Essay on Columbus

This essay has a total of 1930 words and 7 pages.


In 1492, an event took place that would change forever the way the world is viewed, and
the way people viewed themselves. When Columbus set foot on that Caribbean island on an
August morning over five hundred years ago, he set in motion one of the greatest
migrations the world has ever seen. Two separate and distinct worlds met that day, even
though both had populated their separate continents. One world, the old world, was made
up of Europeans looking for fame and fortune, not necessarily for new and uncharted lands.
Divine supports this idea by stating, “They (explorers) came not as colonists but as
fortune hunters seeking instant wealth, preferably gold, and they were not squeamish about
the means they used to obtain it” (Divine, p.9). The other world, the new world, was made
up of “Indians”, or the people native to this newly found hemisphere. They had their own
cultures, and treated the newcomers like Gods, not knowing who or what they were. In
document two of Gorn, Columbus supports this by saying, “ …and others in loud voices
called to all the men and women: Come see the men who cane from the heavens” (Gorn,
p.9). The opportunistic and power hungry old worlders took quick advantage of this,
eventually either subjugating or outright slaughtering these unsuspecting natives. In
document two, Bartlolme de Las Casas states, “And they (Spaniards) committed other acts of
force and violence and oppression which made the Indians realize that these men had not
come from Heaven” (Gorn, p.13). Why did these adventurers choose to take advantage of the
natives they encountered, rather than try to peacefully coincide and cooperate with them?
I will try to answer this troubling question while chronicling the documents of Columbus’s
journal, Bartolome de Las Casa’s point of view on how the Spanish conducted themselves,
and on the Aztec account of the Spanish conquest. I will be focusing my attention on how
each party conducted their first meetings with the natives, and what motives came into
play on their explorations such as; religion, gold, and slavery.

When these explorers met the native population, they encountered a people who had never
had contact with anyone besides inhabits of their own world. The Europeans, on the other
hand, had been trading with Africans, Muslims, Mongols, East Indians, and other Europeans
for differing periods of time, thus being exposed to different types of culture in the
past. On the other hand the isolation of the natives began some thirty to forty thousand
years ago, when the last major ice age occurred. Divine supports this by saying, “The
first people to cross this land bridge were small bands of Siberian hunters in pursuit of
giant mammals…the migration of these nomadic groups took place over thousands of years”
(Divine, p.3). Gradually, new and different societies and cultures developed among the
natives, depending upon the region where they settled. Divine mentions this by saying,
“Over the centuries, relatively isolated tribal groups had developed their own cultures,
patterns of kinship, and spoken languages” (Divine, p.3).

When Columbus initially arrived, he found only primitive inhabitants, he states this in
the first document of the first chapter of Gorn, “a very poor people … they do not carry
arms,” (Gorn, p.8). In reality the natives were not primitive but very intelligent and
self-reliant. Even though these peoples did not have modern conveniences, such as iron
tools or beasts of burden, they nevertheless constructed huge buildings, devised accurate
calendars, and speculated about the solar system. Divine supports my idea by stating, “
The Maya and Toltec peoples built vast cities, organized sophisticated government
bureaucracies, and developed an accurate calendar and a complex form of writing,” (Divine,
p.3). The quotes from both Divine and Gorn show us how a group of people can identify the
natives as either intelligent or primitive.

So, what were the main reasons for coming to the new world? What were the reasons behind
the exploitation of the natives? First and foremost greed was the main reason for the
exploitation of the native peoples of the Americas. Spanish and others who voyaged to the
new world went to make money, and conquer new lands for their home and country. When
Cores led an expedition to Mexico, he was only supposed to be there for exploration and
trade, at least that was the official reason for his journey. But when one hears the
statement that: “On November 18, 1518, Hernan Cortes, a minor government functionary in
Cuba, and a small army set sail for Mexico…and after reaching their destination burning
his ships to cut off his army from a possible retreat…” the intent of the voyagers becomes
obvious, (Divine p.9). In document 3, Gorn also showed us their intentions by saying,
“that when they (Cores and his men) arrived at the treasure house called Teucalco, the
riches of gold and feathers were brought out to them…. The Spaniards immediately stripped
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