During my formative years in kindergarten and elementary school I remember the nursery book rhyme taught to all of us children. "In fourteen-hundred and ninety two Columbus sailed the ocean blue." We had school plays that tried to recreate his intrepid ocean journey. I wasn't the best at remembering lines, so I played the part of the Pinta, one of Columbus' ships. As most school children are taught, we learned about how he was the first to discover the Americas, that he was a merchant looking for a trade route to India, that he was the first to prove the world was round, and that if it wasn't for him America as we know it would not be here.
As I grew up, other historical facts started to tarnish the pristine image of Columbus. Leif Erickson of the Vikings was actually the first known European to see the shores of the Americas. In the fifteen hundreds, educated persons and seafarers commonly knew the world was round, as the curvature of the Earth could be seen on the ocean horizon. The merchandise he traded was slaves from Africa. Furthermore, millions of indigenous peoples had been flourishing for tens of thousands of years on the new continent. I don't think that they would say Columbus discovered the shores that they walked on everyday. If fact, they probably would have a few very choice comments about Columbus and his `discoveries.'
Columbus' arrival in the new world marked the beginning of the end of life as it was known by the indigenous peoples. During the third day of his initial gold quest Columbus wrote in his log that, "with fifty men you could subject every one and make them do what you wished. Columbus immediately began capturing natives, believing that they would make fine servants and with the hope of teaching them English and using them as interpreters. Columbus ended his first voyage with the murder of two natives while trading. He described those murdered natives and their people in his log as "evil...and that they eat men." Curiously enough, every mention of native people before that day was how friendly, giving and peaceful they were.
The Spanish returned with not three, but with seventeen ships and over a thousand soldiers and six priests on Columbus' second voyage. A little known fact was that the second voyage was financed mostly by confiscating wealth from the Jews during the Spanish Inquisition. The stories of rampant cannibalism and godless peoples infected the crew. They were not so well behaved as on the first voyage. They were at war and lusted for gold. They raped and pillaged mercilessly. Soldiers argued as to whose sword was sharper, and proved it by...