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Monday
Oct102011

Columbus Day


Pedro de Cordoba wrote a letter to King Ferdinand in 1517 describing the Haiti that Christopher Columbus had created: "As a result of the sufferings and hard labor they endured, the Indians choose and have chosen suicide. Occasionally a hundred have committed mass suicide. The women, exhausted by labor, have shunned conception and childbirth . . . Many, when pregnant, have taken something to abort and have aborted. Others after delivery have killed their children with their own hands, so as not to leave them in such oppressive slavery."

"Spaniards hunted Indians for sport and murdered them for dog food. Columbus, upset because he could not locate the gold he was certain was on the island, set up a tribute system. Ferdinand Columbus described how it worked: "(The Indians) all promised to pay tribute to the Catholic Sovereigns every three months, as follows: In the Cibao, where the gold mines were, every person of 14 years of age or upward was to pay a large hawk's bell of gold dust; all others were each to pay 25 pounds of cotton. Whenever an Indian delivered his tribute, he was to receive a brass or copper token which he must wear about his neck as proof that he had made his payment. Any Indian found without such a token was to be punished."" With a fresh token, an Indian was safe for three months, much of which time would be devoted to collecting more gold. Columbus's son neglected to mention how the Spanish punished those whose tokens had expired: they cut off their hands. 

All of these gruesome facts are available in primary source material—-letters by Columbus and by other members of his expeditions—and in the work of Las Casas, the first great historian of the Americas, who relied on primary materials and helped preserve them."

(Both paragraphs excerpted from "Lies my teachers told me," by James Loewen. You won't regret reading it. Many many things will begin to make much more sense.)

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