How Cubans Celebrate Columbus

columbusevilOne of the wonderfully ironic things about this ignorant and idiotic holiday about a failed explorer whose two major accomplishments were a) getting lost and b) killing and enslaving millions of people is that he didn’t discover America at all. In fact, he never stepped foot in it. But he did step foot in Cuba, which makes this newspaper article about the bar that marks the spot of his landing in Cuba fascinating:

When visitors pull up, the employees greet them with a full-costume re-enactment of Columbus’ arrival...His landing is commemorated by a lone plaque, almost lost amid sculptures of Taino gods, a replica of a Taino village — which includes the bar — and the ruins of a marker, toppled last year by Hurricane Ike, for a small Taino archeological site…The shore, now a badly eroded beach, where Columbus and his crew landed their boat is unmarked and obscured by vegetation.

10 thoughts on “How Cubans Celebrate Columbus

  1. Let's ask the question this way. Had Montezuma or the Inca Sun King, whose armies had both enslaved millions of “peace loving” natives of the Yucatan and the Andes, and had subjected them to human sacrifice, among other fun things, had first discovered gunpowder and ocean worthy sea vessels and had travelled to Spain, do you think for a moment that they too would not have attempted to enslave and steal the riches of that country? Of course they would (and if you have not read Jared Diamond's brilliant , “Guns Germs and Steel”, postulating that througout history, whoever develops advances in food supply and weaponry wins, you should) and attempting to place the ethics of a 21st Century world in either the victors or the victims of the Explorer era is simply folly. It has taken us over 5 centuries of ethical development, including numerous wars of mass destruction, to get to where we are today. Columbus was simply a man of his time, and his failure to consider the Indians he met to be his equals was no different than any other leader of his time. Indeed, Columbus was followed by men whose cruelty made him look like Mother Teresa (Pizzaro, Balboa, Cortez, among others).

    It is a legitimate question as to whether we should have a legal holiday to celebrate the life of the namesake of the capital of Ohio, but you go way overboard in your criticisms of his importance. Because of Columbus, virtually all Americans south of the Rio Grande are Spanish speaking and have some degree of Spanish blood. It led to a race for other colonies which is why the Olympics will be in Portugese Brazil and the Winter Olympics in English speaking Vancouver. Find me some losers in history who write the story….you won't….but if you did, I could find some of their victims to say that they were every bit as cruel and inhumane as those who defeated them.

    Those who are notably evil even within the scales of their time (such as, of course, Hitler, who took a nation deemed to be civilized and which had generally treated civilians well in WWI and turned it into an engine of mass murder of civilians) should have a special place in the annals of evil, but not Columbus. Try looking at him through the lens of his time, not under a 21st Century microscope.

  2. I am somewhat dumbfounded by this comparison of Columbus next to Montezuma. That's like comparing Hitler to Pol Pot. (Well, if Hitler did it in the 20th century, why shouldn't Pol Pot?) Furthermore, Columbus did not encounter the Incas or the Aztecs, so the point is moot. He encountered the Arawaks, a peaceful tribe who knew nothing of war, so again, the comparison to Montezuma is fruitless.

    Columbus did not discover the New World in the Dark Ages. Da Vinci was 40 in 1492, Michaelangelo would complete La Pieta in 1499. Europeans had lived like animals a few hundred years before, but not at this point. While his racism was certainly a product of his time, the practice of cutting off teenager's hands if they could not find gold was not universally acceptable. Bartolome de las Casas was a priest who arrived on Hispaniola in 1508. He wrote, “while I was in Cuba, 7000 children died in three months. Some mothers even drowned their babies from sheer desperation . . . In this way, husbands died in the mines, wives died at work, and children died from lack of milk . . . and in a short time this land which was so great, so powerful and fertile . . . was depopulated . . . My eyes have seen these acts so foreign to human nature, and now I tremble as I write.” There is a difference between 15th century racism and downright evil, and I refuse to accept the “that's just the way things were” excuse for Columbus's behavior. Anti-Semitism was quite popular not only in Germany but all of Europe in the 1930s. Does that make Hitler “a man of his time”?

  3. Sigh… Somehow I didn't think we were going to get through Columbus Day w/o the usual white guilt handwringing over his misdeeds which, in case you haven't noticed, happened five hundred fucking years ago. This kind of crap gets so tiresome. I guess I could handle it if the perpetrators weren't always trying to draw some sort of halfassed conclusions about how Columbus' misdeeds have some sort of relevance to our behavior today. I suppose I should find some solace in the fact that at least JGT didn't use it as a springboard to promote Obamacare or draw parallels with the Iraqi war and the war in Afghanistan.

    On a positive note, JGT, your usual Columbus Day horseshit has had the effect of putting me in agreement with PalestraJon, whom I congratulate for his comment. So JGT has at least managed to do some good and has helped to “bring people together,” as the expression has it. Maybe he deserves the fucking Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.

    And, PalestraJon, please don't go and ruin things by comparing Columbus tto the Bush administration or Ronald Reagan or some such nonsense.

    BTW, yeah, the fifteenth century had its share of geniuses and great artists and cultural achievementts, but then on the other hand, if you got in trouble with the authorities or pissed off your particular king or other ruler, you might find yourself being disembowelled or burnt alive or some such similar punishment. Which would be carried out in public to the delight and amusement of the locals. So, I have to think that things were looked at just a tad differently in those long ago times.

    1. So right you are. And wasn't that a good game last night? I was in my local watering hole until twoish watching. I was wondering what would happen if the game went into extra innings, whether they would just lock the doors and let us stay or toss us out. I have to admit I just about lost it when our “stopper” Lidge came in to “save” the game, but somehow he managed to get three outs.

      I guess I'll have to do it all again tonight. It's tough work but somebody's got to do it. And when the going gets tough the tough get going as they say.

    1. I might just take you up on that. Maybe I'll buy you one. All this goodwill! You're right: it is the most wonderful day of the year! Now if the Phils could just top things off with a win they'd make it a perfect day.

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