It is not exactly news that Christopher Columbus was not the heroic explorer that laid the foundation of civilization in America. Rather, the majority of his acts were that of a tyrant and a homicidal one at that. To put it in perspective, he began two of the greatest humanitarian crises in the Western civilization’s history – the Genocide of the American Indian, and the Slave Trade across the Atlantic.
In fact, the list of crimes is so long that there are entire books on it, and not because there is any doubt over their truth. Good examples are the work by Howard Zinn, Oatmeal has an illustrated edition, while Jacobin has an exceptional excerpt as well.
Here are the 5 most horrific reasons. Some of them are courtesy of the recent work by Laurence Bergreen: “Columbus: The Four Voyages”.
1. Underage Prostitution
Christopher Columbus’ Spanish settlers used to sell girls as young as 9 and 10 years old into prostitution. In a letter he wrote to the queen’s friend, he talks about how a lot of dealers look for girls. He then added that nine and ten-year-olds were in high demand, but their costs remained the same as the older ones.
It was so bad that that at point Indians committed mass suicide than even think about having to do with anything with the Spanish. So, on this Columbus Day, let us keep in mind all the things that Christopher Columbus was apart from being the famous explorer.
2. Treating Native Women As Property
Michele de Cuneo, one of the participants of Columbus’s second voyage, had written down an experience that would be an outright death sentence today. Michele had found a Carib woman extremely beautiful and had “captured” (read kidnapped) her. Admiral Columbus had then “given” him the woman. Then, in Michele’s cabin, he talks about whipping her till she submitted to the horrible ordeal.
3. Subjugation Was His Right, According To Columbus
Christopher Columbus was very direct about his plans for the Bahamas’ Arawak Natives in 1942. In the journal, he details how ignorant and innocently curious the natives had acted on meeting the Europeans and their equipment. He came to the conclusion that they are very suitable for being servants. He also said that fifty men would be enough to subjugate all of them and make them do the Europeans’ bidding. He had even mentioned kidnapping the first natives he met and forcing information out of them.
4. Gold And Slaves
Christopher Columbus’ expedition to the Caribbean had two objectives: find slaves and find gold. He had returned to the islands with 1200 men and 17 ships to achieve this. In 1495, 1500 children, women, and men of the Arawak tribe were captured by Columbus’ party and then kept inside pens. The best were selected and sent on ships to Spain. 200 died while on the ships. Afterward, Christopher Columbus wrote about procuring more slaves for the market, while asking for divine blessing.
5. Forced Labor
Every Indian older than 14 was to hand over a sizable amount of gold to Christopher Columbus’ party, or they would be killed – this was Columbus’ decree. Regions that did not have much gold would have to pay with cotton. Participants were handed brass tokens or stamped copper pieces which would be made into a necklace. It was also considered to be extremely shameful later on, by the natives.