LAST 100

The Meeting of Two Worlds

Hello All,

Back already you ask? Yes! I have some exciting and controversial opinions to share.

I have just finished reading ‘The Voyage of Christopher Columbus: Columbus’ own Journal of Discovery Newly Restored and Translated’, and ‘The First New Chronicle and Good Government’, the former written by Columbus himself, and the latter by Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala.

The first text depicts Columbus’ journey as he tries to find a way West to the Indies, and follows his journey there and his experiences in what he believes to be the Indies – what we now call the Caribbean. A slightly rarer phenomenon, we look through the eyes of Columbus himself. The noticeable motif running through the diaries is that of mistrust. Already from the first entry one notices how Columbus lies to his crew about the distance travelled, a lie which will amount to over 100 leagues of inaccuracy by the end of the voyage. Perhaps the feelings of mutiny can be said to stem from this original separation of knowledge by captain from crew. We know already that Columbus resorted to explanation through the use of signs and symbols, however, this becomes more so apparent upon further examination. Columbus uses phrases such as ‘a white bird like a gull’ in his attempts to describe the natural wonders that he discovered. A repeated setting that Columbus uses is reverting to Spain to put image to mind –  he talks about Castile, Andalusia and other places that he feels do justice to the natural splendour. It is interesting to note that despite the villain that he is portrayed as, often Columbus would approach the island dwellers with no intention of fighting them, or plundering their homes. Yet, this in itself could be debated as we know that Columbus was writing with the purpose of sharing his experience with the King and Queen of Spain, and so may have been lightening the real goings-on.

Which do we believe? The story of a hero, of a villain, of a desperate man or of a greedy explorer?

It was overall a pleasant narrative to read and painted a simple story of ‘a man going on an adventure’. It also contrasted heavily in some areas with the second work that I read. The text was extracts from a ‘masterpiece’ written in the 1600’s, describing the transition of power and the European movement in Peru. Here the description of Columbus and more who followed is much more along the lines of the guilt-ridden story that we are often taught in schools today. Men hungry, quite literally, for gold and silver, and willing to stop at nothing to get it. The satirical cartoons are designed to separate the indigenous peoples, including the Incas, and they all contain a running theme of greed on behalf of the invaders. Is there ever anything without bias, however? Could these tales also just be designed to further the Peruvian sentiment and slander the Europeans? Guaman Poma de Ayala, the author, did not eyewitness most of the events that occurred, and it is freely admitted at the top. The cycle of questioning appears to be never ending – we will never know the full and absolute truth.

One thing that stuck with me from my journey of today is the idea that Columbus himself was pre-Columbian; he was not aware of the enormous ripple effect his journey of 1492 would have, and how it would change life as we know it. I’ll leave you to think on that.

Till next time – over and out!


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