Since we are going to be celebrating Columbus day I figured that I would write a few thoughts about this celebrated explorer. I was taught many think about good ole Chris like: him discovering America; proving that the world is round; and delivering gifts to good kids at Christmas…or was that another guy? Anyhow, I found that many things I believed about Christopher Columbus were wrong. Here is a short list of things that I don’t like about this American hero.
1. He Didn’t Prove that the World is Round.
I was taught in school that everyone thought the earth was flat and then Chris came along and said it was round and decided to take a voyage to prove it. I’m sorry to disappoint anyone that believes this, but it was commonly known in 1492 that the world was round, in fact there was even a globe in 1492! The frustrating fact is that the Church is often blamed for the though that the world is flat. This rumor was spread by a couple of atheists (John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White) who were trying to disprove Creation and prove Evolution. In fact, Christopher Columbus wasn’t even sure that the world was round, he thought it was pear-shaped!
What Christopher was trying to prove was that you could sail to the Indies by going west instead of going east. The scholars of the day thought he was nuts and said he couldn’t do it. He wanted to prove them wrong. Christopher Columbus ended up wrong…and they were right. If the Americas weren’t there and it was only ocean Christopher Columbus and his crews would have met utter failure.
2. He Never Set Foot in the USA
I know that it wasn’t called the United States of America way back in 1492 but even if it was Christopher Columbus would have never showed up. He spent most of his time during his four voyages in Cuba and Hispaniola, however he did visit Central America during his final voyage.
3. He Didn’t Discover the Americas
Everyone knows that Christopher discovered the Americas in 1492, right? Um…no. There were natives already in this “New World” so shouldn’t they be credited with discovering it? In fact the islands had somewhere around a million Taino natives living there already before Chris graced them with his presence. Obviously he didn’t discover it.
He wasn’t even the first European to discover the Americas, that accolade goes to Lief Ericson 500 years before Christopher was conceived. What he did do was bring awareness of the Americas to Europe. Basically it gave them new lands to rape and pillage.
4. Chris and the Natives were Friends
Christopher wrote home about the Taino’s gentle, kind nature and said:
[quote]I could conquer the whole of them with 50 men, and govern them as I pleased.[/quote]
Mr. Columbus desperately wanted gold, and saw that the Taino people had it. He began requiring everyone over 14 years of age to bring him gold every three months and if they didn’t bring it to him he would have their hands cut off so they would bleed to death.
Chris felt that these Taino people made pretty good slaves and captured many of them on his voyages to bring to Europe. He especially liked the girls and said this of one of them:
[quote]While I was in the boat, I captured a very beautiful Carib woman, whom the said Lord Admiral gave to me. When I had taken her to my cabin she was naked – as was their custom. I was filled with a desire to take my pleasure with her and attempted to satisfy my desire. She was unwilling, and so treated me with her nails that I wished I had never begun. But – to cut a long story short – I then took a piece of rope and whipped her soundly, and she let forth such incredible screams that you would not have believed your ears. Eventually we came to such terms, I assure you, that you would have thought that she had been brought up in a school for whores.[/quote]
Through disease that the Europeans brought, slavery, murder and so forth the Taino people experienced a huge population decline otherwise called genocide. In fact the Spanish priest Bartolomé de Las Casas wrote this (although his number were most likely incorrect):
[quote] There were 60,000 people living on this island [when I arrived in 1508], including the Indians; so that from 1494 to 1508, over three million people had perished from war, slavery and the mines. Who in future generations will believe this?[/quote]
5. He Wasn’t Liked
Although he did get some notoriety no one really liked him very much. He robbed people. He stole. He murdered. He was a slave trader. In fact, at one point he arrested and brought back to Spain for his atrocities. He was eventually released and allowed to return to the Americas but with no power, and he was probably too sick by that point to do too much harm.
So…Why Is He a Hero?
So if Christopher Columbus was such a vile human being why does he have a country named after him (Columbia) and 13 US cities? Including out nation’s capital, the District of Columbia?? Why do we show him even more respect and have a national holiday celebrating this despot?
Until the late 18th Century it was common knowledge that the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci was the one who discovered the New World…and ultimately America which was named after him. During that time period Christopher Columbus was regarded as a second-rate explorer to any one that could even remember him.
Things all changed during the American Revolution when Christopher Columbus started gaining status. America was revolting from England and was distancing itself from its politics as well as its heroes. As a result America was left without any heroes. So we picked Columbus. He was this rogue explorer who challenged the sea just like America was challenging the unknown.