Week 2: The Meeting of Two Worlds

Growing up in Asia, the “discovery” of the Americas was not a major focus in History class, and hence, I do not have much previous knowledge with regards to Christopher Columbus and his journey to the Americas. However, despite my lack of extensive knowledge, I knew a little here and there. While I never truly saw him as a hero (because I believe that serendipity had a large role to play in his “discovery”… slightly more on that later) I never saw him as a villain either, despite the broad range of negative effects that his “discovery” had on the indigenous civilisations.

Both this video and the readings have also made me think about intention versus reception. Columbus set sail westward to find a faster route to Asia, as well as for his personal gain. Thus, he often is seen desperately trying to justify his journey to the Crown. However, here we are, over 5 centuries later, celebrating him as a hero in holidays such as “Columbus Day”. This makes me feel uneasy because, as the video states, Columbus himself was not even aware of what he “found”. The celebration of Columbus is merely due to serendipity, as chance played a large role in the way that events unfolded. He did not find a faster route to Asia. He did not necessarily “achieve his mission”. Yet, with the way that events played out, it is clear that serendipity has played a huge role in the celebration of Columbus today, and in the manner of which many people view Columbus today – As a “Hero” or as the one who “Discovered the Americas”.**

Additionally, I am slightly angered by the fact that Candia’s incorrect portrayal of the Incas led to more people coming to the America’s and stripping them of their resources, bringing along disease and suffering. However, I also believe that the world would not be the same today if it wasn’t for the events that took place. This is one of the reasons why I believe that it is important to learn history, and in this case, the history of Latin America. Many people say that it is to keep ourselves from making the same mistakes, but a big part of me wants to learn more about the events that occurred in the past out of respect for the people and civilisations that have died in the process of making history. They deserve to be known because without them, the modern world as we know it today potentially wouldn’t exist.

Well, those are just my personal thoughts and opinions with regards to Columbus. I am sorry if this offends you in any way 🙁

Some questions for discussion – If you could say something, or ask Christopher Columbus/Candia a question, what would you say/ask? Also, how do you think the world would be like today if Columbus never sailed the ocean blue? Do you think that similar events would’ve eventually happened, or do you think that everything would be different today? No wrong answers here, to be honest.,


Michelle Marin

** The reason why I struggle to say “Discovery” without (sarcastic) quotations marks is due to the fact that “discovery” implies that it was not known before, however, it is a very euro-centric way of explaining what occurred in 1492. The “discovery” of these civilisations occurred long before, as the civilisations themselves were aware of their own existence (Does this make sense..)

5 Replies to “Week 2: The Meeting of Two Worlds”

  1. I really liked your last comment about the “discovery” of America. I myself, have used the term discovery however, I also think that this term should not be used. This term implies that the civilizations were not legitimate until they had received acknowledgement from the rest of the world (or in this case, Spain). Frankly, it’s almost offensive to the Incas whose culture was so rich, it did not require their validation.

  2. You paint a nice image of the sort of arbitrary nature of Columbus’ elevation (or denigration) within the modern world. ‘Discovery’ is certainly a term that we can take issue with, especially since we know he was not the first European to set foot in the Americas; as the Normans settled in what is now Eastern Canada centuries prior. I think that Columbus’ significant role in history can be in large part attributed to the prosperity that the colonization of the Americas brought to various European nations. Perhaps it’s intentionally euro-centric, in that it’s easier to mythologize an individual than it is to acknowledge the depravity and suffering on which this prosperity was built. It’s sort of a nationalistic stance in this regard; a desire to celebrate the ‘greatness’ of ones ancestry/country/history, yet leaving out, or denying any involvement with the brutality through which this ‘greatness’ is so often achieved.

  3. Your point about serendipity playing a part in Columbus’ arrival to the Americas is really interesting – I had never considered the huge role of coincidence in how those events unfolded, especially since coming to the American continent wasn’t even Columbus’ plan.

  4. I really enjoyed reading your post because I thought it was thoughtful and it presented me with new ideas. I also believe that the events of the past lead us to the present but I also believe there are many different ways of getting there. That being said, even if Columbus had not been the one to “discover” america, I think we would have still ended with a similar situation. This is because I do not think Columbus’ way of thinking was unique to him at the time. I believe alot of people would have had similar ideas and thus similar consequences. That being said, if it had been somebody else maybe the attrocities would have been minimized. However, I find this unlikely because it seems to me that Columbus was just a catalyst for the events folowing. The catalyst could have easily been any other person or event.

  5. Serendipity, serendipity, serendipity.

    Yes, I agree with you that Columbus’s “discovery”, as you put it are celebrated in serendipity. I grew up in the states, with Columbus being portrayed quite heroically, however I agree with your sarcastic quotes attached to the word discovery. I vibe with em.

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