Christopher Columbus: The Villain Essay

Christopher Columbus: The Villain Essay

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The letter Christopher Columbus wrote back to Spain to report his findings in the New World sparked intrigued me and sparked my imagination. Why I have been so absorbed in this letter I can not explain. This letter is supposed to be about describing an unknown land, a land that has not been seen by anyone besides the natives, but it seems that there is more to it than that. Columbus is known in elementary schools as the man who found the New World, and is regarded as a hero. To the contrary, historians who have done more research on Columbus say that he was driven by fame and fortune and that he was tyrannical in his ways with the indigenous peoples of the places that he came to find. I feel that the contradictory tones Columbus uses gives this letter an eerie feel, and Columbus’s eventual desire to take over the indigenous peoples brings doubt on his reliability as an accurate and fair eyewitness.
Columbus begins this letter to Luis De Sant Angel by saying how fortunate he was to find these great islands. Right away, before even describing his findings, he thanks the king and queen and begins to explain how he named the islands he discovered. Everyone knows that the king and queen gave Columbus those ships, yet he wanted to recognize them for some reason. I think that he wanted the king and queen to feel as if they themselves discovered the islands, not him. Whether it was out of fear, or out of respect, Columbus really gave them credit. So much tribute was given that the first island they discovered, Columbus named San Salvador, commemorating the king. He seemed like he really wanted to give credit to everyone that may have had a hand in this voyage, especially the king and queen, who financially supported this expedition. Contrary to what historians believe about Columbus, he was very humble and giving in the naming of these islands. Keeping with the standard tone of the Spanish monarchial society, he named these islands for the wisdom and greatness of the monarchs.
Columbus then went on to describe the natives, whom he called “Indians”. He made it clear that there were many people, and even used the word, “innumerable” on several occasions. One of the more disturbing lines to me was in the beginning of the letter, “I have heard from other Indians I have already taken that this land was and island…” Columbus goes on to explain how he explored the islan...


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... this man, and call him your brother? I am pretty sure that the leader of this town is not going to embrace the man who has tyrannically taken over your people. I believe that the king calling Columbus his brother is a fictional embellishment to the story, or that the king of this town was so afraid for his people’s lives that he did not put up a fight.
During the whole course of the letter, Columbus beat around the bush and was not upfront with their true intentions of the voyage. He speaks of gold, he speaks of quarreling, but whenever these subjects came up, Columbus quickly changes the subject to a lighter matter. Based on much of the fine print, much of the things that he did not realize what he was writing, and by reading in between the lines of this letter, I saw much more than what was just written. The strayed away from the fact that he was tyrannically taking over the indigenous peoples of this land, even though it was so apparent that he in fact was. Because of this information that we now know about Columbus’s tyrannical ways, was hard for me to read this letter and still believe in Columbus’s integrity as an eyewitness for describing the events on at this New World.

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