As many here know, Cristóbal Colón (known popularly as Christopher Columbus), landed in the Bahamas in the Caribbean on October 12, 1492, after sailing from Palos de la Frontera in Spain on August 3rd of that year - 520 years ago this Friday. The Western Hemisphere, along with its riches and inhabitants were now open to exploration and exploitation by Europeans. And, explore and exploit they did. Like any historical discussion, there's always more than one side to the coin. Had it not been for this "discovery" (not the first I might add), my Irish ancestors would have rotted and died in Hibernia, thanks to the English attempt at the genocide of the Irish in 1845-52. On the other hand, millions of natives might have survived disease, murder, enslavement, and their own genocide at the hands of the Portuguese, French, English, Dutch, Spanish, etc. SOOOOO, in honor of this historical milestone we recognize this week, here's a little tune for thought.

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Pat, if not for the Columbian exchange, your ancestors would not have been so prolific.  The amazing increase in fecundity after the potato was introduced to Ireland was due to the high productivity and excellent nutritional impact of the tuber, which originated in Peru, and was taken to Spain, then the rest of Europe.  Other places had the same population explosion "benefit".  Then, of course, came the great potato famine, and the choice of the English to prevent grains from going to Ireland to feed the starving millions.  Also in The Potato:  A History....


My ancestors, of various ethnicities, and possibly various continents, would not have had opportunity to jumble together their DNA to create me.  


520 years is a long time.  Thanks for reminding us.  Cristóbal Colón's big, somewhat ham handed, adventure had uncountable unforeseen outcomes.  Had the Aztecs somehow sailed to Spain, what would have happened?  Most likely something similar - they would have unwittingly carried the European diseases back to the Americas, resulting in the same epidemics, and "clearing" of the land of empires and millions of people.  The poor people of the isolated islands and continents were set up, by accident of fate, for destruction.

Wasn't it handy the way god cleared all that land of its original inhabitants so my ancestors would have some place to get away from all the wars in Europe?  (See?  Interpretation is all!)

Back in January, I wrote a blog post on Columbus explaining what a catastrophe was in store for the island of Hispaniola (Little Spain)—not the Bahamas, bye the bye.  To add insult to injury, the island was later named after a documented sadomasochist, St. Dominic, one of the founders of the Spanish Inquisition. 

Here’s an excerpt:  Within a generation they recouped their money a million-fold with gold mines all over the island and the native Taino tribesmen mercilessly enslaved. They were sending gold back to the motherland by the galleon.  They had turned Hispaniola into hell.


Fascinating read, methinks—if you’re not Haitian, then you’d be pissed. 

Not wanting to quibble, and maybe missing your point - Landfall for Columbus was in the Bahamas - which the Spanish dubbed Baja mar, for shallow seas.   This may have been the island Guanahani although there is some disagreement.


From there, Cristóbal Colón's Caribbean cruise took him to around 7 islands give or take, then Cuba,  and finally to Hispanola.


There is a lot of disagreement about the details. but it doesn't look like Hispaniola was first, it was last.  Also I am no historian, these are what I have read.  So who knows, maybe I'm looking at the wrong histories.  

The end result was the same - the native peoples were decimated, replaced by kidnapped enslaved Africans, who were brutalized and exploited beyond what any modern person can imagine.  You might be right about the gold mines, I haven't looked into that.  Ultimately, much subsequent enslavement was for the production of sugar, which was a hot commodity in Europe.  Sugar plantations / factories were basically concentration camps, where Africans were worked to death and replaced by fresh shipments of new slaves from Africa.  Leaving, after revolutions and a few hundred years of history, islands that are more or less diaspora of African peoples.

About half of my ancestors sailed from Scotland in 1740 and subsequently burrowed into these Blue Ridge hills.  The other half had been here for a few thousand years and didn't stand a chance except as vessels for invader sperm.  Some survived introduced pathogens and blades and even thrived until Andy jackson's Trail of Tears shuttled them off to gawdforsaken Oklahoma.  My distant cousin Joe Byrd rose to the office of principal chief there before being kicked out for corruption -- the Cherokee Tricky Dick.

I don't celebrate Columbus Day, but I do remember it.  10/12/1492 is to me what 5/14/1948 is to Palastineans -- the opening bell of a gneocide.





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