Monday, October 12, 2009

Christopher Columbus

"The original Haitians were called the Arawaks or Tainos. Christopher Columbus wrote in his log that the Arawaks were well built with good bodies and handsome features. He also reported that the Arawaks were remarkable for their hospitality and their belief in sharing. He said, 'they offered to share with anyone and that when you ask for something they never say no.' The Arawaks lived in village communes with a well-developed agriculture of corn, yams, and cassava. They had the ability to spin and weave, as well as being able to swim long distances. The Arawaks did not bear arms nor did they have prisons or prisoners. Columbus wrote that when the Santa Maria became shipwrecked, the Arawaks worked for hours to save the crew and cargo and that they were so honest that not one thing was missing. Arawak women were treated so well in early Haitian society that it startled the Spaniards. Columbus said that the Arawak men were of great intelligence because they could navigate all of their islands and give an amazingly precise account of everything.

The chief source, and on many matters the only source of information about what happened on the islands after Columbus arrived, was noted by a Catholic priest named Bartolome De Las Casas who lived during the time of Columbus. He transcribed Columbus's journal and wrote a multi-volume 'History of the Indies.' Las Casas says that Columbus returned to America on his second voyage with seventeen ships and with more than 1,200 heavily armed men with horses and attack dogs. Their aim was clearly to obtain as much gold and as many slaves as possible according to De Las Casas. Columbus went from island to island in the Caribbean, taking Arawaks as captives. He ordered everyone over the age of 14 to produce specific quantities of gold every three months, and if the Arawak could not produce this quota, Columbus then had his hands cut off; and left him to bleed to death.

If the Arawaks ever tried to escape, they were hunted down by the attack dogs and either hanged or burned alive. Within just two years, half of the three million Arawaks of Haiti died from murder, mutilation or suicide. Bishop De Las Casas reported that the Spaniards became so lazy that they refused to walk any distance; and either rode the backs of the Arawaks or were carried on hammocks by Arawaks who ran them in relays.

In other cases, the Spaniards had the Arawaks carry large leaves for their shade and had others to fan them with goose wings. Women were used as sex slaves and their children were murdered and then thrown into the sea. The Spaniards were so cruel, they thought nothing of cutting off slices of human flesh from the Arawaks just to test the sharpness of their blades. Bishop De Las Casas wrote, 'My eyes have seen these acts so foreign to human nature that now I tremble as I write.'

Christopher Columbus started the Trans-Atlantic slave trade by taking 500 of the healthiest men back to Spain to sell into slavery, and the proceeds from the sale helped to pay for his third voyage. The massive slave trade moving in the other direction, across the Atlantic from Africa to the Americas, was also begun in Haiti and was started by the son of Christopher Columbus in 1505 A.D. On his third voyage to Haiti, Queen Isabelle's new Governor, Francisco De Bobadilla, had Christopher Columbus and his two brothers arrested and sent back to Spain in chains as prisoners for their crimes against the Arawaks."

- Dr. Leroy Vaughn, Black People and Their History

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