Listening to “The Meeting of Two Worlds” videos and reading the journal of Christopher Columbus himself has left me with two feelings. One being, intrigued about what happens next in the historical story, and the second being frustrated with Columbus. The first feeling is usually how I feel when I begin to learn about a new subject, all the ideas are fresh and exciting, and it feels as if I’ve stepped into another world. Of course, I knew that Columbus travelled from Europe to find the West Indies, but I did not know exactly where he landed or what kinds of people that he encountered along the way. It was interesting to watch Jon’s video after reading the journal entries as it increased my understanding and deepened my interest. I also thought that the student videos were quite well done and helped the knowledge sink into my brain.
The reason that I felt frustrated with Columbus is his sheer ignorance of any other culture or religion other than his own. I understand that this was just the mindset of the time; that any one other than Europeans were “savages” and “uncivilized”, and were in need of Christianity. However, it is a completely dismissive way of thinking, and the fact that thousands of people died of foreign disease is also a maddening fact. I don’t know much about colonization in South America, but I know a little bit about North America and I know that the after effects of colonization has continued even to this day. Relationships between First Nations people and the government is still not a great one. So a question I have about colonization in South America: is the relationship between the indigenous people and the government a good one? Or is it a hostile one? What were the consequences of Columbus coming to Latin America, and how has that affected the relationship between native Latin Americans and European settlers? Another question I have is how exactly did Spanish spread throughout the countries? Did the settlers teach the indigenous people? Or was it just picked up by the people through time? Also how did the indigenous language become the language less spoken?
There were so many questions that I had after being introduced to the meeting of these two worlds and I am looking forward to discovering more of the story of how Christopher Columbus “discovered” Latin America.
I just wanted to comment and say I totally agree with your frustration with Columbus, that definitely echoes my sentiments about him too. I think you’re also right in pointing to his ignorance of other cultures, especially his seemingly decisive disinterest in learning about these cultures, as a source of annoyance.
With regards to your question about the effects of Columbus’ colonization on the relationships between European settlers and the indigenous people of the area, I don’t feel like I have a good answer for you. I’m not very well versed on the colonization of Latin America, but I can speak to the colonization of the Philippines (which I feel is somewhat of a similar experience).
I spent my early childhood in the Philippines and learned a bit about how the Spaniards had come to conquer my home country. It seemed like the Spanish were intending to make the indigenous people of the Philippines more like them, and you can see this in the names/language/religion prevalent in the country today. I hope this sheds some light on your queries about the colonization style of the Spanish.
Awesome post by the way!
You had a lot of great questions at the end here! I have a lot of the same ones too. I can try and answer some of them, specifically in an Ecuadorian perspective. I know this isn’t the goal of these comments, but I find your questions quite fascinating to think about!
From my experience in Ecuador, the relationships of Indigenous people and the Ecuadorian government varies from group to group. The Kichwa, for example, are highly integrated, their native language is still spoken and often you will see government buildings and documents in both Kichwa and Spanish (If you google it, you can learn why their language is still intact, unlike many other Indigenous languages and I find the story quite interesting). You will also see Kichwa women wearing their traditional clothing and for the most part, they can practice their traditional way of life. However, this is not the story for all Indigenous groups in Ecuador.
The Shuar and Huaorani in Ecuador are facing incredible oppression by the Ecuadorian government. Their home territories are being destroyed by oil exploration and extraction. They have very little political power and are often still looked down on by the majority of Ecuadorians (and even other Indigenous groups in the country) as being ‘savages’ and ‘uncivilized’.
For the Shuar and Huaorani, first contact with the outside world came as recently as the 1950s due to their location deep in the Amazon. The story of their contact is similar in many ways to what we are learning happened in 1492. Sadly, I do not think much changed in the 450 years since. For the Huaorani, first contact meant Evangelism, disease, and Eurocentric ideas, much like it did for the Indigenous people of the present-day Bahamas who met Columbus. And now, in place of gold, the violence inflicted upon them is in the quest for oil.
Your questions are really really interesting here, I like how you link what happened in 1492, to the present day and the relations between indigenous people and the government. Even with Canada’s 150-year-old celebration, there was a lot of rising tension over whether it is to be celebrated or not. I do not have any answers to your questions about Spanish but I do believe that all the same, they are still important questions.