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Essay: Was Christopher Columbus a hero or a villain?

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  • Published: January 19, 2020*
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  • Was Christopher Columbus a hero or a villain?
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On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus searched for a route from Europe to Asia via ocean. On this day, he made his arrival to the Bahamas in the Caribbean. The question to answer is: Was Christopher Columbus a hero or a villain? In my opinion, I think Columbus was a villain.

One reason why Columbus could be considered a villain is that he brought new diseases such as small pox to the New World that killed so many people that haven’t developed immunity. According to Sanabria, “Europeans unwittingly brought with them to the New World pathogens, and in the process unleashed-possibly as early as Columbus’ second landing in Hispaniola in 1493 (Guerra 1988) …” (Sanabria, p. 82). The purpose of Columbus’ voyage was to find India however he arrived in America, unintentionally. The diseases he carried with him across seas spread to the Native Americans and Africans thus having long-lasting effects on the people. Europeans were already immune to the diseases they brought over. Bringing diseases over drastically affected the population and destroyed their culture.

Another reason why his is a villain is because he stole land, took advantage of, and enslaved many natives. According to Sanabria, “By the early 1990s, many Latin American indigenous groups – as well as Native Americans in the United States – convened to publicly and angrily denounce Columbus’ arrival in the New World, an event that they viewed more in terms of conquest and enslavement rather than “discovery”” (Brown 1992; Bernstein 1991; Nash 2001:121) (Sanabria, p. 106). In school, we are taught that Christopher Columbus was an explorer who discovered land. We never learn about the how the indigenous people were affected his exploration. The indigenous people never viewed Christopher Columbus’ “discovery” as a discovery but rather enslavement. Columbus also thought that the natives would be good to work on the sugar cane plantations for Europeans to help with the Columbian Exchange. This form of enslavement had such a huge impact on culture and race of the region.

Christopher Columbus wanted to become wealthy and return to Europe after his conquest, thus he was in search for gold and other forms of profit. He could not find gold therefore he selfishly used the encomienda system which used people as a resource for profit. The encomienda system was basically a system that Christopher Columbus used on the indigenous people where the stronger protected the weak in exchange for something. Sanabria states, “The possibility of quickly becoming wealthy and returning to Europe after the conquest was dashed early on once it became clear that not enough gold or other precious materials could be found” (Sanabria, p. 92). In other words, Columbus saw the natives as an opportunity to take over them in order to gold and other materials he was in search for to bring back to Europe.

To conclude, I believe Christopher Columbus was a villain. Columbus was a cruel and selfish individual who destroyed so much. I personally do not think Christopher Columbus deserves a holiday. We should not be honoring a man who was a villain. I do think, however, that we should have a holiday to honor the indigenous people. The controversy of Christopher Columbus is still significant in a cultural anthropology course because he impacted the Latin American and Caribbean culture and showed superiority over the people. I think it is important to learn about Columbus’ motives for his actions.

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