Saturday, July 22, 2006  

Not quite the stand-up guy you thought...

Although Isabella and Ferdinand look a little better. I've already had some reservations about Columbus Day and tend to look at Thanksgiving through a more revisionist lense.

This is the 500th anniversary of his death, and probably the 500+th anniversary of the death of untold Indians and slaves (Indian, other and White) that he personally caused.

Among the other things one is not taught about Columbus is that he was Viceroy of the West Indies for 8 years and then brought back in chains on order of the Spanish Crown to stand trial for his behavior. New documents recently discovered suggest Columbus was a discoverer with a taste for power, sadism and profit.
Consuelo Varela, a historian in Seville, has studied the documents and believes it is the most important discovery about Columbus's life for a century. Her research, which appears in La Caida de Cristobal Colon (The Fall of Christopher Columbus), reveals the brutal life in the first colony which Columbus set up.

Varela told the Spanish daily El Pais: "Life in the colony in these first seven years was hard and terrible. There was a great deal of hunger, envy, rancour and rumours of all sorts. It was a primitive, insular life, rather like what we see in Western films."She said people, including white Spanish slaves, were auctioned in the main square of Santo Domingo. "We hear of a poor boy who was caught stealing wheat grain. They cut off his ears and nose and put shackles on him and made him a slave. Columbus ran the colony with an iron fist.

"One woman happened to say that Columbus came from a working-class family and that his father had been a weaver. Columbus's brother Bartholme had her tongue cut out, after parading her naked through the streets on a donkey. Christopher congratulated his brother on defending the family honour."

There were many attempts at mutiny in the colony, she said.

James Loewen adds, in "The Lies My Teacher Told Me":
"They would even take Indians from place to place with them -- as dog food -- as a kind of mobile dog food," said Loewen. "When they got to where they were going for the night, [they would] allow the dogs to tear one of them apart and eat them." That story came from the contemporary account of a priest, Bartolemy de Las Casas, who knew Columbus.
To understand our own (US) history, we really need to be more aware of how this area came to be. I don't think showing schoolage children pictures of Indians being torn apart by dogs is appropriate below the age of 15, just as it is not appropriate (in my mind) to show the lynching postcards to the same age group. But at some point, they need to be shown because everything is linked.

I also think some of this info need to be shown to the Pope (or whatever pope) before anyone goes any further on the sainthood question for Fr. Junipero Serra. I remember being horrified when, at a relatively young age, I read his biography and learned that Serra had encourage the Spanish soldiers to take Indian wives or concubines because the Indians were such undisciplined workers and the resulting offspring would provide less recalcitrant labor. I remember thinking- he's treating them like mules! And being thoroughly disgusted.

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