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The Real Columbus

This legendary icon isn't what you think he is.

Zack, Writer

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When you think of Christopher Columbus, what comes directly to mind? Legendary explorer, experienced visionary, brilliant navigator? Bad news: all of those are wrong. Columbus wasn’t anything we’ve believed him to be for centuries now. In fact, he was a murderer with very few notable accomplishments. It’s time to dive into the real story of Christopher Columbus, and how he failed to live up to everything we praise him for.

Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer, born in Genoa, Italy in 1451. At an early age, he began working on a merchant ship, which brought his sailing career to life. But it wasn’t until 1492 that he began his journey across the Atlantic to find a suitable route to the Indies for access to valuable trading riches like gold and spice. At the time, America wasn’t discovered, so nobody knew that there was a whole area of land in the middle of the possible route. In addition, Columbus anticipated the trip itself would be much shorter because he thought the Earth was pear-shaped. 

The trip took much, much longer than he expected due to the misguided navigation. After about three months of desperate searching, Columbus, taking credit for what one of his shipmates spotted, saw land. Convinced that it was Japan, he and his three-ship fleet set ashore and were greeted by friendly native peoples. Thinking he had successfully reached the East Indies, he called these peaceful natives “Indians”. What did he and his fleet actually find, though? In reality, Columbus hadn’t set foot anywhere near Asia; they had reached the Bahamas. But Columbus, being the smart, brilliant navigator he was, believed he had found the route to the Indies.

Columbus treated the Bahamians terribly. The friendly native population that Columbus interacted with was devastated by his arrival, and this fact has actually made historians question if this story should even be celebrated in schools anymore. According to History.com, “Historians have uncovered extensive evidence of the damage wreaked by Columbus and his teams, leading to an outcry over emphasis placed upon studying and celebrating him in schools and public celebrations.”

Not only did he introduce the islands to horrid diseases including smallpox, measles, and influenza, but in response to their kindness, Columbus inflicted harsh brutality and slavery onto the peoples of the Bahamas. He forcefully converted many to Christianity, and threw thousands into slavery, almost wiping out the native population. Men were often sent off to farms and women were sold as sex slaves. He casually wrote of these horrendous actions in his log. According to the Huffington Post, Columbus stated in his log, “A hundred castellanoes are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten are now in demand. These natives never deserved the treatment they received from this iconic historical figure.

Didn’t Columbus prove that the Earth isn’t flat? The short answer is: no, of course not. Columbus definitely took credit for it, but the Earth being round had been common knowledge before he was even born. And Live Science states, “If he did, he was about 2,000 years too late. Ancient Greek mathematicians had already proven that the Earth was round, not flat.” There were even globes at the time of him supposedly proving that it was round.

All in all, did Columbus do anything to live up to what he’s celebrated for? Well, he did unwittingly find the then-unknown Americas, which opened up a huge amount of land and country that we know today. But other than that, most of what you’ve been told to praise the homicidal moron for are unsubstantiated to the highest degree. And now you understand the real story, the real journey, and the real Christopher Columbus.

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The student news site of Rogers Heritage High School
The Real Columbus