Monday, October 8, 2012

Columbus Day

The heroic view of Columbus landing in the Caribbean "discovering" America.
Landing of Columbus (John Vanderlyn, 1847)
Capitol Rotunda, Washington, D.C.
Of course the reality was that Columbus was a nasty piece of work who engaged in systematic genocide against the indiginous people of the New World.
Regarding the Taino people of the Caribbean, Columbus wrote:

"They traded with us and gave us everything they had, with good will..they took great delight in pleasing us..They are very gentle and without knowledge of what is evil; nor do they murder or steal..Your highness may believe that in all the world there can be no better people ..They love their neighbours as themselves, and they have the sweetest talk in the world, and are gentle and always laughing."
He also wrote:
"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."
In a generation after contact with Columbus, diseases like smallpox in addition to torture, rape, slavery, and murder dropped the Taino population by 90% and today some anthropologists believe the Taino became extinct (even though some people in the Caribbean still identify themselves as descendents of the Taino).

 Columbus didn't discover America, he discovered a people who were subjugated and enslaved.  Not someone I want to honor with a holiday.

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