Week Two Readings

Reading the journal of Christopher Columbus was valuable and, in my opinion, critical to understanding the establishment of the New World. Although his account of the events reinforced my understanding of Columbus as a greedy and lousy person, it allowed me to see his actions has purely ignorant and unintentional. Columbus saw himself as a vessel of royalty. His actions were in the name of the crown and as long as his cruelty was for the purpose of the bettering the divine country, he could abuse the indigenous people. In a way, Columbus did not intend for the events to play out as they did.

I was surprised by the extent to which Columbus saw the indigenous people as less than human. He believed that he could easily manipulate and convert the people. Another surprise was the importance of religion. Columbus’ religion was a major contributor to his feeling of superiority. Like so many other historical and current events, religion can be a major point of division that allows one group of people to see themselves as wholly separate from another group. According to Columbus, those who had not found Christianity were not fully human.

Columbus contradicts himself by praising the land and the people: “all the ones I have met on the islands have been splendid people”(138). He values their beauty and recognizes their generosity. Even so, he continues to seize their land and people. I think this shows his inability to characterize the land. He could not communicate the true nature of the people.

In the second reading, it struck me that the flood of European people to the New World was based on lies manufactured by Columbus. To an extent, Columbus truly misinterpreted the Native people’s hand gestures, but he also advertised an abundance of gold and silver that did not exist. Conversely, the Spanish are described in a way that is less than human in this document. They conquered the Americas for reasons no better than greed and lust.

This reading gave a distinct view on the conquest of the native land. It portrayed the Incan King as a strong and self-assured leader. He was not intimidated by Christianity, nor the Spanish explorers. I will use this document in my film: “Columbus: Commend or Criticize”. While Columbus’ journal provides a source that may portray Columbus and merely confused and ignorant, this source contrasts that point of view by portraying Columbus as a liar and cruel imperialist.

1 Thought.

  1. I wonder if we really have to choose between *either* “commend[ing]” *or* “criticiz[ing]”? In the end, I guess we have to do a bit of both. But perhaps it might be more interesting to trace the various reasons why people ever since have been tempted to paint him one way or another: as hero or villain.

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