Friday, November 19, 2010

Do Indigenous Peoples have Souls?

My friend Maximo

Today I saw “La Controversia de Valladolid” at UNAM’s Teatro Juan Ruiz de Alarcó (<>). The play is based on a debate that really occurred within the Catholic Church on whether the Indigenous peoples in the(new to them world) had souls. It was powerfully presented.
I didn’t realize when I was invited that Bartolomé de las Casas was one of the main characters. He is connected to the course I teach on the liberation psychology. In brief, the conquest brought a particularly violent and bloody kind of Catholicism, (tied to the discovery of gold and reactions to the Protestant Reformation. Bartolomé de las Casas was an outlier among the missionaries and protested the cruelty of the conquest. He experienced a conversion and devoted his life to struggling on behalf of the indigenous people. Later liberation theologians regarded this generation of missionaries as their precursors. One of these liberation theologians was Ignacio Martín-Baró, a priest and psychologist, who went on to develop the type of psychology I am drawn toward--liberation psychology.
Bartolomé de las Casas probably was no angel, but I like finding examples of people who don’t go with the flow. His actions contributed to the decision that the indigenous should not be slaves. The debate and issues are interesting to learn about and I think have clear mental health implications. 
Go see the play!

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