Las Casas - Make Life Fair is named after, and in honor of, Bartolome de Las Casas. Bartolome was a Spanish settler in Latin America during the days of Columbus. The history of Spanish settlement in the New World came at a significant cost to the first inhabitants of the land, the Indians. In Guatemala, this indigenous people group is called 'the Maya'. Bartolome and other settlers were on a quest to establish a new, better life for themselves, but more importantly, were strongly motivated by the idea of Christianization.
The settlers soon realized that the Indians had in-depth knowledge and skills in agriculture. Therefore, they developed a system that in order to be profitable, mandated the Indians work for them without pay. In return for Indian labor, the Spaniards offered Christianization, or salvation after death, believing that such actions would help the Indians know Jesus Christ as God.
Indian forced labor in return for Christianization became known as the 'encomienda system'. The Indians were unable to question or defect from this system, which lead to the destruction of their families, communities and traditions.
Bartolome became a wealthy man while he owned a farm in the New World. After years of benefiting from the encomienda system, he turned from slave owner to devoted spokesperson for the Indians. Bartolome's shift towards compassion and reconciliation with the Indians began after he studied a passage that warned, "stained is the offering of him that sacrificeth from
a thing wrongly gotten." He became a priest, realized that the encomienda system was deeply flawed, oppressive, unjust, and not Christian, and dedicated his efforts to the passing of new laws which called for better treatment towards the native populations.
However, he was met with opposition. First, converting the Indians to Catholicism was a big part of the reason why the king and queen gave so much support from Europe for the voyages to take place. And second, his companions (fellow farmers and settlers) turned against him, considering him a traitor and betrayer.
In Honor of
Bartolome de Las Casas
"Bartolome De Las Casas." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 16 June 2012. <>.
Suarez-Rivas, Maite. "The Conquistadors and Settlers." Latino Read-Aloud Stories. Print.
Motivated by his passion for just treatment for the Indians, Bartolome set his own slaves free, and went back to Spain to make a plea to the government. He purposed a new law, which would enforce freedom for the Indians. Bartolome was successful and received authority by the government, but when he returned to Latin America all the settlers refused to obey and sometimes even began rioting. Obeying meant ending life in the colonies as they knew it. Once the government in Spain heard about the riots caused by the new law, they revoked the ruling, fearing a breakout of civil conflict.
After this devastating blow to his efforts, Bartolome moved back to Spain permanently to take on a new approach. Instead of focusing on the first generation of settlers who were stuck in their ways, Bartolome began working with the people who were preparing to leave for the New World. He was able to educate them about the native culture, help them understand Christianity, and instill values of compassion and fair treatment towards all people groups. In the end, he won over the hearts of the next generation settlers and was gifted the title 'Defender of the Indians' by the Spanish government.
Today, his example of reconciliation lives on. We started Las Casas - Make Life Fair as a venture to support the well deserving lives throughout the communities in Guatemala. Even after the days of the conquest, and still presently going on now, Guatemalans have lived through years of political mistreatment, foreign and corporative oppression, and
brutal civil conflicts. Read more about Guatemalan Facts here.
Las Casas - Make Life Fair represents a tangible way to make an unfair world a little more fair. In a sense, we're seeking to redefine how Christianity is viewed in our world today, just as Bartolome de Las Casas did during his days.
We know that oppression and poverty will always exist. But we can continue on the path that Bartolome so courageously paved by treating others fairly, supporting Guatemalans in need, and raising awareness of the beauty and complexity inherit in the Guatemalan life.