When we reach October each year, we spend some time considering Christopher Columbus, an Italian captain/navigator, whose three little ships – the Niña
, the Pinta
and the Santa Maria
, reached land in the Caribbean on October 12, 1492 after crossing the Atlantic Ocean from Europe. Perhaps more importantly, Columbus managed to sail back to Europe.
Columbus was looking for the Indies, because he wanted to find the spices, silks, gold, and precious stones which Europeans desired so ardently. Believing, correctly, that the earth was round, Columbus believed that if he sailed to the west, he would eventually reach the east, the Indies, which is where he wanted to go. (Trade with the east was being dominated at the time by the Portuguese. The Portuguese would sail from Europe around the southern tip of Africa up into the Indian Ocean.)
Instead, Christopher ran into some islands in what we call today the Caribbean, and Columbus met red or brown people on these islands to whom he referred as “Indians,” because he believed he had reached the Indies. As time went on, it became clear that Christopher Columbus, a devout Roman Catholic, had reached a part of the earth which was totally new to Europeans and where the people knew nothing about Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and so on and so forth.
Financed by the King and Queen of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella, Columbus and those who accompanied him were seeking treasures, and they also were of the opinion that their Christian religion was the “true faith,” whatever that means, and that therefore they had a certain mandate or right, as Christians, to bring these infidel “Indians” into the truth.
Well, Columbus and all the other Christian Europeans who followed him into the Americas conquered the natives with violence and gained power over what we now know as the Western Hemisphere. Centuries of domination by Europeans, in the name of Jesus and Mary, followed, and the story we were taught through the centuries was that the Europeans had civilized and Christianized the backward and heathen natives.
Christopher Columbus was an unmitigated hero for centuries, until the great quincentennial of his 1492 voyage in 1992. It was in 1992 that all the billions of descendants of the brutalized indigenous Americans and those Africans who had been enslaved and transported across the Atlantic to work for the Europeans in the “New World,” came together and set about exploding all the lies and myths which had made the greedy Europeans seem like saviors, and indigenous Americans and Africans appear to be other than their unfortunate victims.
There is nothing inherently wrong about it, if you place it in the cynical context of world history, for men to beat up on men who are weaker than they in whichever way. This is the way things have been going on here on planet earth from the beginning of time. The trick in the case of Columbus, his successors, and their apologists was to convince us indigenous Americans and Africans that they had done us a favor. How terrible our lives and our ancestors’ lives would have been, we were taught, if Christopher hadn’t “discovered” us and saved us!
Well, there are still some of our people who behave as if they actually believe this. But, there are ever growing numbers of us indigenous Americans and Africans who don’t see things that way any more. We believe that there were some things our ancestors were doing which made a lot of sense, and we all see that there are things the Europeans have done from time to time which even they themselves are beginning to question in their most learned and scientific journals.
The most important thing is to learn as much as we can so that we can think for ourselves, and defend our arguments against those who say they care for us but are more interested in taking what we have away from us. The brain is that part of man’s body which raises him above animals. In Belize today, some of us are behaving like animals towards each other. Beware of those who are encouraging us to act like animals. Belizeans, pelvic exhibitions won’t improve our situation much. Emphasize the mind. Let’s think for ourselves. Amandala