17 August 2017
For generations, American schoolchildren and even the entire world have been raised to see Christopher Columbus as the noble discoverer of America.
Americans still have a national holiday honouring him, and he has become a symbol of pride for Italian-Americans all over the country.
But he was a monster.
When Columbus arrived in the New World, he landed in the Bahamas, and would later move on to Hispaniola.
The indigenous people of the islands – the Arawaks, Lucayans, and Tainos – were peaceful, welcoming, and friendly.
They also had gold jewelry, prompting Columbus to take several of them prisoner and demand the source of the gold.
He wrote in his journal: “They ought to make good and skilled servants, for they repeat very quickly whatever we say to them.”
The Natives were put to work in the gold mines, where they toiled until they died of exhaustion.
Any worker who didn’t deliver his full quota of gold had his hands cut off and tied around his neck.
Those who resisted slavery lost their nose or an ear. Those who tried to escape were hunted with dogs, and either mutilated by the dogs or burned alive.
Arawak babies were used as dog food if supplies ran short, and girls as young as 9-year-old were sold as sex slaves.
At one point there was a mass suicide of over 100 Arawaks, so intolerable were their lives in slavery.
Columbus was so bad that Francisco de Bobadilla, the man who succeeded him as Governor of the Indies, arrested him and his brothers, Bartolomeo and Giacomo (sometimes called Diego), put them in chains, and sent them back to Spain to stand trial for their crimes against the Natives as well as the Spanish colonists.
But the King and Queen really liked all the gold Columbus had provided – so they pardoned all three.
Within 50 years of Columbus’ arrival on Hispaniola, every one of the roughly 3 million Natives on the island were gone.
The lost Native slaves were soon replaced by African slaves, and in fact, Columbus’ son Diego was the first African slave trader in the New World.
Christopher Columbus, the man America celebrates today should be held up as one of the great villains of world history, not one of its heroes.