The Real Christopher Columbus

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Every year, on the second Monday in October America celebrates a holiday that still makes Indigenous Americans cringe. Columbus Day was first conceived by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization, in the 1930’s. Then, in 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the day into law as a federal holiday. But what do we know about this “American Hero” Christopher Columbus?

When Christopher Columbus first set sail, he promised his sailors an award equal to their yearly salary to the first person who saw land. In October of 1492 a sailor spotted land, however Columbus retracted the reward, claiming he had already seen a dim light in the west that he knew was land.

Christopher Columbus never set foot on what is today known as USA Soil. Instead, Columbus and his crew landed in what is now known as the Bahamas and Hispaniola, present day Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Columbus then wrecked his ship; the local natives, as a friendly gesture, spent hours saving the crew and cargo from harm.

Realizing the kindness of the local natives, Columbus seized control of the land, and captured the natives as his own slaves. He describes the natives in his journal:

“They brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things. They willingly traded everything they owned. They were well built, with good bodies and handsome features. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, and they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane. They would make fine servants. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”

Columbus returned to Spain and told stories of natives being “savage cannibals, with dog-like noses that drink the blood of their victims.” Upon his return he left 39 men to explore the new land and help themselves to the women. When Columbus returned with 1,200 more soldiers the rape and pillage became commonplace and tolerated by Columbus.

Several accounts of cruelty, murder, and rape include the Spaniards testing the sharpness of their blades on the Native people by cutting them in half, or beheading them in contests and throwing Natives into vats of boiling soap. Other accounts tell of suckling infants being taken from their mother’s breasts by the Spaniards so that they might be thrown headfirst into rocks.

Columbus and his men used the Natives as dog food. Native bodies were chopped up in butcher shops and sold as dog food. There was also a practice known as the “Monteria Infernal” or the Infernal Chase, a manhunt in which unarmed Natives were hunted then killed while alive, by the Spaniard’s war dogs. Live babies were also known to be fed to the dogs, as sport, in front of the horrified parents.

Christopher Columbus was forced to return to Spain in 1500 after being arrested for mismanagement of the Island of Hispaniola. However the King of Spain pardoned him and paid for a fourth voyage back. Columbus would die stubborn, refusing to believe that he had not landed in India, but instead had discovered a new land. Happy Columbus Day!

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