Sunday, October 12, 2008

Genocide in the Americas

On Monday, our nation will commemorate Christopher Columbus for his discovery of the “new world” in 1492.

How disgusting is it that a majority of American people still believe that Columbus was a man to be honored, a hero to be glorified for “unearthing” a world that was already populated by an estimated 57.3 MILLION indigenous peoples? Keep in mind this number is not exact; it is impossible to ever know how many natives inhabited the Americas and the Caribbean. This number is put forth by William M. Denevan in The Native Population of the Americas in 1492.
After 1492, it has been argued there was a population decline on the order of about 95% before the trend was reversed and the population began to recover. The true history of Columbus is not being taught in our nation’s schools, where there is no mention of the explorer’s inhumane treatment of the Indian people or his business of slave trade.

In essence, this holiday does no more than admire a man who opened the door to European colonization, the exploitation of native peoples and the slave trade.

As some of us know: the Spanish monarch invested in his excursion but, on the condition that Columbus would repay this investment with profits by bringing back gold, spices, and other items from Asia. The stress to repay this debt back led Columbus to bounce back and forth between Caribbean islands stealing anything of value… as is documented in his diaries. Unable to contact the necessary figures in China and India, he decided to pay back his debt with human lives. This wasn’t a new avenue to him as he had previously transported slaves to Portugal. 1,200 Taino Indians were torn from their homes in Hispaniola and crammed into ships which were destined for Spain. Upon their arrival they were treated as mere animals and sold into slavery. Hundreds died while making the ocean voyage and their bodies were tossed into the Atlantic as if they were nothing but rubbish.

Those Indians that were not sent to Spain were forced to work on plantations and in dangerous mines. Columbus and his “cronies” often hunted Indians for sport; they beat, raped, tortured, killed and often fed the Indian bodies to their hunting dogs. Four years after the arrival of Columbus to Hispaniola, one-third of the population had either been enslaved or murdered. Many researchers believe that within 50 years the entire Taino population had been wiped out. The plantation owners then turned their sites on the American mainland and to African slaves.
Spain and Portugal began their colonization efforts in 1492 as well.

The Spanish conquistadors established two new systems of rule over the indigenous population of the Americas known as the repartimiento and encomienda systems. The encomiendo system entrusted large tracts of land to certain Spaniards, they could demand tribute and services from the resident natives, using military force if necessary. Eventually the Spanish themselves realized that the encomienda system, a form of slavery, gave too much power to too few, so it was replaced with the repartimiento system, which divided the land into smaller plots known as haciendas. These haciendas now owned by the elite, required the resident natives to work for the land owners.

The English approached the New World very differently. They wanted the land for themselves, rather than to exploit Indian labor and native resources. As the colonies grew, they considered the Indians to be an obstacle, to be pushed out or killed to make way for more colonists. This pattern of genocide continued after the American Revolution.

I urge you to join the growing alliance of people that feel Columbus Day celebrates colonialism, oppression and genocide and unite to transform it. Re-examine the past and rectify the historical records.
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1 comment:

~vince said...

This is definitely YOUR pet peeve issue. Nice job! Very well researched and written