It always puzzled me why schools continue to teach historical myths as factual. One of the bigger myths that is taught to American school children is about the Christopher Columbus and the discovery of America. In an article at Common Dreams, author and historian William Loren Katz lays bare the real story and it isn’t pretty.
Columbus’s Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria were driven across the Atlantic by the same ill winds that from 1095 to 1272 launched nine Eruopean Crusades to capture Moslem Jerusalem. Defeated and humiliated the invaders suffered staggering human losses, left royal treasuries depleted, and convinced Christian leaders to only pay lip service to another try.
Except for Christopher Columbus. Born Christopher Colon this ambitious Genoese craved adventure, was given to religious mysticism to the point he accepted God’s personal command to free the Holy Land. He also saw God’s hand in cloud formations, splashing waves, and distant stars, and had read a religious book that convinced him the world would end in 150 years. He claimed at sea he once saw three mermaids dancing on waves, and was sure in distant lands he would meet men with tails or heads of dogs. God had chosen him specifically to see Christianity victorious “throughout the universe.” And he would follow His command to convert or destroy Moslems, Jews and other non-believers. Columbus’s earliest sea experiences were as a youth serving on Portuguese slave-trading ships along Africa’s Atlantic coast. He learned men, women and children could be captured and sold for enormous profits. With enough slaves and gold, even a lowly Columbus could finally end the infidel grip on Holy Land. [..]
Columbus’s voyage eastward to seek the riches of Asia has been called the momentous journey in history. To him it was only first step toward his larger goal. After five weeks in the Atlantic, his food supplies running low and lying to grumbling crewmen he was not a man lost at sea, Columbus stumbled on an island in the Bahamas named Guanahani. On the morning of October 12, 1492 with a crew in heavy armor bearing swords and muskets, he left the Santa Maria for the sunny shore and a military and nationalist mission. He planted Spain’s flag in the soil, took “possession of the said island for the king and queen,” and renamed it San Salvador. “With fifty men your Highness would hold them all in subjection and do with them all that you could wish,” he wrote in his Diary. The Admiral was applying the new European “doctrine of discovery” that granted its merchant adventurers the right to claim distant lands and their inhabitants. Papal bulls of the time also divided “discovered” lands between Spain and Portugal, and in 1494 the Vatican specifically drew a line dividing the Americas – and the slave trade – between these seafaring powers.
Columbus and his expedition was also a product of Spain’s painful “final solution.” Since 711 Spain’s Moslem Arab rulers shared their cultural wealth with and practiced toleration of the country’s diverse citizenry. Catholics, Jews and Moslems lived peacefully with neighbors, as Spain became a world center of books and learning.
Then Catholic King Ferdinand of Castille and Queen Isabella marshaled an army to impose Christan rule. Castillian soldiers charged into battle with the cry “Santiago Matamoros” or “Kill the Moors.” By January 1492 Christian soldiers stood poised for victory and an era of ethnic cleansing.
The article goes onto to describe how Columbus and his men were welcomed and responded with treachery. Columbus’ voyages were the opening salvo in what would become a holocaust across the North and South American continents that continued for over 300 years. It is time that we stopped celebrating this slaughter. On Monday, celebrate Indigenous People’s Day, also known as Native American Day and learn the real history of America’s discovery and about the culture of its native people.