Snuff It #2
Happy Columbus Day
If you live in America and you haven't read Howard Zinn's incredible book
A People's History of the United States, you should do so immediately.
He starts out with one of my all-time favorite quotes, from Columbus's journal:
"As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I
took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give
me information of whatever there is in these parts."
Columbus didn't waste any time! Where's the damn GOLD? No wonder he's
such a big hero! I wonder what the natives learned? Maybe how to lick boots,
or kill themselves...
"They ... brought us parrots and balls of cotton and
spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and
hawk's bells. 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, 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."
What a MAN! He gets me all excited when he talks like that! Apparently the
Spaniards got tired of walking after a while, "and rode on the back of
Indians if they were in a hurry." They were also fond "of knifing
them by tens and twenties and of cutting slices off them to test the sharpness
of their blades."
Now, from his base on Haiti, Columbus sent expedition after expedition into
the interior. They found no gold fields, but had to fill up the ships
returning to Spain with some kind of dividend. In the year 1495, they went
on a great slave raid, rounded up fifteen hundred Arawak men, women and
children, put them in pens guarded by Spaniards and dogs, then picked the
five hundred best specimens to load onto ships. Of those five hundred,
two hundred died on route. The rest arrived alive in Spain and were put up
for sale by the archdeacon of the town, who reported that, although the
slaves were "naked as the day they were born," they showed "no
more embarrassment than animals." Columbus later wrote: "Let us in
the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be
In God we trust! How come I don't remember reading any of this in
grammar school? I must have been sick that day...
But too many of the slaves died in captivity. And so Columbus, desperate
to pay back dividends to those who had invested, had to make good on his
promise to fill the ships with gold. In the province of Cicao on Haiti,
where he and his men imagined huge gold fields to exist, they ordered all
persons fourteen years or older to collect a certain amount of gold every
three months. When they brought it, they were given copper tokens to hang
around their necks. Indians found without a copper token had their hands
cut off and bled to death.
After all the natives were dead, African slaves were imported, but
that's another story. Isn't it great to be an American?
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