Christopher Columbus: Hero or Zero? In October we celebrate the man who found America. People are taught at a young age that Christopher Columbus was a hero when in fact he was a murderer. Yes, he found a land that was unknown to his people, but in his findings, he murdered, raped and enslaved the true natives of this country. Columbus and his men destroyed the civilizations, cultures, and land of the Native Americans. These actions should not be portrayed as heroic. When you read about his thoughts and actions during his voyages, you can see that Columbus was not civil towards the natives he encountered.
When he first sighted what he called “Indians” he saw a group of unclothed people, their nakedness, to him, represented lack of culture and religion. To Columbus, this was an opportunity to spread the word of God and exploit the Native Americans. He thought they would be easy to defeat because of their apparent defenseless and a source of profit because the Native Americans could easily be enslaved. It clearly did not occur to Columbus to consider these people anything but slaves. His thoughts were only a fraction as to what was to come.
In Columbus’s letters you can sense his arrogant attitude in claiming the lands he found. He wrote a letter telling of his discovery to his friend Luis de Santangel, in this letter he wrote, “And there I found very many islands filled with people innumerable and of them all I have taken possession for their Highnesses…” Columbus never considered the fact that these islands, and their inhabitants, were not his to take and change as he pleased. Columbus informed Spain of his new discovery when returned.
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He brought with him many new things, as well as kidnapped Indians to pay tribute to Spain and lionize himself. Any Indians that were not taken to Spain were made slaves on the islands. The settlers that came to the islands with Columbus were allowed to select any Indian they wanted for a slave. Enslavement was inevitable and no one seemed bothered by the mistreatment of the Native Americans. Columbus and his people deemed themselves as superior to them. Enslavement was not the only thing the Native Americans had to endure; Columbus also threatened and intimidated them and even tortured and killed them.
Columbus felt Christians did no wrong so they never got punished for their inhumane actions towards Indians and he was in charge so he felt he could do as he pleased without consequence. Many people terrorized the Indians and instead of Columbus punishing the culprit he punished the Indian victims. Instances like that led to a war between Columbus and the settlers, and the Indians. Indians did not have the weapons necessary to defeat the settlers and were wiped out; those that were not killed were captured. Accounts of rape that Columbus and his men committed were reported by people who he traveled with.
Columbus would pass captured native women out to his men so therefore they believed they did not need the women’s consent and as horrible as this seems, those were the less violent acts towards the Indians. Columbus and the settlers were very cruel. They would make examples out of Indians by doing things like cutting their hands off and telling them to share the message and they would slaughter entire villages including children. These are the acts that Columbus and his men partook in. Christopher Columbus should never have been nor should be considered a hero.
He destroyed what he discovered, wiped out an entire population and never finished his goal of finding a route to Asia. How is that heroic?
Works Cited “Marvelous possessions: the wonder of the New World” By Stephen Greenblatt ^quote on page 2 found on page 52^ “A short account of the destruction of the Indies” By Bartolome de las Casas Columbus: Letter to Louis De Santangel, 1493 http://www. wwnorton. com/college/history/ralph/workbook/ralprs19. htm “The mysterious history of Columbus: an exploration of the man, the myth, the legacy” By John Noble Wilford
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