How Shoud Columbus Be Remembered?

How Should Columbus be remembered? Over the years, Christopher Columbus has been a person whose accomplishments and cruelties have led many into constant questioning of his current image. As children, we are led to believe that Columbus was a great explorer, who discovered the Americas and allowed for both worlds to unite. As we grow up, however, we learn more about him and some of his cruel deeds. This twists our perception of Columbus and makes us wonder, how should we remember Columbus?

As all the pieces come together, we realize Columbus should be remembered by how our textbooks put him, as a man of one great success and many failures. In Howard Zinn’s book, A Peoples History of the United States, we are led to believe that Columbus was a cruel man that caused the genocide of thousands of Indians, and had a greed for gold and power. However, our book, Out of Many, tells us that he was not the main cause of the “murder, mutilation, or suicide, [that killed] half of the 250,000 Indians on Haiti” (Zinn, chapter 1).

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In fact our book tells us that the “primary cause of the drastic reduction in native population was epidemic disease” (Out of Many, 42). Columbus did indeed create an oppression of Indians that killed many of them, but the true reason of why the Indian population fell was because of disease. We cannot judge Columbus for the death of thousands of Indians if in reality; he was only responsible for a few of their deaths. One of the main supports that Zinn uses to prove his point is de Las Casas.

However, de Las Casas was an explorer himself and had committed the same crimes as Columbus. Not only that, but that he published his own book to “condemn Spain, thereby covering up the dismal colonial records” (Out of Many, 42). Zinn also lets us believe that Columbus was a man with a greed for gold and power. However, we must take into account that Columbus was an explorer. He did have some desire for wealth and power, but as an explorer for Spain, gold and spices were his main goal.

The reason for why the kings allowed such an expedition was to find wealth, so if he did not deliver gold or spices, people would not have believed his accounts with the Indians to be true. In fact, the textbook tells us that when Columbus had not found much gold and had no more Indians to sell as slaves, “the Spanish monarchs were so dissatisfied that they ordered Columbus arrested and he was sent to Spain in irons” (Out of many, 38)

In the end, we must take into remember Columbus as how our textbook tells us, an explorer whose only success was in finding the Americas and committed acts of cruelty. We cannot fully trust Zinn, for he writes only what his opinion is and focuses mostly on human experience, rather than the full picture of facts. Realizing that only the facts of Columbus life and weighting both his accomplishments and successes, will lead us to end the conflict of how we should picture Columbus.

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