Yesterday in America (and in an assortment of other countries) we celebrated Columbus Day. For all unfamiliar, it was the day that Christopher Columbus discovered (or as I like to put it "bumped into") the Americas. When I was a kid whose thoughts were indoctrinated by picture books and history relayed to me from teachers and government funded textbooks, the story of Columbus was shiny and glorious.
Columbus wanted to find a quicker trading route to Eastern Asia (which was a selfish motive in and of itself as this discovery would have made him a very rich man) and occasionally a teacher would throw in there that he also wanted to disprove the theory that the world was flat. They go on to tell us that he fell upon islands in the Caribbeans (San Salvador, Bahamas, Canary Islands to name a few) and foolishly believed he had accomplished his goal of sailing to Asia against the normal route.
|wipe that smirk off your face Chris|
First of all, he didn't come upon the conclusion that the world was a sphere. Many early Greek philosophers came to this theory long before Columbus. Not only that, but Columbus came up with an entirely new (and wrong) conclusion: the world was shaped like a pear. He claimed he had not found Asia because of the bulging part of the pear near the stalk.
Next up was his relationship with the natives. Textbooks tell us about the friendly relationship between Columbus and the natives and we all left class thinking about the small talk they probably had about the football game last weekend while they traded food and guns.
Alas, no such a thing happened.
To an extent, they started out on the right track. The Europeans had fancy guns and other nifty tools that the Natives had never seen. Think back to when you saw an iPad for the first time and you get the picture. Christopher Columbus willingly traded with them and things seemed to be going well.
Columbus made a few friendly relationships among their leaders, but eventually he began capturing the Natives so he could later sell them into slavery once back in Europe. I guess the guy felt bad because he had failed in the whole finding a new trade route department of his voyage (which was the only point of his voyage) so he decided to bring back some slaves to make up for the economic loss he was facing.
Not only this, but Columbus was a major cheapskate. On his first voyage in 1492 he promised gold to whoever spotted land first. A sailor named Rodrigo de Triana was lucky enough to spot sight of land first, but Columbus never gave him the reward. Columbus claimed to have seen a hazy light the night before but it was indistinct hence why he supposedly never said anything. Nevertheless Columbus kept the reward for himself.
Columbus not only ruthfully took away men and women from their families and sold them into to slavery to make up for his failures, but he (and his men) raped the villagers and tried to govern their civilizations in harsh and cruel ways. He enforced unpayable taxes upon them and thought of them as second class people.
On top of everything else, Columbus' one claim to fame is only partially true. Everyone knows Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas yet IT HAD ALREADY BEEN DISCOVERED. Millions upon millions of natives already inhibited this "new world" he found.
Granted he discovered the Americans for the Europeans and others living on that edge of the world at that time, but he didn't actually find the New World first.
And to think we give him an entire holiday.