“Hispaniola was the first land in the New World to be destroyed and depopulated by the Christians …,” said Bartolomé De La Casas as he edited Columbus’s travel journals (Koning 1). De La Casas was explaining the tragedy that would bestow itself upon the Americas. Set out to explore the Indies, Christopher Columbus embarked on a journey that would lead him to discover a new land and a new people. Throughout history Columbus is remembered as the discoverer of the Americas, however, he was also the main contributor to the mass genocide of Indigenous peoples that would sweep the Western Hemisphere. Many would argue that Columbus’ discovery of the new world led to the civilization of the Americas.
For example, Columbus’ discovery would lead to an era of European exploration to the new world; like the Pilgrims and Hernan Cortez (Pettinger). Additionally, Columbus’ discovery of the new world would establish the first permanent settlement in the Americas under the Spanish flag, Hispaniola, which was rich in natural resources (Koning 1). The establishment of Hispaniola would mark one of the major steps the Spanish took to become a dominant world power. To summarize, Columbus’ discovery of the Americas was a success in terms of European exploration and exploitation.
Although, Christopher Columbus’ journey led to the emergence of a powerful nation, ultimately, Columbus was a villain because he forced natives to assimilate into European society, introduced an epidemic that annihilated half of the native population, and obliterated their entire cultural identity. For starters, Columbus is a villain because he forced assimilation upon the indigenous peoples. For instance, Columbus states in his journal, “I believe that they would easily be made Christians, as they appear to have no religion (Leyden 118).”
In Columbus’s writings, he emphasizes how he had intentions to Christianize and integrate the natives into European society. Likewise, on Columbus’ second voyage to the Americas, he brought back a few of the indigenous peoples from Hispaniola, the Arawaks, to Europe to be sold as slaves and sent to boarding schools (Pious). Columbus came to the new world in seek of God, Gold, and Glory. He wanted to become wealthy from the New Worlds natural resources and receive lands granted him from the Spanish Empire.
Christopher also had a notion that he was God’s personal missionary and that it was his duty to introduce the Catholic faith to non-religious peoples (Columbus 27). Christopher Columbus would make a total of four journeys from Europe to Hispaniola and establish a slave-based system of government called the Encomienda system. This system allowed the servitude of natives as long as colonizers Christianized them. Christopher took a total of six Arawaks back to Europe (Pious). Based on this research, Columbus always had intentions to integrate the natives into European Culture and exploit them for their labor.
In summation, if Columbus forced the assimilation of Arawaks into a culture that they objected, why is he still viewed in society today as a hero? Furthermore, research shows that Columbus introduced an epidemic to indigenous peoples society. To illustrate, the Arawaks had lived in isolation from European diseases and contact with colonizers allowed for diseases to spread like a wildfire. Smallpox and measles decimated the peoples of Hispaniola (Patterson et al 1). In addition, Columbus used biological warfare to keep the indigenous peoples from uprising.
Christopher’s crew would take the blankets used by smallpox patients and give them as gifts to the natives (Burchard). Diseases caused by the Europeans would wipe out 90% of the native population alone (The Story Of Smallpox). As a result, syphilis would originate in the Americas, caused by the widespread raping of indigenous peoples, and was sent back across the ocean to European countries (Baker and Armelagos 1). Based on the research, European diseases ravaged across the pure indigenous lands and was one of the main causes of the native population decrease.
Resulting in the Arawaks and other native groups to never properly regain their society and were left in dwindling numbers. Ultimately, Christopher Columbus should not be praised because he obliterated the Arawaks and other aboriginals cultural identity. In particular, Columbus thought of the Arawaks to be inferior to the Spanish and that they were bred to be servants. He emphasized this in his journal when he wrote, “They should be good servants…” (Pious). Christopher than proceeded to strip away the culture of the Arawaks by enslaving them.
Similarly, Columbus’ men would rape the young women of the tribes and elders would die off from extensive labor, resulting in the total loss of the natives cultural and social structure (Atrocities Against Native Americans). Columbus would even cut off the hands of Arawaks that failed to meet his gold quota in the mines.
This was explained in graphic detail by Bartolome De La Casa when he wrote, “They would cut an Indian’s hands and leave them dangling by a shred of skin … [and] they would test their swords and their manly strength on captured Indians and place bets on the slicing off of heads or cutting of bodies in half with one blow…” (Bry 14). After all of his barbaric practices, Christopher Columbus was finally accused of inhume practices by the Spanish court but only spent a few weeks in jail (Pettinger). This research emphasizes how Columbus used cruel punishments and practices on the indigenous people of Hispaniola that would decimate their culture.
Therefore, the native people of Hispaniola, and later natives of the Americas, were never able to reestablish their original culture in the leading years. Christopher Columbus is a villain because he caused the devastation of the native population in the Americas by destroying their culture, spreading diseases, and assimilating them into European society. Columbus’ heinous ideas damaged indigenous society to point of no return. Christopher’s discovery of the new world was the start of the mass eradication of Native people.