The Requerimiento—a Spanish word meaning “requirement” or “demand”—was a document that was read aloud by the Spanish conquistadores of the early sixteenth century to native peoples in the Americas, demanding that they submit themselves to Spanish rule and to Christianity. In 1493 Pope Alexander VI, in the wake of Christopher Columbus's first voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, had claimed the authority to grant the Spanish monarchy dominion over the New World. The Spanish jurist Juan López de Palacios Rubios then composed the Requerimiento in 1513 to justify the subjugation of the American peoples in the name of God, forcing them to convert to the Catholic Church or face the Spaniards in war.

In Spain people were beginning to debate the morality of colonization of the Americas. Some supported colonization, in large part because of the wealth it would bring to Spain but also because colonists and missionaries would win new souls for Christ. Since the 700s Spain had been...

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Christopher Columbus landing on the island of Hispaniola (Library of Congress)

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