by Armando Simón, Issues & Insights:
For over a decade, Columbus has been painted as a mass murderer, committing all sorts of crimes in the New World, including genocide.
So far, though, he has not–at least, not yet–been accused of not providing transgender bathrooms in his ships.
Those accusations are complete fabrications, unsupported by even one shred of historical evidence. Let me repeat that because it is very important: there is no historical basis, no contemporary documents, nothing, that indicates that he engaged in all of the “crimes” that present-day activists have promulgated. None! Zip! Nada!
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The “accusations” (which often sound more like insults than rational accusations) range from the gruesome (claiming he chopped off Indians’ hands for not bringing gold or carrying out genocide—total fabrications) to the infantile (ridiculing the fact that one of his ships sunk—he was not the captain of that particular ship and they were sailing in uncharted seas abounding in hidden reefs), to the stupid (Democrat politicians and Native Americans claiming that Columbus carried out genocide in North America, where he never set foot nor sail).
Nonetheless, we can expect the usual posturing and sloganeering on Columbus Day by historically illiterate leftists and “indigenous people,” some of the latter being about as Native American as Elizabeth Warren.
One should consult primary sources (preferably in the original Spanish and not in translations): his logbook, the “Capitulations” (legal documents, also known as the “Book of Privileges”), the contemporary biographies, and especially “Los Cuatro Viajes del Almirante y su Testamento,” and, “Brevísima Relación de la Destrucción de las Indias,” both written by Friar Bartolomé de las Casas, who as every schoolchild in Spain and the Caribbean knows, was the Apostle of the Indians for working indefatigably to protect the Indians from his fellow Spaniards.
De las Casas never mentions Columbus committing any crimes, and De las Casas did not shrink from accusing anyone. On the contrary, he mentions Columbus as constantly protecting the natives from his crew and the settlers. The explorer often had trouble controlling the men under him because he was a foreigner and the Spaniards resented any foreigner ordering them; in fact, because he was a foreigner, some contemporary Spaniards even downplayed his discovery. On top of that, the natives were helpless, had gold nuggets, and the women and men were completely naked. Picture the problem.
Sometimes, the accusations/insults hurled at him are of events that occurred decades after he was dead, carried out by the Spaniards, who worked the natives to death after he was gone, to the point that, unlike the North and South American continents, no natives were left alive in any of the Caribbean islands. When he is not directly accused of committing those acts, he is accused of being responsible for them because of his discovery of the New World, which is like arguing that Henry Ford was responsible for all of the traffic accidents and the deaths from tank battles, almost a century after Ford’s death.
Furthermore, Spain was in a race with Portugal for finding a route to Asia to establish trade. Columbus’ expedition was seen as a commercial voyage, which at the very least would hopefully pay for itself, if not actually be lucrative. The discovered islands were henceforth seen as trading posts and as stepping stones to Asia. His first voyage cost relatively little compared to the massive expenditures of subsequent voyages (huge supplies had to be sent because the climate and the land were not conducive to raising European crops; additionally, hundreds died from yellow fever; Columbus himself was stricken). This explains the preoccupation with finding gold. Fortunately for Spain, Cuba and Hispaniola had gold.
Something that has to be understood, which is counterintuitive to us, is that European monarchies were poor. Much of Europe’s mineral wealth had been sent east for spices, and the silver and gold mines of the continent had been long exhausted. The splendor and wealth that we associate with monarchies really begins in the 1500s, partly as a result of the discoveries of the massive presence of silver and gold in Central and South America (Potosí practically had a mountain of silver with some dirt sprinkled on it).
An additional result of finding the New World, according to Wootton’s “The Invention of Science,” Columbus’ discovery of a new continent was a tectonic shift for European minds. Hitherto, it had been assumed by everyone that the Ancient Romans and Greeks had discovered everything that there was to know about anything. It came as a shock that there was an unknown antipodal continent, with unknown people, animals, vegetation, and geography. And many discoveries awaited. By anyone.
Nowadays, it is seen as fashionable to dismiss Columbus’ Promethean effort because the New World had already been discovered by the Vikings and the natives. However, Hans Selye clarified it best in “From Dream to Discovery:” “The important difference between the discovery of America by the Indians, by the Norsemen, and by Columbus is only that Columbus succeeded in attaching the American continent to the rest of the world.”
The propaganda against Columbus has come primarily from Marxists, best exemplified by Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” (anytime that you see the word “People’s” in the title of a publication, a Marxist probably wrote it). Zinn was an admitted Communist and the purpose of his textbook (which is presently being used for indoctrination in American schools through the innocent-sounding Zinn Project) was to make gullible, naïve, students hate their country and motivate them to destroy it. It has succeeded. And Christopher Columbus has been one of his victims. Nor is Zinn alone in such efforts.
Similar propaganda is found in Huffington Post, The Guardian, The New Yorker, and many, many other publications which have saturated the culture, all stating the same message, all written by smug, self-confident leftists with a colossal ignorance of history. One can also find examples on YouTube. They are even briefly inserted in television programs (“The Sopranos,” “The Office,” “The Good Place”), like intellectual drive-by shootings. That illustrates how thoroughly saturated our society has become with leftist lies.
Ultimately, the matter boils down to one question: who do you trust more, writers for Huffington Post and The Guardian, who cannot even read Spanish, or, documents and historians writing at the time of Columbus and witnessed events?
Marxists have a long-standing record of mutilating history for ideological purposes. In the first half of the century, Soviet historians claimed that Russia had invented the car, the plane, the light bulb, soccer, baseball, etc. In the comedy film, “The Mouse That Roared,” a group of ambassadors pass the time playing Monopoly; the Russian ambassador claims that they invented the game.
At any rate, the attack on Columbus is not an isolated incident. His statues have been vandalized, or toppled, as have been the statues of Lincoln, Jefferson, Lee, and many, many others. The falsification of Columbus’ history is not an isolated case either, just look at the 1619 Project, to cite simply one of the most obvious cases, not to mention the CRT movement.
All these are actually attacks on America, on civilization. This is not hyperbole. The leftists say so. Why? Perhaps Milan Kundera, a former resident of a Communist country can best put it together: “The first step in liquidating a people is to erase its memory. Destroy its books, its culture, its history. Then have somebody write new books, manufacture a new culture, invent a new history. Before long that nation will begin to forget what it is and what it was. The world around it will forget even faster.”