Date: Thu, 19 Jul 2001 15:32:32 -0400
From: Mr. Ramon Rivera <cultural-affairs@TAINO-TRIBE.ORG>


Your heroes are not our heroes: A matter of perspective, a matter of experience

By Ramon Rivera, the Jatibonicu Taino Tribal Nation, 19 July 2001

Christopher Columbus:

So tractable, so peaceable, are these people that I swear to your Majesties there is not in the world a better nation. They love their neighbors as themselves, and their discourse is ever sweet and gentle, and accompanied with a smile; and though it is true that they are naked, yet their manners are decorous and praiseworthy.

The King [the leader or chief] observes such a wonderful estate in such a dignified manner that it is a pleasure to see. Neither better people nor land can there be. The houses and villages are so pretty. They love their neighbors as themselves and they have the sweetest speech in the world and they are gentle and they are always laughing.

The Old Navigator, Christopher Columbus

Columbus ran his flagship, the Santa Maria, aground on the island of Haiti on Christmas Eve in 1492. The Arawak people helped rescue Columbus and his men and helped salvage the shipwrecked Santa Maria. The Arawak people helped Columbus dismantle the wrecked flagship and erect a fort with the salvaged timbers.

In his journals Columbus wrote of the peaceful, generous nature of these Native people. He named them, Indios, which means in Spanish, Children of God. But he also wrote, that he could conquer and subjugate the whole of these people with but a small army.

Now I have ordered my men to build a tower and a fort. Not that I believe it to be necessary for it is obvious that with these men that I bring, I could subdue all of this island, since the people are naked [without armour] and without arms. But it is right that this tower be made so that with love and fear they will obey.

Christopher Columbus- 1493.

When Columbus left Hati he rewarded the Arawak people by kidnaping 25 of them, and selling the seven or eight survivors of the return voyage to Spain, into slavery.

In the name of the Holy Trinity, we can send from here all the slaves and brazilwood which could be sold.

Christopher Columbus, 1496, in a letter to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella

On Columbus's second voyage, he returned with 17 heavily armed ships 1500 men, cannon, guns, crossbows, and attack dogs. All of which he used to fulfill his wishes of conquest of these Children of God. After his attempts of conquest and enslavement were met with resistance his descriptions of these people became less complementary.

The Native people were forced to pay a stipend to the Spanish. This stipend consisted of food, gold, cotton, and forced sex with Native women. Columbus would casually note in his journals that young girls of the ages 9 to 10 were the most desired by his men.

Failure to produce tribute to the Spanish brought swift and terrible punishment. Those that did not comply were given an attitude adjustment that consisted of removal of their nose, ear, hand or foot. Those that actively resisted were burned alive. The Native people were even forced to carry their oppressors, to spare the Spanish the drudgery of walking.

Under Columbus thousands of Native people were sent back to Europe in servitude, the remainder were enslaved to the Spanish invaders.

So great was the death rate of Native slaves as they were being shipped from one location to the next, that Spanish historian Peter Martyr would write in 1516 that , ...a ship without compass, chart, or guide, but only following the trail of dead Indians who had been thrown from the ships could find its way from the Bahamas to Hispaniola.

The Spanish under Columbus hunted the Native people for sport and for dog-food for their attack hounds.

So great were the cruelties and horrible the degradations that the Native people suffered at the hands of Columbus and his men, that entire villages would bolt in panic at the sight of a single Spaniard. The whole populations of some villages would, upon the approach of Spanish soldiers, hurl themselves from cliffs, hang themselves, shoot one another with arrows, or take poison to avoid life under the boot of Spanish oppression. Others abandoned their cultivated fields and homes to hide in the forested hills where many thousands starved to death.

Pedro de Cordoba in a letter to King Ferdinand wrote in 1517, As a result of the sufferings and hard labor they endured, the Indians choose and have chosen suicide.....Many when pregnant, have taken something to abort and have aborted. Others after delivery have killed their children with their own hands, so as not to leave them in such oppressive slavery.

After the surrounding Islands of the Carribean were likewise depopulated, the African slave trade began to replace the now all but extinct Native people.

