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Amazon Music Stream millions of songs. Amazon Drive Cloud storage from Amazon. Unfurling the banner of the Spanish monarchy--a green crowned cross emblazoned on a field of white--the Admiral of the Ocean Sea led his little group in a prayerful thanksgiving. He set up a wooden cross and christened the island San Salvador --after the Holy Savior who had protected them during their perilous voyage.
Its inhabitants were henceforth Spanish subjects.go site
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The same scene was repeated five years later when John Cabot stepped onto the northern peninsula of Newfoundland in and made a short speech claiming possession for Mother England. Two Frenchmen, Cartier and Champlain, did the same in the St. Even the moon is graced with an American flag and a plaque signed by Richard Nixon.
As he proceeded southward, still seeking the Asian mainland, Columbus soon encountered the island he named Isabela. The nearby headland was Cabo del Estrella , named for the Southern Cross in the sky immediately above. The names established an agenda under which the rest of the encounter would be played out. After discovering a patch of "unclaimed" land, the conqueror would wade ashore and plant his royal banner. He proclaimed that these newly discovered lands were now his patron's domain and laid claim to the new-found riches, the natural resources, and the things living and inanimate--all of which was simply wilderness before being "discovered" and defined by Europeans.
During the Golden Age of Discovery, European colonial powers competed in a high stakes game of finders keepers. The power to name reflected an underlying power to control the land, its indigenous people, and its history. Discovering and naming were not limited to islands. In the letter announcing his feats to the world, Columbus called the people he found los Indios , broadening the geographical India to denote all of Asia east of the Indus River.
Even after Columbus' navigational error a pair of intervening continents was recognized, his term Indios was retained and eventually translated into the other languages of conquest--the French Indien and the English Indian. Thus the invented word "Indian," which began as a navigational misnomer, would carry enduring colonial connotations.
It would mask the enormous complexities and variability of Native American people by grouping them together into a vastly oversimplified pan-tribal construct. The Arawak-speaking people who lived on "San Salvador" did not ask Columbus to rename their island. They had called their home Guanahani since first arriving there centuries before. As they watched the three ships make their way toward the shore, they must have wondered about the voyagers' origins. They must have applied their own names to these curious bearded strangers. But these names and musings are forever lost because within a decade after the encounter, the Arawak-speakers on Guanahani had all died.
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They were slaughtered wholesale by fire and torture, the sword, and ferocious war dogs, worked to death as slaves, and mowed down by smallpox, measles, and diphtheria. The Spanish had to venture ever further south in search of slaves to support their fledgling New World colonies. The names Indian and San Salvador persist today because they were made up and retained by the conquerors of this "New World.
Columbus wrote in his diary a glowing testimonial to the gracious and amiable people he found there. They brought him food and water and asked if he came from the heavens. Although not exactly sure where he had landed, Columbus saw about him a terrestrial paradise, perhaps even the threshold of the Garden of Eden itself.
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After some island hopping, the Spanish explorers were befriended by a local chief named Guacanagari. Guacanagari wept at the plight of the stranded foreigners, and he immediately dispatched his people in long canoes to help offload supplies from the stricken ship. The Admiral and his crew were invited to take refuge in Guacanagari's village. His Arawak hosts, Columbus wrote, were among the world's most generous people, living in peace in their island universe. They were loving parents.
They venerated their elders and cared for them in old age. Their language lacked even a word for "war. They are most obedient and faithful to their natural lords and to the Christians whom they serve. Nor are they quarrelsome, rancorous, querulous, or vengeful. Moreover they are more delicate than princes and die easily from work or illness.
They neither possess nor desire to possess worldly wealth. Surely these people would be the most blessed in the world if they only worshiped the true God. The image of America as earthly paradise was short-lived. The Noble Redman was soon joined by vicious warriors lurking deep within the tropical forest. The gentle Arawak recounted a calamitous migration of warriors coming from the deepest jungles to the south. All-male Carib war parties were said to be advancing island by island, seizing food and weapons, hunting down and eating the Arawak men.
They castrated young boys and fattened them up like capons to be consumed later at feasts. Female captives were taken as unwilling brides, to bear the next generation of warriors. Columbus took careful note of the cannibal menace, which he welcomed as strangely good news. Recalling the cannibals so vividly described by Marco Polo two centuries earlier, Columbus took the Arawaks' stories as a sign that Cathay was not far to the west. During the very first months of his New World adventure, then, Columbus had invented two classic stereotypes that would condition Euroamerican perceptions of Indians for the next five centuries.
The peaceful Arawak continued their idyllic Garden of Eden existence even as they were menaced by the brutal Carib monsters, vivid personifications of the Devil himself. An experienced sailor, Morison retraced under sail every mile of the Admiral's epic first voyage to America. He portrayed Columbus, in typically stirring language, as "an intrepid mariner and practical dreamer" who met the hardships of land and sea "with stoic endurance.
One day, Morison relates, the Caribs became so violently ill after eating a Spanish friar that they swore off clerics for good. From that time forth, whenever Spaniards were forced to call at Dominica for water, "they either sent a friar ashore or rigged up the boat's crew with sacking and the like to fool the natives.
They deserved what they got and Columbus was just the man to set things straight. Similar portraits turn up in James Michener's Caribbean , a historical novel sold in tourist traps from Miami to Trinidad. Michener is not, to be sure, a card-carrying professional historian, but that hardly mattered to generations of Americans looking to soak up a little history on their Caribbean vacations through the rich prose of a best-selling novelist.
Though he fictionalized his Carib and Arawak characters, Michener assures the reader, "there is historical evidence for the life of the two tribes as portrayed. His books are known for their meticulous research and grounding in historical scholarship. The back cover of Caribbean even suggests that "Michener should be assigned by the nation's educators to pep up those dull, dull history books that students yawn through. There were no man-eating Carib marauders. There were no peaceful Arawak villagers.
There was no northward invasion by man-eaters. Recent historical and archaeological research has shown that the Carib and Arawak imagery is pure myth, a product of overactive fifteenth-century European imaginations. Historian Alvin Josephy has called the Caribs "the most maligned humans on earth. What Columbus really saw were differing ways of coping with European invaders. During the earliest encounters, native people often tried simple accommodation and compromise.
But as the European strangers became more aggressive, the "peaceful Arawaks" fell victim to the Spanish sword and to the accidental germ warfare that wiped out thousands of native people lacking immunity to European diseases. Their strategies of accommodation made the Arawak villagers prime candidates for conversion to Christianity, but their numbers plunged during the first Columbian years, and their traditional culture soon died out.
As Columbus and subsequent explorers pushed their way southward through the Lesser Antilles, native people took up more aggressive tactics of resistance: From a native perspective, the "Carib" warriors were the first American freedom fighters, defending their families, their land, and their tribal sovereignty from foreign conquest.
By the seventeenth century, Caribs were forging temporary alliances with the British, French, and Dutch.
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If the French outstayed their welcome on a particular island, the local Caribs would ally with the British to eject them. Then, after a few years of British rule, the Caribs might go back to join with the French to depose the British. This strategy fended off the tribes' complete disintegration until treaties had been worked out to divide up the Lesser Antilles. Such forms of resistance lasted well into the eighteenth century, and pockets of Carib people survive today.
But to the European mind, they were heathens and savages. Were the Caribs really cannibals? The best modern evidence suggests that they may indeed have engaged in ritual consumption of enemy body parts. The practice is well documented elsewhere in Native America--a ritual perhaps analogous to the rite of Roman Catholic communion.
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