Well….perhaps this is not exactly true.
1. He thought the world was flat
So, this was a super outdated idea, even when Christopher was a small boy. Scientists had known for at least 100 years that the world was round, and had a good idea about just how far around it measured.
What Columbus got wrong was how big the earth’s circumference actually was. He thought that it was a tad smaller than it actually is, and that this would make it easier to get to Asia. However, even contemporary scientists, cartographers, and navigators expressed concerns over his math skills and even flat out told him that he was wrong. Chris persisted however, and never actually made it to Asia.
2. He came in peace for exploration and trade
Nope, he wanted money and jewels and gold, and lots of these things. Sure, in the process he discovered a route to the Caribbean. But along the way, he raped and killed the native inhabitants of those islands. He and his men, and the men that came later, spread deadly diseases for which the Caribbean tribes had no immunity. And he and the Spanish exploited the people and resources of all the lands they colonized for wealth and power, with complete disregard to the societies that already existed.
3. Columbus was a hero in his own time
According to TodayIFoundOut.com, Columbus committed acts so against human ethics that he was removed from power, forced to return to Spain, and imprisoned. So what did he do? He raped women and girls; he sold many native people into slavery; he sold females, some as young as nine, into prostitution. And he killed a whole bunch of people, just because. So, no, he wasn’t exactly considered an awesome person during his own life.
Yes, he was initially given the title of viceroy and governor of the lands he had “found,” but he was also quickly put under investigation for crimes against the local population and then removed from power.
4. He discovered America
So, by definition, you can’t “find” something that other people have already found and populated. That would be like Romans “discovering” the British Isles, even though the Celts and Gauls already lived there. The Taino and Arawak people lived on the islands that Columbus supposedly found in 1492. They welcomed him, shared their knowledge and their wealth, and received enslavement, rape, and dead by disease and murder as a “Thank you.”
Might Columbus have been the first European to walk upon that particular place in the Americas? Sure, we can give him that. And his journey did touch off what would become the Columbian Exchange: the trade of goods, foods, and people between Europe and the New World.
However, Vikings has already sailed to and created temporary settlements in Greenland and Newfoundland in the 1000s, or more than 400 years before. So, North America was already a thing by Columbus’s birth.
So, just to be clear:
Today, on the second Monday in October, we celebrate a man who:
- sailed to the land he “discovered” because he couldn’t do math correctly
- raped, murdered, and abused the native population of that land
- was removed from power because of those actions
- was looking for wealth and power
- who helped bring deadly diseases to those lands and decimated the native Caribbean population
Why? Because he helped establish a trade route between the Caribbean and Europe.
Please teach your children the REAL (age appropriate) history of Christopher Columbus, and not the myth. We need children who grow up informed and educated about the realities of European exploration and colonization in the New World.