Cristóbal Colón landed on an unknown island in the Caribbean on October 10, 1492. He planted banners in the beach claiming the land for the Spanish throne. Colón’s perceptions and interactions with the indigenous people, the Taino, sparked the events that lead to the colonization of the Americas. Colón’s perceptions of the Taino were misinterpreted by him. His misconceptions about the Taino were built from a compilation of his own expectations, readings of other explorers, and strong religious influence in Western Europe. The Taino also misunderstood the Spanish as well. Their false beliefs about the Spanish were driven by their religious beliefs as well as their mythology. Through misunderstandings backed by the religions, physical appearances, and the histories of both the Taino and the Spanish, the Taino believed that the Spanish were god-like figures that fell from the sky, while the Taino were perceived by the Spanish as simplistic, uncultured natives, that would be easily converted to Christianity and used as servants (Wilson, Hispanola p. 48-49).1 To better comprehend these events one must look at the preceeding events in both the lives of the Taino and The Spanish.
Before the time of Cristóbal Colón, Spain had recently had several encounters with colonization. They had taken over the kingdom of Granada and the Canary Islands. These colonizations gave Spain their model for subsequent colonizations. The dominance of Christianity in the colonizations was quite evident. Religious unity was believed to be required for social order and was a premise for the exercise of power (Quesada, Implicit Understanding p. 97-107).2 This relates to the Taino in that the Spanish believed the Taino would be c...
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... encountered the Taino is dependent upon the understanding the religious and historical backgrounds of both. One must understand that the mythology of the Taino, the expectations of the Spanish, and the appearances of both played a major role in the reactions of these two cultures when they collided.
Colón, Cristobal. The Diario of Cristóbal Colón’s Voyage to America, Transcription and Translation Oliver Dunn and James E. Kelley Jr.
de Las Casas, Bartolomé. The Devastation of the Indies: A Brief Account. Translation, Briffault, Herma, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London © 1992.
Quesada, Miguel. Miguel Quesada, “Spain 1492: Social values and structures,” Stuart Schwartz, ed. Implicit Understandings, Cambridge University Press.
The Mission. Directed by Joffé, Roland. Written Credits, Bolt, Robert. Genre, Drama. ©1986.
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