As children, we all “learned” in school about the adventures and exploits of Christopher Columbus: the brave explorer who set out on a perilous mission to discover the New World. He was sold to us as a folk hero, a man to be admired. Banks would close and we would get a day off from school in celebration of his “discovery” of “America.”
We may have been slightly misguided…
Using passages from Columbus’s own journal, as well as an eyewitness account by Dominican priest Bartolome de las Casas, historian Howard Zinn paints a picture of the atrocities committed by Columbus and his soldiers in his book, A People’s History of the United States:
“Las Casas saw soldiers stabbing Indians for sport, dashing babies’ heads on rocks. And when the Indians resisted, the Spaniards hunted them down, equipped for killing with horses, armor plate, lances, pikes, rifles, crossbows, and vicious dogs. Indians who took things belonging to the Spaniards—they were not accustomed to the concept of private ownership and gave freely of their own possessions—were beheaded, or burned at the stake.
Las Casas’ testimony was corroborated by other eyewitnesses. A group of Dominican friars, addressing the Spanish monarchy in 1519, hoping for the Spanish government to intercede, told about unspeakable atrocities, children thrown to dogs to be devoured, new-born babies born to women prisoners flung into the jungle to die.
Forced labor in the mines and on the land led to much sickness and death. Many children died because their mothers, overworked and starved, had no milk for them. Las Casas, in Cuba, estimated that 7000 children died in three months. The greatest toll was taken by sickness, because the Europeans brought with them diseases against which the natives had no immunity: typhoid, typhus diphtheria, smallpox.
In his quest for gold, Columbus, seeing bits of gold among the Indians, concluded that there were huge amounts of it. He ordered the natives to find a certain amount of gold within a certain period of time. And if they did not meet their quota, their arms were hacked off. The others were to learn from this and deliver the gold.”
Perhaps it’s about time to do away with Columbus Day. I know, I know, we love violence in this country and we sure as hell don’t want to give up a day off work or school. But perhaps we can replace this holiday with another. Goyaale, better known as Geronimo, was a violent man as well – but unlike Chris Columbus, his violence was justified. After his mother, his wife and his three children were killed in an attack by Mexican soldiers in 1858, Geronimo went on the war path. For 28 years he and his Apaches fought the Mexicans as well as the Americans, who were systematically carrying out a genocide and relocation operation against the native peoples. Maybe we can begin celebrating “Geronimo Day” in America and pay tribute to his fighting spirit and the will to stand up to injustice.
Or not. We fear change in this country as much as we fear words like “socialism” or “regulation” or “diet.” At the very least, on October 14th, we should educate our children about who Christopher Columbus really was – a egomaniacal psychopath who spread death and destruction in the name of Christianity – and stop celebrating the life of a homicidal maniac as if he were some kind of noble hero.
We shall take you and your wives and your children, and shall make slaves of them, and as such shall sell and dispose of them as their Highnesses may command; and we shall take away your goods, and shall do all the harm and damage that we can.”
“God made me the messenger of the new heaven and the new earth of which he spoke in the Apocalypse of St. John after having spoken of it through the mouth of Isaiah; and he showed me the spot where to find it.”
~ Christopher Columbus, crazy person
Author: Nick Allison is just a banged-up combat infantry veteran of the War in Iraq. He lives in Austin, TX with his wife, their children and two big, dumb, ugly mongrel dogs. Don’t take anything he says too seriously… he’s just trying to figure out this ride we call existence like everyone else. Also, he enjoys writing his own bio in third-person because it probably makes him feel more important.
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Twitter: @ChaosSection.com or @NickAllison80