Today is Columbus Day.
Interesting sumation up by David R. Papke at Marquette University.
Scholars estimate that Hispaniola, where Columbus maintained his home base, had a population of eight million in 1492. Extraordinary numbers died of European diseases.
Thousands more were executed by Columbus and his men when they failed to produce the gold thought to be hidden on the islands. Still others were enslaved and died working the large estates, later known as “encomenda.” Some Arawak Indians committed mass suicide with cassava poison, and others killed their children to “save” them from the Spaniards. By 1496, the population had dropped to four million, and by 1508 the number was down to 100,000. By 1535, the native population was for all purposes extinct. To quote the historian David E. Stannard, “Among all the horrific genocides of the twentieth century against Armenians, Jews, Gypsies, Ibos, Bengalis, Timorese, Ugandans and more, none came close to destroying this many people and this large a percentage of a population.”
It is of course much too late to prosecute Columbus for crimes against humanity, but time remains to reflect on the human cost of various western cultures’ drive for personal and collective profit, sense of cultural and religious superiority, and assumption that the earth is theirs to control and exploit. Even in the present, we can benefit from recognizing the monstrous developments such ideologies and cultural attitudes can cause.