There are two holidays in the US, which are based on myths and genocidal suffering of a very large population of humanity: Thanksgiving and Columbus Day. Columbus was anything but a normal human. If you look at what he did to the unsuspecting people he encountered on the land here, you are aghast at how low a human being he was. To celebrate him is not only to offend the “Native Americans” but all Americans who can think and have a human heart.
As one from India, am I thankful that this beast never made it to the “real” India!! Unfortunately, for the millions here on these lands who perished at the hands of the Europeans.
Here is a detailed answer on Quora by Adrian Lucas on what made Columbus such a monster.
Yes, Columbus was a terrible human being and the fact that he is still celebrated should offend anyone living in the United States.
It turns out that most of what people know about Columbus is a myth.
For instance, it is obvious that Columbus underestimated the size of the earth and overestimated the size of Asia (otherwise he wouldn’t have gone on his trip at all). But contrary to what many people believe, learned men of his time not only also knew that the earth was round, they actually had better estimates of both the size of the earth and of Asia, which is the real reason why his project was rejected by several monarchs before Isabella.
Therefore Columbus discovered America because he was ignorant, not because he was a visionary.
Rupert Baines talks about the fact that Columbus was directly responsible for crimes against the native people, and I would like to be more specific:
From his first voyage on, Columbus sent Indians back to Spain to be sold as slaves. Many of them died during the voyages at first, and he had this to say about this fact:
Although they die now, they will not always die. The Negroes and Canary Islanders died at first.
In fact, Columbus probably holds the record for the most Indian slaves sent to Europe by a single individual (about 5,000).
Columbus was making no secret that he was looking for gold. The description of his first encounter with native Americans in his journal states:
I was very attentive to them, and strove to learn if they had any gold.
During his second voyage, Columbus and his men started making unreasonable demands to the Indians, including sex with their women, and punished those who wouldn’t collaborate by cutting their ears and nose. When the Indian finally fought back in an organized manner, Columbus used this as a pretext to conquer the island with his superior weaponry. This is how Columbus became governor of Hispaniola.
Columbus or his men were never really able to exploit the resources of the island, whether by digging gold or cultivating food, so they had the Indians do that for them using a cruel tribute system:
[The Indians] all promised to pay a tribute to the Catholic Sovereigns every three months, as follows: In the Cibao, where the gold mines were, every person of 14 of age or upward was to pay a large hawk’s bell of gold dust; all others were each to pay 25 pounds of cotton. Whenever an Indian delivered his tribute, he was to receive a brass or copper token which he must wear about his neck as proof that he had made his payment. Any Indian found without such a token was to be punished.
This is from Ferdinand Columbus’ biography of his father. Understandably he didn’t describe what the punishment was, but we now know that the punishment for not paying your tribute was to have your hands cut off.
This system was not sustainable and was eventually replaced by something that was closer to the plantation system that would later exist in the United States.
According to some estimates, the number of Indians living on Haiti before Columbus was a bit less than 8 million people (though most estimates put it at much less, see UPDATE). In 1496, when Columbus’ brother Bartholomew was left in charge of Hispaniola between Columbus’ second and third voyage, the Indian population was an estimated 3 million people (a census taken that year helps us get a fairly accurate estimate). Twenty years later, they were about 12,000. By 1555 they were… Zero.
Here’s the craziest part in my opinion:
In 1499, Colombus asked the Court of Spain for a royal commissioner to help him govern. The Court instead sent Francisco de Bobadilla to completely replace him as governor.
When de Bobadilla discovered the atrocities that had been committed on the island, he ordered the arrest of Columbus and his two brothers, who were sent back to Spain and remained in prison for six weeks before managing to bargain their way to freedom, on the condition that they never become governors again.
Other fun fact: Queen Isabella actually ordered that some of the slaves sent to Spain by Columbus be sent back to their homeland as she was herself opposed to their enslavement in the first place.
These two facts show something very important: Columbus was an exceptionally cruel man, even by 15th century standards. It is therefore not appropriate to call his actions those of “a man of his times”.
And this is why it is amazing to me that such a person can still be celebrated in the United States.
Source: most of this comes from Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong and some comes from Christopher Columbus (wikipedia)
UPDATE: Some people have criticized the estimate of 8 million natives pre-Columbus. I think this is probably the most valid criticism I’ve seen and I would like to give information about this.
The 8 million estimate comes from a 1971 paper based on data from the historian Las Casas. It is important to note that Las Casas himself estimated the original population at 3 to 4 million.
Current estimates actually range from 100,000, to the Las Casas estimates, to that 8 million figure.
Las Casas puts historians in a dilemma, because he lived just one generation after Columbus and thus had access not only to much more first hand material but was also living in the Americas while writing his work. However, the fact that the 1496 census only appears in Las Casas and no other source is the reason why some historians don’t trust it and make estimates lower than a million. You see, Las Casas was possibly the first activist for the rights of the Indians, and so his words must be taken with a bit of care.
Now, I could point out that it really doesn’t matter how many people there were initially on Hispaniola, but rather what was done to those people and that it did include genocide. But the truth is, I am the one who quoted highest estimate in the first place, so I am just as guilty.