Columbus meets Tainos


Cristoforo Colombo - Italian, Cristobal Colon – Spanish version, Christopher Columbus - English translation... by any name, was a complicated man.


A genius, a man of and ahead of his time, a great explorer and navigator, the first Conquistador, a murderer, a slaver and a genocidal maniac. Each and every one of those is easily verifiable through the historical record, much in his very own handwriting, as he kept very precise journals.


I have a very ambiguous relationship to him and those who came after, because I am one-third (almost exact numbers based on DNA testing done at the behest of my son) Taino (one of the Arawak tribes that he was responsible for cleansing, in the ethnic sense) I am also one-third African, and as it was he that began that African slave trade, there is no way he can shirk responsibility. The final third European and that is the portion that seems to dominate my appearance and languages (with small exceptions) It is also the portion that is the basis for most of my original worldview, mainly because genocide, when done with the efficiency and to the extent that is the case in the American holocaust is a successful technique, regardless of any moral implications. So it took years of study and UN-learning to see the whole truth, not only about Columbus but the entire history of the colonization, exploitation and subjugation of the Americas.


While the very notion of comparing genocides is anathema, just for perspective, we must. It is without doubt, the most horrific story in world history. Far worse (in numbers) than the Rwanda massacre, Pol Pot's Killing Fields, Nazi holocaust, the barbarism of Attila or even the conquests of the Khans. The many millions who were tortured, mutilated, murdered (so many methods it is impossible to track, including biological warfare) enslaved, worked to death and raped, is incomprehensible. The time span covers centuries, as Europeans spread inland from the coasts. The techniques differed, but the end result was the same.


Throw in the African slave trade (an arguably very close second as far as horrible crimes) and you have one helluva list of crimes, not individual and random, but with purpose and strategy.


And it ALL began with Christopher Columbus "the cross" in one hand and Toledo steel in the other.


His close friend Michele de Cuneo, wrote this account of his rape of a Native female "gift" given to him by Columbus;
"We captured this canoe with all the men. One cannibal was wounded by a lance blow and thinking him dead we left him in the sea. Suddenly we saw him begin to swim away; therefore we caught him and with a long hook pulled him aboard where we cut off his head with an axe. We sent the other Cannibals together with the two slaves to Spain. When I was in the boat, I took a beautiful Cannibal girl and the admiral gave her to me. Having her in my room and she being naked as is their custom, I began to want to amuse myself with her. Since I wanted to have my way with her and she was not willing, she worked me over so badly with her nails that I wished I had never begun. To get to the end of the story, seeing how things were going, I got a rope and tied her up so tightly that she made unheard of cries which you wouldn't have believed. At the end, we got along so well that, let me tell you, it seemed she had studied at a school for whores. The admiral named the cape on that island the cape of the Arrow for the man who was killed by the arrow."


Accounts of cruelty and murder include Spaniards testing the sharpness of their swords by cutting Natives in half, beheading contests and throwing them live into vats of boiling soap. There are also accounts of infants being lifted from their mother's breasts by Spaniards, to be dashed headfirst into large rocks.


Theodor de Bry Bartolomé de las Casas A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies 1552


Bartolome De Las Casas, a former slave owner who became Bishop of Chiapas, described these exploits: "Such inhumanities and barbarisms were committed in my sight as no age can parallel," he wrote. "My eyes have seen these acts so foreign to human nature that now I tremble as I write."


Columbus made Natives work in gold mines until they dropped. Those who resisted were beheaded or had their ears cut off. All persons over 14 years of age had to supply at least a thimble of gold dust every three months and then issued copper necklaces as proof of their compliance. If they did not fulfill their obligation their hands were cut off and tied around their necks while they bled to death, more than 10,000 died handless. Cutting ears off, for even minor "offenses" was common.


Taino ear cut off


Within two years' approximately 250,000 Indians on Hispaniola (modern Haiti and Dominican Republic) were dead. This included mass suicides, intentional poisonings and mothers killing their babies to avoid persecution.


Columbus sold sex slaves to his men, some as young as 9. He and his men also raided villages for sex and sport. In 1500, he wrote: "A hundred castellanoes 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."


Dogs eating natives


There were butcher shops throughout the Caribbean where Indian bodies were sold as dog food. There was a practice known as the montería infernal, the infernal chase, or manhunt, in which Indians were hunted by war-dogs-dogs. The dogs wore armor and fed human flesh. Live babies were also fed to these war dogs as sport, sometimes in front of horrified parents.


A few years before his death Columbus wrote; "Gold is the most precious of all commodities; gold constitutes treasure, and he who possesses it has all he needs in the world, as also the means of rescuing souls from purgatory, and restoring them to the enjoyment of paradise."


So... I can appreciate the intelligence, bravery and determination it took to convince the Spanish monarchs to fund his expedition(s) accomplish the crossing(s) of the Atlantic, the ability to keep his men from mutiny, the exploration and mapping, the beginning of making the world smaller and more "modern"... all while never forgetting the millions who paid the price.


The question is; do we eliminate Columbus Day in favor of some type of Indigenous Peoples Holiday?


I will leave you to ultimately answer that question, but first let me ask you one that may help clarify it: how can we as a modern nation, who are in process of trying to break from our racist foundations, condone a celebration of the man who opened the door and set the example for the two worst crimes in recorded history?



Jose Rosa

Jose Rosa

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