier, that the pope could annul political jurisdictions of heathens and transfer them to Christian princes, as Pope Alexander VI had done for the Spanish in the Bulls of Donation of 1493.

The requerimiento summarized just title in the hands of the pope and recognized his authority to transfer jurisdiction to the Spanish monarchs. Before combat could begin, the native peoples were to be told that if they acceded, they could become loyal vassals; if they resisted, they would be deprived of both liberty and property. The ceremony was probably first performed in the Indies on 14 June 1514. Historian Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés, who as notary had frequent occasion to administer the oath, lamented that "it appears to me that these Indians will not listen to the theology of this Requirement, and that you have no one who can make them understand it; would Your Honor be pleased to keep it until we have some of these Indians in a cage, in order that he may learn it at his leisure and my Lord Bishop may explain it to him?" (Lewis Hanke, The Spanish Struggle, pp. 33-34).

See alsoIndigenous Peoples; Slavery: Spanish America.


Lewis Hanke, The Spanish Struggle for Justice in the Conquest of the New World (1949).

Lyle N. Mc Alister, Spain and Portugal in the New World: 1492–1700 (1984).

Additional Bibliography

De Cesare, Michele. El debate sobre el "indio" y las institu-ciones españolas en el Nuevo Mundo. Salerno: Edizioni del paguro, 1999.

Mackenthun, Gesa. Metaphors of Dispossession: American Beginnings and the Translation of Empire, 1492–1637. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997.

Pérez, Joseph, ed. La época de los descubrimientos y las conquistas (1400–1570). Madrid: Espasa Calpe, 1998.

Roa-de-la-Carrera, Cristián Andrés. Histories of Infamy: Francisco López de Gómara and the Ethics of Spanish Imperialism. Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2005.

Thomas, Hugh. Rivers of Gold: The Rise of the Spanish Empire, from Columbus to Magellan. New York: Random House, 2003.

                                   Noble David Cook