Amerigo Vespucci’s View of the Natives

“…they themselves wonder why we do not eat our enemies and do not use as food their flesh, which they say is most savory. Their weapons are of bows and arrows, and when they advance to war they cover no part of their bodies for the sake of protection, so like beasts, they are in this matter.” (35)

I believe this sentence represents the view Vespucci had on the natives. Vespucci describes the natives as barbaric individuals who “observes no sort of law” and live according to nature. The people are portrayed as cannibals who eats the flesh of war captives and wages war against other tribes. Children are taught to fight and kill and women when given the opportunity, were “urged by excessive lust, they defiled and prostituted themselves.” The people are portrayed as unorganized and weak with bow and arrows as weapons and no armor to protect themselves. In addition, throughout the letter Vespucci also describes the abundance of resources available. He speaks of the fertile land and hills, mountains, rivers, springs and forests. He recounts the roots and herbs the natives used to care any diseases and prolong their lives. He also describes the immense uncultivated trees that  yields fruits and seeds that he has never seen before. Most importantly, Vespucci informs of the vast amount of gold and pearls that the natives hold no value to. Vespucci’s descriptions of the unorganized barbaric people and abundance in resources are an invitation for others to come claim all these riches awaiting them. 

2 thoughts on “Amerigo Vespucci’s View of the Natives

  1. I found the last sentence in your entry really interesting; the “invitation for others to come claim all these riches awaiting them.” I can see why Vespucci saw it as an invitation, rather than a difficult ‘conquer and claim’ type of situation. He clearly did view the natives as harmless, considering the comparison in weapons between the natives and Vespucci, as well as their protection. Because no one really owned property and they didn’t really have some sort of structure or set laws, he assumed that it would be an easy task to take advantage of these natives, as well as their abundance of resources.

  2. I definitely agree with how you interpret Vespucci’s view of the natives. Its obvious that there is a major cultural contrast. Vespucci, coming from Italy, would’ve never expected to encounter such a different type of people. The idea of children being taught to kill, and the people generally being less civilized due is nothing close to what he would encounter living on his own. Another major difference would be that the natives’ don’t seem to value certain goods as much. Vespucci describing such an exotic and resourceful land is definitely an invitation for others to come claim all the riches as you said.

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