Eric Fragoso Dr. Steven L. Berg Eng102pm 12 April 2013
What They Didn’t Mention In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Why is this phrase the first thing that comes to mind when we excogitate the events of the founding of the Americas? The answer is simple: this is how we memorized the date that Columbus discovered America in our history classes growing up. According to your middle school text book: Columbus ‘’discovered’’ the Americas and then preceded south through Central America bringing technology and salvation to the indigenous. They also tell the dark story of the Jamestown settlement that barely managed to survive in 1607 and become remembered as the first permanent colony in Virginia. Then in 1620 the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock and from there established a foothold for the colonization of the whole eastern seaboard. We learn from the Jamestown colony that settling this new world was extremely dangerous and frightening for our European ancestors. This was especially true when the natives became hostile and attacked their settlement. How did they do it? How did the Europeans settle this formidable land and conquer the native peoples? From an early age we are consistently told that the Europeans advanced technology, intellectual prowess and overall racial superiority were the deciding factors to our domination of this new world. When you are in middle school that sounds like a perfectly rational theory, compounded by the fact that it’s a story we have been fed over and over again in history class. The average white American with a minimal background in
historical studies (I would assume this is most of the population as history is mostly regarded as a least favorite subject…sorry, Dr. Berg) loves this story. This epic is tailored for white Americans; triumph over Mother Nature, overcoming seemingly impossible odds and finally, the conquering of an inferior race. So why would I ever question the roots of my country? Only when I came across this meme did I consciously reopen this story book in my mind. I started thinking about how we really overcame the elements but this time I would not accept the easy answer. This time I would do my own research and, based off the known truths, decide for myself. What is the full truth of how we won this land? A simple, dumbed down, illogical story with half of the pages missing would not suffice. The first thing that the American origin myth leaves out is the fact that the English pilgrims were not the first ones to settle North America. Columbus paved the way for the Spanish to not only settle the Caribbean and Central America, but also North America. The Spanish built forts in Florida and as far north as the Carolinas but none of them lasted very long and were eventually abandoned. This fact is important because when the Spanish settled these areas they brought along with them diseases. The native population had no immunities built up to protect themselves from European diseases. “Smallpox is believed to have arrived in the Americas in 1520 on a Spanish ship sailing from Cuba, carried by an infected African slave. As soon as the party landed in Mexico, the infection began its deadly voyage through the continent.” (Diamond) This account from Diamond’s book Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. describes the beginning of the end for the Native Americans. The truth is, is that in 1620 when the pilgrims landed, the natives were not strong enough to defeat them like they had the previous settlers. We are lead to believe that the pilgrims had luckily found an area that had been uninhabited. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Diamond also mentions that these viruses brought by earlier European explorers are estimated to have killed up to 90% of Native Americans. So we now know that this land was not uninhabited, its population had just been decimated by the sweeping plagues. We have firsthand accounts that prove