You offer me rune, Valverde
Together with Pizarro, a new god
You give me a book you call a Bible
Through which you say your God speaks:
Nothing is heard, despite my best efforts
Your God does not speak to me, he wants to remain silent
Why do you kill me if i don't understand
Your book doesn't speak, it doesn't want to speak(‘Encounter in Cajamarca’, from Taki Ongoi by Victor Heredia, an Argentinian singer-songwriter)
The Bible arrived in what is now known as Latin America in the hands of Spanish and Portuguese conquistadores who reached the continent from 1492 onwards. This arrival and its effect on religion was of course backed and controlled by the Roman Catholic Church. The official version of the Bible used by the Church at the time of the conquest and considered to be the only authentic one by the Council of Trent was the ‘same ancient Vulgate edition, approved by the Church through its use over many centuries’. Any other versions or translations into the vernacular were prohibited (with some exceptions as we shall see below) and they were included in the Index of Prohibited Books from 1559 onwards. Furthermore, the reading and interpretation of the Vulgate was reserved for specialists who were properly guided by the teaching of the Church. The Bible was not, therefore, a present reality in the everyday life of the colonial Church, except as it was first mediated through a series of filters.
The first filter would be that produced by scholastic theology, which accompanied and served as the theological foundation for the conquest and which, in many cases, ended up being a justification for the subjugation and extermination of the indigenous population, favoured by certain sectors of the conquistador enterprise. The second filter would be that exercised by the ecclesiastical institution that presented itself as the only valid interpreter of the Scriptures. Thirdly, that same institution, when faced with a threat to its authority, would repress even the Bible itself as a source of inspiration beyond its control. Finally, we will examine the way in which the biblical message found paths to freedom, inspiring prophets such as Bartolomé de las Casas and his defence of the indigenous cause.