Week 4 Essay
In 1492, Columbus Sailed The Ocean Blue
August 3, 1492, Columbus sailed from port of Palos, Spain, with three ships, one larger ship, Santa María, nicknamed Gallega (the Gallician), and two smaller vessels, Santa Clara, nicknamed Niña (the Girl), and the Pinta (the Painted). As it is so often stated, the rest is history. For centuries, the history books have lead many people to believe the misconception that Columbus was America’s great discoverer. Unfortunately, this is the furthest from the truth.
In depth research of Columbus throughout the years has painted a much different picture of him than what many people have been taught. Christopher Columbus introduced two events that transformed race relationships and the modern world: the conquering of land, wealth, and labor from the native Indians, contributing to their near extinction, and the transatlantic slave trade of African ancestors, which fostered a racial underclass that, in some places, exists still to this day. Columbus’s initial impression of the Arawaks, who occupied the majority of the islands in the Caribbean, was quite positive. He documented in his journal on October 13, 1492, “At daybreak great multitudes of men came to the shore, all young and of fine shapes….and very beautiful. They are not black, but the color of the inhabitants of the Canaries.” Columbus was in search of gold, and seeing gold displayed about the necks of the natives, he inquired where their king lived. By dawn of the next day, Columbus sailed to the other islands, probably one of the Bahamas, and saw multiple smaller villages. He closed his journal entry with these intimidating words “I could conquer the whole of them with fifty men and govern them as I pleased.” On his initial voyage, Columbus captured some ten to twenty-five Indians and took them back to his homeland, Spain. Only a hand full of the natives arrived alive, but along with birds, gold treasures, and other exotic goods, they caused quite a commotion in Seville. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella provided Christopher Columbus with seventeen ships, 1,200 to 1,500 men, cannons, guns, and attack dogs for a second voyage.
In 1493, when Columbus and his men returned to what is present-day Haiti, they demanded gold, food, textiles and whatever the natives had. To ensure they cooperated, Columbus used serious reprimands as a tool for any disobedience on the natives’ part. The punishments consisted of cutting off ears or nose, with the disfigured person being sent back to the village as an example of the brutality that the Spaniards were capable of. Not having found any gold, Christopher Columbus had to return some kind of dividends to Spain. In 1495, he and his men initiated a great slave raid.
A particular sadistic and repugnant aspect of the slave trade was sexual rape/exploitation. As soon as the early voyage reached the Caribbean, before they ever sailed to Haiti, Columbus was rewarding his lieutenants with native women. On Haiti, sex slaves were one more prerequisite that the Spaniards enjoyed. Columbus wrote a friend in 1500, “A hundred castellanies are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten are now in demand”. The slave trade devastated entire native Indian…