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In 1492, Christopher Columbus made an unexpected discovery of the Americas while trying to accomplish his “enterprise of the Indies” that was supported by the Spanish monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella (Levine 58). Columbus’s purpose for his voyage was to find an alternate route to Asia from the Atlantic for the reason of the popular demand for spices (Levine 58). Instead, he discovered something much more: a new, undiscovered land with futuristic opportunities. Columbus’ discoveries was the birth and beginning of the history of America, and it was molded by his discoveries, actions, and encounters with the Indians.
Columbus wrote to Luis de Santangel, the financer of his first voyage, titled “Letter of Discovery” on February 15, 1493, regarding what he discovered (Levine 59). He goes on to tell Santagel of the five islands he names, including San Salvador, Isla de Santa Maria de Concepcion, Fernandina, Isabella, and Isla Juana, and explains the land being so vast that he thought he was on the mainland of Catayo, also known as China (Levine 59). Columbus sails along to discover “Espa?ola,” and discusses the great rivers and mountains accommodating it (Levine 60). He describes the land in awe as, “All are most beautiful, of thousands of shapes, and all are accessible and filled with trees of a thousand kinds and tall, and they seem to touch the sky,” and goes on to graphically describe the flowers, fruit, greenery, birds, and honey (Levine 60). Columbus also discovers a few natural resources on his first voyage, as he mentions the Indians giving him gold as gifts and wearing plates of copper to serve as armor and protection to Santangel (Levine 60-63). Columbus not only discovers new land, but humans inhabiting this land. He describes the people, whom he names “Indians,” as, “the people of this island, and of all other islands which I have found and of which I have information, all go naked, men and women…” (Levine 60). Columbus goes on to write to Santagel the absence of metal and weapons, only one made of canes, and describes the greatness of the people’s shyness as they ran away as Columbus reached the shore (Levine 60). He discusses how generous and loving the people are, and “they are convinced that I, with these ships and men, came from the heavens” (Levine 61). Columbus gives vivid detail of what he saw when he discovered the new lands, but it is the actions to come that have the great effect on America.
After discovering the new world, Christopher Columbus becomes a changed man focused on riches and conquering the new world, and is described as “a man whose good motives were corrupted by his bad motives” (Berner). He discovered how fearful and gullible the Indians were, and Columbus writes in his letter, “I took by force some of them, in order that they might learn and give me information of that which there is in those parts, and so it was that they soon understood us, and we them, either by speech or signs, and they have been very serviceable” (Levine 61). This was the slight beginning to slavery in America. Columbus forced a few of the innocent Indians, known as Native Americans today, to go back to Spain with him, and only seven survived the voyage (Levine 61). Columbus states in the conclusion in his “Letter of Discovery” his plans and wishes. He discusses the use of slaves, finding and taking valuables from the new land, and converting the Indians to Christianity (Levine 64).
According to Robert Royal, the “Indians were portrayed as poor savages, too primitive to be taken seriously as worthy members of the human race,” and they are to soon suffer and perish from Europeans discovering their land. In fact, Columbus would rather the Indians had not existed because now they are an obstacle to his plan (history.com). With the use of violence, Columbus forced slavery upon the Indians in the new world (history.com). He would use them to help get his riches and conquer the new land. Also, the moment Columbus and his men stepped off their ship, they brought nonimmune diseases to the new land and Indians (history.com). The Indian population would soon dramatically decrease, as smallpox and other diseases given to them from the Europeans would kill them (history.com). Lastly, Columbus forced the Indians to convert to Christianity (history.com). As Royal states, “these diverse peoples should have been respected for their own cultures and peacefully brought into interaction with the Europeans.” The Indians had a negative effect on Columbus’s discovery of America, and they would never get their lives back.
In conclusion, Christopher Columbus can be considered a hero for discovering America in 1492, even though it was accidental. He exchanged various plants and animals between the Atlantic Ocean, and gave the people of the old world a new place to settle. However, he brought forth diseases, violence, slavery, and forced Christianity to the Indians that can never be taken away. It was the discovery of the Americas that shaped the history of the America that is known today.
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