The New World Legacy Of Christopher Columbus
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Credited with the ‘discovery’ of the Americas, his voyage is essentially responsible for the face of the modern world, and we revisit the interaction between Columbus and the Native peoples he found inhabiting the ‘New World’ and what the consequences have been…As we shall see, The New World Legacy Of Christopher Columbus leaves a lot to be desired.
Columbus & The Indians
Arawak men and women, naked, tawny, and full of wonder, emerged from their villages onto the island’s beaches and swam out to get a closer look at the strange big boat. When Columbus and his sailors came ashore, carrying swords, speaking oddly, the Arawaks ran to greet them, brought them food, water, gifts. He later wrote of this in his log:
They … brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks’ bells. They willingly traded everything they owned… . They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features…. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane… . They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.
Columbus also wrote:
As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts.
The information that Columbus wanted most was: Where is the gold? He had persuaded the king and queen of Spain to finance an expedition to the lands, the wealth, he expected would be on the other side of the Atlantic-the Indies and Asia, gold and spices. For, like other informed people of his time, he knew the world was round and he could sail west in order to get to the Far East.
The New World Legacy Of Christopher Columbus would clearly be defined by the quest for Gold.
In return for bringing back gold and spices, they promised Columbus 10 percent of the profits, governorship over new-found lands, and the fame that would go with a new title: Admiral of the Ocean Sea.
Columbus was a merchant’s clerk from the Italian city of Genoa, part-time weaver (the son of a skilled weaver), and expert sailor. He set out with three sailing ships, the largest of which was the Santa Maria, perhaps 100 feet long, and thirty-nine crew members.
On arrival in the Bahamas, Columbus was met by the Arawak Indians, who swam out to greet them. Columbus forcibly took some of them aboard his ship as prisoners because he insisted that they guide him to the source of their gold.
He then sailed to what is now Cuba, then to Hispaniola (the island which today consists of Haiti and the Dominican Republic). There, bits of visible gold in the rivers, and a gold mask presented to Columbus by a local Indian chief, led to wild visions of gold fields…The New World Legacy Of Christopher Columbus was already being laid.
The Indians, Columbus reported, “are so naive and so free with their possessions that no one who has not witnessed them would believe it. When you ask for something they have, they never say no. To the contrary, they offer to share with anyone….” He concluded his report by asking for a little help from their Majesties, and in return he would bring them from his next voyage “as much gold as they need … and as many slaves as they ask.” He was full of religious talk: “Thus the eternal God, our Lord, gives victory to those who follow His way over apparent impossibilities.”
Because of Columbus’s promises to the Spanish Crown, he embarked on further expeditions to the Americas in order to obtain more slaves and gold. He went from island to island in the Caribbean, taking Indians as captives.
The Indians were eventually taken en masse as slave labor on huge estates, known later as encomiendas, and died by the thousands.
By the year 1515, there were perhaps fifty thousand Indians left. By 1550, there were five hundred. A report of the year 1650 shows none of the original Arawaks or their descendants left on the island.
In the final analysis, the policy initiated by Columbus and pursued by his successors resulted in complete genocide…It is ultimately in terms of genocide that The New World Legacy Of Christopher Columbus can best be described.
To emphasize the heroism of Columbus and his successors as navigators and discoverers, is to de-emphasize their genocide.
As the Catholic Church entered in support of the Conspiracy under Pope Nicholas V by passing the Papal Bull ‘Romanus Pontifex’ in 1455, in effect supporting the Papacy’s claim to spiritual lordship of the whole world, this Papal Bull became the basis for Spain’s later claim to lands in the “New World”.
Off-course no-one ever bothered to ask the Arawak Indians whether they considered ‘Romanus Pontifex’ binding on them…It was imposed by sheer force, and in time a system of Political Economy developed that would serve as a Blueprint for Europe’s Imperial endeavours up to and including the Colonization of Africa.
Check out the links below for the full text of this article, as well as our previous entry on the relationship between Papal Bulls ‘Romanus Pontifex’, ‘Unam Sanctum’ and Imperialism.
Our featured Home Page Documentary of the week ‘500 Nations’ chronicles events in the ‘New World’ and Columbus’ role in them quite well.
Links & Credits