Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Truth About Christopher Columbus

I know I haven't posted my weekly book/movie review in two weeks but more pressing matters are upon me at such a time. I hope this posts compensates and in some time we'll get back to normality.

Yesterday in America (and in an assortment of other countries) we celebrated Columbus Day. For all unfamiliar, it was the day that Christopher Columbus discovered (or as I like to put it "bumped into") the Americas. When I was a kid whose thoughts were indoctrinated by picture books and history relayed to me from teachers and government funded textbooks, the story of Columbus was shiny and glorious.

Columbus wanted to find a quicker trading route to Eastern Asia (which was a selfish motive in and of itself as this discovery would have made him a very rich man) and occasionally a teacher would throw in there that he also wanted to disprove the theory that the world was flat. They go on to tell us that he fell upon islands in the Caribbeans (San Salvador, Bahamas, Canary Islands to name a few) and foolishly believed he had accomplished his goal of sailing to Asia against the normal route.

wipe that smirk off your face Chris
As we all know, he was very wrong but little do we know, his errors and missteps only began building up from there on out.

First of all, he didn't come upon the conclusion that the world was a sphere. Many early Greek philosophers came to this theory long before Columbus. Not only that, but Columbus came up with an entirely new (and wrong) conclusion: the world was shaped like a pear. He claimed he had not found Asia because of the bulging part of the pear near the stalk.

Next up was his relationship with the natives. Textbooks tell us about the friendly relationship between Columbus and the natives and we all left class thinking about the small talk they probably had about the football game last weekend while they traded food and guns.

Alas, no such a thing happened.

To an extent, they started out on the right track. The Europeans had fancy guns and other nifty tools that the Natives had never seen. Think back to when you saw an iPad for the first time and you get the picture. Christopher Columbus willingly traded with them and things seemed to be going well.

Columbus made a few friendly relationships among their leaders, but eventually he began capturing the Natives so he could later sell them into slavery once back in Europe. I guess the guy felt bad because he had failed in the whole finding a new trade route department of his voyage (which was the only point of his voyage) so he decided to bring back some slaves to make up for the economic loss he was facing.

*rolls eyes*

Not only this, but Columbus was a major cheapskate. On his first voyage in 1492 he promised gold to whoever spotted land first. A sailor named Rodrigo de Triana was lucky enough to spot sight of land first, but Columbus never gave him the reward. Columbus claimed to have seen a hazy light the night before but it was indistinct hence why he supposedly never said anything. Nevertheless Columbus kept the reward for himself.

Columbus not only ruthfully took away men and women from their families and sold them into to slavery to make up for his failures, but he (and his men) raped the villagers and tried to govern their civilizations in harsh and cruel ways. He enforced unpayable taxes upon them and thought of them as second class people.

On top of everything else, Columbus' one claim to fame is only partially true. Everyone knows Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas yet IT HAD ALREADY BEEN DISCOVERED. Millions upon millions of natives already inhibited this "new world" he found.

Granted he discovered the Americans for the Europeans and others living on that edge of the world at that time, but he didn't actually find the New World first.

And to think we give him an entire holiday.


  1. I didn't know something like Columbus Day excisted, until I started doing research for a school assignment about Native Americans. I was looking for some memes so my assignment wouldn't be one depressing heap of facts, when I found this thing from Some ecards that said: Let's celebrate Columbus Day by invading your house and eating your food! (or something like that, it was a long time ago). I don't understand why this man deserves a holiday, I really don't understand... -_-"

    1. While I wrote this post I kept wondering to myself how much people from other countries know about Columbus and your comment helped answer my question haha! I completely agree about the confusion surrounding the fact we give him a national holiday. Crazy how America work. *sighs*

  2. I really enjoyed your perspective on Christopher Columbus, because I've always wondered why he is celebrated as the man who "discovered" America rather than merely stumbling across it.. He was basically the grandfather of colonisation and third-world exploitation, and I didn't know he concluded that the world was pear-shaped, but that sounds exactly the like something "one of his sort" would come out with.

    On a side-note, history students in Ireland do learn about Christopher Columbus, but St Brendan is actually the accepted discoverer of America amongst religious people. Most of the things they teach in Irish primary schools are myths and fables, so it is no surprise that we learned about a devout monk rather than Columbus! The full, epic saga of St Brendan you will see that it includes sea monsters, volcanoes, singing animals and several demons, so I don't know why we only learned about the pious-praying part. But that's public schools for you!

    Great post :)

    1. That's so fascinating that your country's curriculum gives another guy credit for discovering America. I find it so strange as to how religious oriented your public school is, while in America almost any type of religion brought into public schools is a lawsuit waiting to happen. Generally if parents are looking to give their kids an education with a religious background they simply enroll into a private school (as 90% of private schools in America are religiously based).

      It's so interesting as to how different the world is!

  3. Thanks for sharing this! I really learned something knew. It's nice to know that there are bloggers who do post about history and things like these. :)

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