Often credited with being the first European to set foot in the Americas, this man has been represented in dramatically different ways across different communities. Most Americans of European descent have come to see Christopher Columbus as a kind of hero (Byne) - with some seeing him as led by the hand of God to discover the Americas (Hinckley).
In contrast, some see Columbus as an invader and mass murderer and pillager. In a number of Latin American countries, for example, what for Americans is celebrated as “Columbus Day” is instead celebrated as “Dia de La Resistencia Indigena” (Day of Indigenous Resistance).
While critics of Columbus have existed since the 1500s (e.g., Bartolome de las Casas), modern scholars and authors have also pointed out negative aspects of the Columbus history that have been overlooked in other more mainstream American texts, including accusations of genocide and murder (Zinn) - with some attempts to create a more balanced portrayal of the man (Bergreen). From the perspective of those who see Columbus as responsible for mass death and destructions, however, these attempts at “balance” feel akin to fashioning a more balanced portrayal of Hitler.
QUESTIONS TO PLAY WITH:
-Was Christopher Columbus, in your eyes, a monster or an inspiration, a bit of both?
-Why do you think an instance of historical texts that are clear and available to all still elicits such widely disparate opinions?
Howard Zinn A People's History of the United States
Clark B. Hinckley Christopher Columbus: A Man Among the Gentiles
Laurence Bergreen Columbus: The Four Voyages, 1492-1504
Mildred Stapley Byne Christopher Columbus
Bartolome de las Casas http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/pds/amerbegin/contact/text7/casas_destruction.pdf
Arthur M Peña and Jacob Hess
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