Fray Antonio Montesinos – The Christmas Sermon (21st December 1511)
Today, on the anniversary of Fray Antonio Montesinos sermon, we pay homage to a brave man, a human rights champion, a priest that put his believes before the mundane interest of commerce as well as his own safety, a man that influenced the one who later would become the beacon of freedom and justice for enslaved workers … we also pay homage to all the brave, isolated, persecuted, tortured, menaced, men and women of this world, who rebel against the injustice and oppression of any kind. Those who stand up, to speak the truth and contribute to make this world a better place to live!
Criticisms of Spanish actions in the New World emerged early in the colonial experience. Through much of the sixteenth century, Dominican priests charged that settlers, particularly encomenderos, abused natives with unremorseful regularity. Antonio Montesinos’ sermon, as recalled by the Defender of the Indies–Bartolomé de Las Casas–used the pulpit to question the eternal repercussions of settler actions. Las Casas cites this sermon as the pivotal moment in his life. After taking Montesinos warnings to heart, Las Casas relinquished his encomienda and entered the Dominican order. His characterization of natives, undoubtedly served as inspiration for Las Casas own work.
Las Casas documented Montesinos as saying …
We have changed “Indians” for “Haitians”, “gold” for “sugar”, and you could change“Encomenderos” for “sugar barons the likes of the few families who control the Dominican Republic’s sugar industry” and unfortunately, Fray Antonio’s Sermon would be history repeating itself.
Source: Antonio de Montesions, quoted in Latin American Civilization: History and Society, 1492 to the Present, edited by Benjamin Keen, 63 (Bolder: Westview Press, 1986).