Christopher Columbus Was a Murderer
The second Monday in October is celebrated across America as Columbus Day. It is a celebration of the man who discovered America. In school, children are taught that Christopher Columbus was a national hero. In actuality, the man was a murderer. It is true that he found a land that was unknown to the "civilized" world, yet in this discovery, he erased the natives inhabiting the land. With slavery, warfare, and inhumane acts, Christopher Columbus and the men who accompanied him completely destroyed a people, a culture, and a land. These are not actions that should be heralded as heroic.
When his thoughts and actions throughout his voyages are considered, one can see that Columbus was never respectful of the rights of the natives he encountered. His first sight of what he termed "Indians" was of a group of attractive, unclothed people. Speculation is that, to him, their nakedness represented a lack of culture, customs, and religion (Wilford 159). Columbus saw this as an opportunity to spread the word of God, while at the same considering how they could possibly be exploited. He believed that they would be easy to conquer because they appeared defenseless, easy to trick because they lacked experience in trade, and an easy source of profit because they could be enslaved (Fernandez-Armesto 83). It obviously did not occur to Columbus to consider these people in any terms aside from that of master and slave. These thoughts were merely a foreshadowing of what was to come.
Even in Columbus's own letters one can see the arrogance he possessed in claiming the islands he found. In a letter describing his findings to his friend Luis de Santangel, he wrote, "And there I found very many islands filled with people innumerable, and of them all I have taken possession for their Highnesses...." (12). Columbus never stopped to consider that these islands were not his to take, nor were the people that inhabited them. He simply took over these lands, even going so far as to rename them all. In order to let everyone know of his great discovery, he returned to Spain with many new items, including kidnapped Indians (Fernandez-Armesto 89). He was attempting to glorify Spain and its monarchs while creating fame for himself.
Columbus's arrogance and exploitation regarding slavery began on his second voyage. Ferdinand and Isabella had ordered that the natives be treated kindly. In opposition to this order, Columbus began exporting slaves in great numbers in 1494. It was because he was not making any real profit elsewhere on the island that he decided to exploit the one source of income--people--he had in abundance (Fernandez-Armesto 107). When word reached him that the crown did not want him sending more slaves, Columbus ignored it. He was desperate to make his expeditions profitable enough for Ferdinand and Isabella's continued support. Evidently he was not reprimanded because thousands of Indians were exported. By the...