Estimates of the Native population of Haiti in 1492 range up to 8 million people. In 1496, according to the results of a Spanish census, the Native populace had dropped to approximately 3 million. By 1516 only 12,000 remained. In 1542, 200 remained alive. By 1555, nearly all 8 million were gone.

How much damage, how many calamities, disruptions and devastations of kingdoms have there been? How many souls have perished in the West Indies over the years and how unjustly? How many unforgivable sins have been committed? ...... What we committed in the West Indies stands out among the most unpardonable offenses ever committed against God and mankind....

Bartolome de Las Casas—Spanish priest and compatriot of Christopher Columbus

I am often asked by my non-Native friends why many Native Americans resent the celebration of Columbus Day. Above can be found a few of the reasons why.

Inspite of the efforts of Columbus and the Spanish, the Native People of the West Indies have survived. click on to view the official website of the Taino People of Puerto Rico.


[They were] remembered by history as the benevolent monarchs that somewhat reluctantly financed Columbus' voyages to the Western Hemisphere.

King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella were in many ways typical of the monarchs of medieval Europe, brutal, dictatorial and oppressive. They ruled over a kingdom that tortured, killed and expelled Jews and Muslims. So confident in their right to dictate to others on how to live that Queen Isabella quickly began issuing edicts to the people of the West Indies. Upon hearing of the habit of daily bathes by the Native People of the New World, the Queen issued a command to these new subjects that read, They are not to bathe as frequently as hitherto. Queen Isabella, having proudly boasted that she had only bathed twice in her life, once on the day of her birth and again on the day of her marriage, felt that her personal views on hygiene were royally superior to the ignorant, primitive and savage views of the Native People of the New World.

Ferdinand and Isabella financed Columbus' journeys because they considered it a business venture that would enrich their kingdom's coffers. They were delighted to receive Columbus' gifts of Native American slaves and eagerly embraced and encouraged the plunder and enslavement of hundreds of thousands of Native People on Spanish cotton and cane plantations and in gold and silver mines in the West Indies.

Michele de Cuneo, a companion and compatriot of Columbus wrote in 1495 about Columbus' 1494 trip to the interior of San Salvador, ..... his desire to search for gold, was the main reason he had started on so great a voyage full of so many dangers.

Gold is most excellent; gold constitutes treasure; and he who has it does all he wants in the world, and can even lift souls up to. . .

Christopher Columbus

... you must .... recognize the Church as your Mistress and as goveress of the World and universe, and the high priest, called the Pope....I tell you that with the help of God I will enter powerfully against you all. I will make war everywhere and every way that I can. I will subject you to the yoke and obedience to the Church and to his Majesty. I will take your women and children and make them slaves, to sell and dispose of as his Majesty commands, and I shall do all the evil and damage to you that I am able. And I insist that the deaths and injuries that you will receive from here on will be your own fault and not that of his Majesty nor of the gentlemen that accompany me. These lines were part of the proclamation that Spanish explorers would read, in Spanish, to all tribes and bands of Native People they would encounter. This proclamation became known as the, Requirement. After reading this Requirement, to an uncomprehending tribe, the Spanish would consider themselves absolved of all sins in the ensuing depravity and horror that would follow.

Of course Ferdinand and Isabella, as primary stock holders, of these royally sanctioned acts of piracy and plunder, rape and enslavement, murder and genocide, were the main beneficiaries. And it is no co-incidence that Spain's rise to prominence as a European power came after the Spanish had bled dry the West Indian, Central American, and South American Peoples.

Pedro de Cieza de Leon would write of the Spanish Conquistadores, ....wherever Christains have passed , conquering and discovering, it seems as though a fire has gone, consuming everthing.

Official state and corporate plunder of the People and land of the New World as practiced by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, and described by Pedro de Cieza de Leon is a practice that continues to this day.

Sincerely yours,

Mr. Ramon Rivera,
Director of Cultural Affairs Office of Taino Tribal Affairs (Tribal Representative)
The Government of The Jatibonicu Taino Tribal Nation