Week 2 – The Meeting of Two Worlds

As stated in the weekly lecture video, 1492 is a date that resonates around the world strongly. The arrival of Christopher Columbus and his people in October 1492 to the Americas is what separates world history from its pre-Latin American narrative to the current post-Latin American world. Personally, I can’t help but find it somewhat humorous that this was such a dramatic stamp on global history itself, and yet Columbus had no idea what he had done. Instead, he thought he had found another route to the East Indies, bypassing the Muslim influence on the routes that were commonly used to that region.

It is interesting to consider, particularly after reading the Columbus journal and the translation of Guamán Poma’s writings, the exact intricacies of this “discovery”. For example the fact that both men were in some way attempting to please their respective hierarchies by speaking of grand historical findings and exaggerating certain aspects of culture that they have witnessed. All of these things considered, it makes one wonder how much limitation there is to these primary sources.

After reading Columbus’ journal, I was made aware as to the more villainous aspects of his character and story. Such as his tendency to repeatedly lie to his men and the native peoples whom he encountered, all in order to appease them or manipulate them to his benefit. For example, in his remarks about when they explained the nature of their bodily scars, his first thought is to surmise that they must be “good servants”. Moreover, his insistence on imposing Christianity upon them does not cast him in a very good light, however, it is also true that this would have been on precise orders from the royalty under which he served. It is interesting to read all of these things because it is so contrary to anything I have heard or learned about his heroism in the past.

In conclusion, I found it to be a very valuable experience to be able to read Columbus’ own words from his journal as a primary source. More personally, as I said previously, my own opinion of Columbus was changed significantly as a result of this. As for Guamán Poma’s writings, I found it to be more poignant in its balancing of description of both natives and the “discoverers”. I had no prior knowledge of the exact brutal treatment that the Inca’s were subject to and so reading Poma’s writings was valuable in that sense for me. I suppose an interesting question to pose would be: To what degree did religion influence the way in which the natives were treated? As well as this, one could also ask in what ways could the nature of Columbus’ discovery have changed were it not for the influence of religion and the royalty?

Thanks for reading,


4 thoughts on “Week 2 – The Meeting of Two Worlds

  1. Poole Katherine

    It is interesting to consider how the accounts of what happened were exaggerated probably with the intention of making the crown believe they had encountered something so grand that they deserved a rewards as big as the discovery. It seems through the accounts that all they wanted was this, rewards and recognition for their work in name of the Crown.
    I agree, my impressions of Columbus changed after having read his journal. It seems that he was in it for the glory rather than developing and establishing relationships with the natives.
    Your question is interesting because it makes us think about the role of religion and how much of the project was actually to christianize these populations and how much of it was an excuse to extract resources.

  2. craig campbell

    re: To what degree did religion influence the way in which the natives were treated?
    An interesting question. I suppose if religion eliminated the need of forcing people to have the same beliefs/ values/ culture there would be less violence and more respect for those who have differing beliefs, values and cultures. Something I will definitely ponder 🙂

  3. michelle marin

    I was also never truly aware of the villainous aspect of his character and his story before this class. After reading his journal, I was left wondering how he could be so selfish, especially because in this day and age it seems so out of this world to be so manipulative and evil, and if light were to be shed on his actions, he would be prosecuted. However, we must remember that 500 years ago, morals were quite different than our morals today. While this does not justify his atrocious behaviour, it explains why his cruel behaviour was not emphasised upon back in the late 15th century.

  4. Kito Romero

    Learning about Latin America has been a part of my life because my Dad is from El Salvador, so I have always been aware of Columbus’ and his “discovery” of the Americas, and the horrific effect it has had on the Indigenous peoples since. While it is interesting to hear his voice, I feel I need to try to “hear” it through the eyes of the many Indigenous peoples that were slaughtered by Columbus and his men, by centuries of culture annihilated, and the historical repercussions of his conquest. And yes, I think it is really important for us to consider “religion” and the imposition of Christianity on the peoples of the world and our understanding of history.


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