Indian Ruins

Palenque (Chiapas). Temple of inscriptions. (Credit: Jan Harenburg / Wikimedia Commons)

Palenque archeological site (Chiapas, Mexico). Temple of Inscriptions. (Credit: Jan Harenburg / Wikimedia Commons)

In the 19th century, José Martí warned that no empire is innocent of what Kenneth Burke called the “exaltation” of sacrificial human offerings:

[Among American Indians] there are sacrifices of beautiful young maidens made to invisible gods in Heaven just as in Greece, where often there were so many sacrifices that there was no need to build altars for new ceremonies, because the pile of ashes of the last burn was so high that the priests could lay their sacrificial victims on them; there were human sacrifices like the one by Abraham the Hebrew, who tied Isaac over the wood pile to kill him with his own hands because he thought he heard voices from Heaven which ordered him to plunge his knife into his son, so that his blood would satiate his god; there were public sacrifices in the Plaza Mayor in Spain, in front of bishops and kings, when the Inquisition burned men alive, with pomp and circumstance, while the Madrid ladies observed the burning from their balconies. Ignorance and superstition turn human beings into barbarians in all nations. And about the Indians more than is just has been said about these things by the victorious Spaniards, who exaggerated and invented the defects of the defeated race, so that their own cruelty would appear just and convenient to the world.[1]

José Martí, “Las ruinas indias”

OG

[1] in La Edad de Oro (1889; México:Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1995), 116

Temple of the Sun, Palenque archeological site in Chiapas, Mexico. (Credit: Éclusette / Wikimedia Commons)

Temple of the Sun, Palenque archeological site in Chiapas, Mexico. (Credit: Éclusette / Wikimedia Commons)

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