Columbus Was No Conquistador – Hudson Reporter


Dear editor:

A local publication contained an editorial on Italian heritage and culture. We agree that Italian history, traditions and heritage should be valued and respected. However, one writer refuted that she “opposes any preservation or celebration of the name of Christopher Columbus”.

Columbus’ voyages spanned the eastern and western hemisphere. For many, Columbus’ journeys are an example of the “journey” to freedom and a better life – “The Immigrant Experience”. As a result, since the United States is a nation of immigrants, never before have so many owed so much to one person – Christopher Columbus.

The legacy and spirit of Columbus represent “inspiration”, “imagination” and “intensity”. These “three i” human achievements accompanied American “pioneers” like Susan B. Anthony and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as they fought for equality and human rights, Neil Armstrong when he was the first “Earthling” to walk the lunar surface, and they were with Barrack Obama when he became the first black American to be elected president; and currently, with Kamala Harris, you are the first black woman of South Asian descent to hold the office of vice president.

These three simple – but powerful – words help us achieve our own dreams, goals, and aspirations. Taken together, these three words mean hope for a better future. Columbus’ zeal is for the committed visionaries who laboriously seek answers that will benefit humanity. Columbus’ strength and spirit of discovery are really with those who courageously go there “where no one has gone before”.

Granted, Columbus has become a controversial figure. Many proudly proclaim Columbus as a visionary who opened up a new land of opportunity to the oppressed, oppressed and huddled. Others see Columbus as a greedy opportunist who massacres the indigenous people and spreads diseases and institutionalizes the slave trade. Columbus adhered to other principles and beliefs; social norms that would be considered offensive by modern standards. We urge caution when applying 21st century thinking to the prevailing morality of the 15th century.

Many historians claim that the reports of Columbus ‘exploitation of the indigenous population as part of the “Black Legend,” an anti-Spanish propaganda launched by Spain’s rivals in the 16th century. In addition, Columbus’ rivals have been “ducks” over before the Spanish court Mismanagement common in Hispaniola. Many historians claim that there were too few Spaniards to have killed the millions reported to have died after making east-west contacts. Smallpox had a 90 percent death rate in the Native American population.

Columbus was not a conquistador. The Columbus challenge is to “stand up” and make a difference in the world we all share. This is the real lesson – the real meaning – from Christopher Columbus.

John Di Genio and Albert J. Cupo