It depresses me to read Christopher Columbus’ journals.
These journals demonstrate a true sense of entitlement coming from Columbus and his crew, and it’s this entitlement that begins a violent era of colonization.
Columbus’ journal’s express a true lack of empathy towards a group of people who possessed a culture, physical appearance and language, different than his own.
I noticed a theme in Columbus’ diaries where after spending only a day or a couple of day’s with a new group of indigenous people, he jumped immediately to farfetched conclusions about them.
EX: – If a group had weapons, they were intelligent. If they did not have weapons, they were not intelligent.
– He noted that the people were unintelligent because they were very pleased when they received gifts. (That makes literally no sense!!)
Also, Christopher Columbus had an unbelievably narrow mind about religion. Because the indigenous people he came across were not Spanish-Christian, he decided that they had no religion at all. Columbus had no capacity to understand that perhaps there was more than one way to be “religious.”
It’s interesting to read these diaries in 2016 when we have a deeper understanding of the world. We know that the indigenous peoples of the America’s had (and still have!) a profound connection to the natural world. The way indigenous cultures live in the natural world is extremely advanced. Some indigenous cultures in Latin America are able to name and understand the medicinal purpose of hundreds of different plant species. Some cultures are able to identify every animal and insect around them, through tracking them, some can even identify different animals based on the odor of its urine. Some cultures are able to navigate through oceans and on land, simply by observing the stars.
It is clear that Columbus did not value these qualities, as he made no effort to spend time with the indigenous people, and did not care about learning anything from them. In fact, he just made assumptions about them, decided that his way was always better, and took advantage of them. It is clear that Columbus’ priorities in 1492 were to collect gold and spices, force his religion onto others and impress Spanish royalty. Taking advantage, humiliating, and abusing a group of human beings did not seem to bother him very much.
I wasn’t surprised that he drew such strange conclusions about the indigenous people he met. The one I found the most interesting was that they had no religion because I’m not sure how he would be able to tell that considering he made no effort to learn about the different groups he encountered. I’m assuming he saw them as almost “primitive” and expected they wouldn’t know about the holy European teachings.
I agree. When I was reading i felt really angry about how he treated the natives as animals. But I also think, maybe the one to blame was just the system he was part of. He did not know any better, or maybe he was scared of knowing something different that he might be executed for. After all, he did serve the Spanish Crown therefore, he only knew hierarchy.
Well said Rachel! I have to say I had many of the same conclusions reading Colombus’s journals. Although I understand he came from a different time and inffastructure to what we know today, I do not think this is ample justification or a complete explanation for his actions. Perhaps it could to some degree be said that for C. Colmbus his lively hood back at home rested on his success in his findings- that however is never a justified reasoning for the abuse, violence and abduction of human beings. Even if it was a different time I dont think that by that reason alone we can conclude that Colombus had no moral compass to see that what he was doing was wrong as you so poingnatly stated in your blog. Colombus’s choices and values seem to be largely materlisitic and selfish leading to him as you perfectly put it “Taking advantage, humiliating, and abusing a group of human beings” (The Meeting of 2 Worlds, Rachel) .