After watching the lecture I have understood that there are many thoughts and opinions regarding Christopher Columbus’ “discovery/conquest”. We try to fit this event in a good or bad box when in reality this event is quite complex. When I first learned about Columbus, I learned that he accidentally discovered a Western Island and thought he was in India. As I have grown older and done my own research I have learned that this discovery affected the Indigenous peoples of the Islands culture, religion, and language. When Columbus gets to this island he sees these people as naive and takes advantage of the fact that they believed that Columbus and his crew were sent from ‘the heavens’. Columbus trades meaningless items to Spaniards, and in exchange, they receive valuable cotton and resources from the indigenous people.
Columbus was there to find gold and see if the people living there could easily be converted to Christianity. When he meets with the Indigenous people he is quick to assume that they don’t have religion or culture. He believes that it would be easy to convert and teach them about Christianity.
I questioned, how did this ‘discovery’ lead to the modernity of Latin America? I quickly realized while reading Columbus’ journal that the Indigenous people had no weapons or knowledge of the kind of weapons that the Spaniards had. These weapons were made of metals, something the Indigenous had not yet done or known to do. I am sure that something like this was the culprit to the development of Latin America.
Columbus’s journals were written for the King and Queen of Spain. This is apparent as he is constantly addressing the reader as your majesty. The journal is written as a daily account of his experiences and interactions, almost as if it were a story. It seems to me that Columbus had never sailed before as in the first few days he mistakes clouds for land. This is odd for someone who has been appointed with the job to make contact with the King of India. For someone to have been granted that position to be passed down through generations to come, I assumed he would be some sort of expert. There was a sense of this voyage being the first he had ever done. Once arrived at the island, Columbus seems to be very interested in the gold the Indigenous people had.
Lastly, Guaman Poma was also writing a recount of events for royalty, he was very detailed in his recount and formal. The most interesting thing I took away from this passage was that I learned that Indies means in day (In Dies). I didn’t know that they named this place because of its higher altitude. There rest of the passage details conquests and the riches of Spain that was particularly violent towards the Indigenous people.
Did you have the same experience in school, learning the bare minimum about the actions of Columbus and his crew? did you learn more about the ‘discovery’ through social media, as a young adult/ adult?
Post Tuesday Zoom Meeting additional thoughts (*this is for my notes):
Poma was complaining about the treatment of the Incan people to the King of Spain in a 1200 page letter. He makes a point to mock the Spanairds fascination with gold. Ultimately I think that Poma was seeking justice or consequences for the Spaniards who were violent towards the Incas.
After reading your blog, I quickly realised just how Columbus would take advantage of the Indigenous people. I really liked the point you made about how we naturally try to fit people into categories such as good vs bad, I feel like we’ve all been guilty of doing this whether we meant it intentionally or not. As for your final question, the schools that I went to did a pretty terrible job when it came to educating us about these topics. One shocking thing that I found out when I did my own research was how the Spaniards introduced new diseases to the Native population, which had devastating effects as they had no immunity to fight it off. It’s also believed that the impact of these diseases was worse than the Black Death in Medieval Europe. Isn’t that just appalling?
Thank you for commenting. You bring up a good point, about how the Indigenous people got sick from the diseases the Spaniards brought over. These were a disease that the Indigenous people were never exposed to or knew how to treat. It is truly appalling.