Week 2 Response

After watching The Meeting of Two Worlds as well as some additional readings, I feel that my knowledge on Christopher Columbus has definitely broadened. However, it has broadened in a sense that what I thought was a rather black-and-white topic, has a much more nuanced approach in reality.

It struck to realize how the names of many cities, states, provinces, and even a country are all named in honour of Christopher Columbus. This led me to think of other things that are named after the famed explorer. Take for example the words corn and guinea pig. The French translation to these words are ‘blĂ© d’Inde’ and ‘cochon d’Inde’ respectively, which means Indian wheat and Indian pig. This correlates to the fact that Columbus believed he had arrived in India rather than in the Americas. It also surprised me that Columbus died believing he had reached Asia, and established a new route to the Indies. This truly made me question the image of the “heroic” Columbus that I had as a child. Furthermore, the concept that Columbus is technically pre-Columbian was very interesting, in which it almost resembles an oxymoron.

The works of Todorov were also intriguing. Columbus had truly started a very long and gradual chain of events that form society as we know it today. In addition, I was also interested in BartolomĂ© de las Casas. I always assumed that most Europeans at the time would have felt superior to the Native Americans, however de las Casas proved me wrong. Although, After reading some of Columbus’ journal, there are definitely passages that display this superiority. For example the following quote from his journal, “However, they appeared to me to be a very poor people in all respects.” I found it very interesting reading through his journal and seeing the landing through his own perspective.

It was a bit harder for me to understand Columbus’ voyage as an allegory. It did make more sense as I realized through his journal, that he is very vague. HIs accounts could have simply been a myth as stated in the video. His many uses of similes and comparisons seem to show that Columbus was unsure of what he truly saw. Perhaps he knew all along he was in fact not in Asia, but did not want to appear as a failed explorer to the king and queen of Spain. All this reinforces the notion that Columbus’ explorations may not have been as they always seemed.

My question for the class is as follows: why didn’t the Vikings, who had landed in the Americas before Columbus, had not made the same efforts towards colonizing the new land?

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