Week Two: The Meeting of Two Worlds

I found the approach to this week’s topic very intriguing, to refer to the date of 1492 as a mythic story. From what I was taught as a young child in school, Columbus was always portrayed as a hero to America. I was not given the whole story, just the best image of his discovery. It wasn’t until later in high school that I learned the harsh reality that Columbus should not be considered so much a celebrated hero, but more a villain in the history of Latin America. Now, hearing Columbus’ own words of his expedition gives me a sense of the reality of 1492.

By reading excerpts of Columbus’ personal journal, it is clear to see how he viewed his discovery of Latin America. He talks mostly about his desperate search for riches and the abundance of goods once he reaches the land. This didn’t seem too far off with what I was taught in school about Christopher Columbus — that his intended plan was to arrive to India in hopes of discovering goods. But after watching the video, I now understand why Columbus puts such a strong emphasis on the plentitude of goods on the newly discovered land. It seems as though Columbus is compensating for not achieving his original plan by focusing mostly on material goods.

It is also very interesting to learn about the occasions when Columbus was not truthful to the crew he had travelled with, in order to convince others that the trip they had made was worth the effort. Not only does he have to attempt to assure his crew of the expedition, but he pleas with the King and Queen on numerous times. It is apparent that Columbus was not confident in his efforts to convince his crew, as they eventually became uncooperative. At least that is how he portrays them in his journal. And most importantly, he mistreats the natives of the land and completely disregards their importance to his discovery. Without the help of the natives, Columbus would not have been able to discover the abundance of goods on the land. Reading his interpretation of the story behind 1492, it seems very likely that Columbus is an unreliable narrator of his expedition, based on his interpretation of the events.

I am sure that I was not the only one who was only taught the best image of Columbus’ discovery. Why is it that we are taught only of Christopher Columbus’ heroism, but not the reality?

7 thoughts on “Week Two: The Meeting of Two Worlds

  1. Jon

    It might be a nice (mythic) thought to consider Columbus some kind of hero. But perhaps it is equally comforting (and equally wrong?) simply to see him as a villain?

  2. kelsey wiebe

    Hi Laura! I was taught the same when I was younger. Perhaps it’s because, to a young child, it’s easier to speak in plain terms: Columbus discovered America, he found goods and met a new population, etc. I only found out through general reading on the Internet the truth behind the “discovery,” that there was actually a lot of conflict involved.
    I love your analysis of why Columbus focused so much on the fertility of the land and the potential for the new kinds of flora in his journal! He really did not find much else it seems, aside from nature and native people. It’s like he thought his expedition wasn’t much of a success, and by trying to convince the monarchs and his crew, he was also convincing himself. It’s also interesting to consider that he didn’t even find a new passage to India, the only thing from his mission that I think he really considered a success. See you in class!

  3. olga kochkareva


    I find your take on the readings very insightful. I am wondering, however, if you had a North American education. In a sort of skewed response to your question, at school we were taught very little about Columbus, and when we were, he was portrayed as a villain, not as a hero. I had a European education, and I find the difference in what we are taught here a very interesting example of teaching history the way that you perceive it.

  4. ceanna romo

    Hi Laura, I really enjoyed your blog post! Learning about Columbus in school I had a very similar experience to you. I find it interesting how you pointed out Columbus’s seemingly lack of confidence in his journey as he lied to the crew on multiple occasions and pled with the King and Queen. I think that one reason we were taught only of Christopher Columbus’ heroism in school is because, from an early European point of view, Columbus was a great explorer who discovered many new things. Like many other topics we learnt about in school , such as resedential schools in Canada, our ejucation system is starting to stray away from a stricktly early European point of view and trying to look at the whole picture for everyone who was involved.

  5. Magalee

    Hey Laura, I also originially learnt about Columbus in a favourable light when I as a kid, and the more I read other peoples’ blogs the more I understand how common that was. The question you bring up as to why this is so, is a very good one and a topic I have also thought about recently. Is it possible that it was simply misinformance on the part of the creators of the curriculums (unintentional) or can it be viewed as an echo of the racism and colonial mentality historically present in European/Western societies for centuries? The cynic in me believes that it has been intentional and originates from a place of intolerance and xenophobia, but perhaps it was simply the biproduct of a flawed education system as a whole. This would be a cool question to bring up during a discussion!

  6. Daisy Sessions

    I find it really interesting how so many of us have had similar educational experiences with the teachings of Columbus. I think it really speaks to how society has a changed perception of his acts. It also makes me wonder how elementary schools teach the discovery of the New World today.

  7. Felipe Grosso

    Hey Laura,

    I agree completely. I wonder whether the schools teaching this type of narrative (Columbus the hero), realize whether they’re trumpeting the other part of the story. Namely, the Indigenous struggle.

    I really enjoyed your article!



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