IV Biennial Conference of the International Association of Inter-American Studies
The University of California, Santa Barbara
October 4 – 6, 2016
The Americas, as a global and cultural phenomenon, have been at the forefront in the struggle for human rights since their inception into European history in 1492 and the cultural transformations that ensued due to this pivotal and dramatic encounter. As early as the 1500s on the Island of Hispaniola (today Haiti and the Dominican Republic), the Taíno Cacique Hatuey confronted the Spaniards and resisted the enslavement of his people and that of other Africans. The Dominican Friar Antonio de Montesinos likewise criticized the enslavement of the Taíno Amerindian people under Spanish rule and inspired Bartolomé de las Casas to launch his internal critique of the ethics of colonialism even if ultimately the Dominican missionary did not succeed in preventing the progressive, for all practical purposes, enslavement of Indigenous peoples through the infamous encomienda system of forced labor. Nevertheless, five hundred years later, in the context of what international migration scholars have called “The Age of Migration” some consider the social reformer, Las Casas, to be one of the first advocates for universal human rights.