Week Two Readings

The journal of Christopher Columbus is highly descriptive mostly of the direction and the scene of the voyage. He consistently calls out the direction, distance, and speed to his crewmembers; and describes the landscape around him. I found it interesting to analyze these recurrent themes in his descriptions even though, at first, his narrative appears repetitive and dull. I noticed that he repeatedly references religion, aspects of the natural world, and direction/speed/distance of his ships.

Columbus repeats the phrase “thanks be to God” when his voyage is going well. He mostly thanks God when referring to a calm ocean or wind that is allowing him to continue his journey smoothly. There is an interesting relationship between the religious references to occurrences in the natural world. To him, they are both signs that land is near. For example, he uses the sight and direction of birds to determine if and in what direction there is land, and consequently thanks God every time he notices these signs. While the natural world, like the sea, the birds, and the wind, are unpredictable, I feel like he repetitively acknowledges God and his direction/speed/distance of his voyage to maintain his sanity throughout a journey in the variable natural world.

Once Columbus reaches land he refers to the land and the Islanders using somewhat exploitive language. He sees both the land and the people as utilities. For example, he talks about how useful all the pine would be in making ships, and sees the people as potential servants. Nevertheless, I found this first-person narration of Columbus interesting because his oppressive intentions appeared to be more so to please Your Majesties rather than a reflection of his genuine feelings.

Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala’s extracts from The First New Chronicle and Good Government portray Spanish greed and its consequences. Once the Spaniards saw the Gold and Silver available in the New World, they would do anything to get their hands on it. Guaman Poma explains how they first attempted to befriend Inca Atagualpa but failed to do so. I found this denied friendship very powerful because it shows the Spaniards’ ignorance in thinking that Atagualpa could be so easily manipulated. Also, to me, their final decision to kill so many Indians enlightens the Spaniards’ excessive greed and belittles the Spaniards’ image.

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