Politics, United States

Columbus, Honored Hero Or War Criminal?

Christopher Columbus is an honored and historic part of American history but in reality was a murderous fool.  Looking back on the history of this figure and his methods after “discovering The New World”, Columbus is not a heroic saint that we view him as today. When you review Christopher’s past, you will realize that he murdered thousands mercilessly and failed at his primary objective of finding a better route to India. The one positive, in European eyes, was that he opened up The New World to Europe and European Colonization. European colonization ended up in hundreds of thousands being enslaved and removed from their native land. Yet in spite of these offenses he is honored to this day in the form of statues in and outside of the United States. So the question stands, should we honor this individual? His original plan to find a better route to India failed and he ended up ruining the lives of thousands of Africans turned slaves and killed countless native people in a fool’s quest for gold.

Columbus was originally turned down when he pleaded for the resources to sail the Atlantic blue by multiple possible sponsors including the leadership in Portugal and England. Columbus wanted to sail the ocean in order to find a better route to India and help dominate the spice trade since moving by land was too much of a risk for merchants as, “The route was long and arduous, and encounters with hostile armies were difficult to avoid.” Both countries, England and Portugal, wanted the spices found in Asia but were not desperate enough to send Columbus on a suicide mission across the Atlantic. However Spain was in lustful need of more spices and took the chance with Columbus to sail the Atlantic knowing his reasoning was false and that food shortages would be gone long before reaching Asia. As such Columbus was granted the necessary resources to travel, and with three ships, The Pinta, Nina, and Santa Maria, Columbus sailed further than the naked eye could see. Columbus landed, surprisingly, but not in his intended destination and failed in finding a new route to Asia with a landmass of over 2000 miles horizontally in his path. Columbus had failed to find a new route to Asia to expand the spice trade but is still honored for finding the new land.  Spain wouldn’t even get to use the majority of this land, yet he is honored in enormous statues in both Spain and in this new land.

Columbus landed, surprisingly, but not in his intended destination. However Columbus landed on one of the inhabited Bahamian Islands. Columbus mistook the native people who lived there as the people of India and called them Indians which is where the term Indians, instead of native americans, comes from. This was the natives first contact with European people and welcomed them with good intentions. Columbus noted their kindness and ignorance of Europe noting in his journal, ‘“They do not carry arms or know them….They should be good servants.”’ The brutality to the Taino under Columbus’s leadership forced the native men to work in gold mines while neglecting their need for food. Since the men did not plant crops, there was no harvest, and because there was no harvest, the people starved everywhere. Without mercy the few Taino who rose against the Spanish died. Columbus enslaved the Taino and when the monarchs heard, they stripped Columbus of every title he gained and was imprisoned. Columbus had not just brought his ships with him, but diseases as well, and when the natives were introduced to the bacteria and the brutality of the conquistadors that followed Columbus, the population had dropped by about 85% within mere decades of first contact. Remember that we still honor Columbus with statues all over the world in Europe, and the United States depicting his heroic journey across the Ocean Blue.

Columbus is honored in the form of statues all over the land yet he has slain an entire race of people and brought shame to his name before being honored. He had committed genocide on 85% of the Taino population and enslaved what remained. Even in the country that funded his exploration he was seen not as a hero but a criminal who needed to be imprisoned to prevent further damage. Yet Columbus is honored today as the finder of the new land neglecting the damage he caused and failure to his promise of finding a new spice trade in the form of great statues. It should be this generation to rid America and the world of oppression in all forms and Columbus is also a statue that must be toppled down from his pedestal built upon neglect and ignorance.  Columbus’ actions and role in history should not be honored but rejected and accounted for accurately in history so that we can learn what not to do in the future. Statutes provide real life replicas of people or heroes that should be respected and honored.  The accurate account of Columbus should not be honored through statues of heroes.

Article by Bret Semkiw

Works Cited

History.com Staff. “Christopher Columbus.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2009,         

    www.history.com/topics/exploration/christopher-columbus.
The Biography.com Editors. “Christopher Columbus.” Biography.com, A&E Networks             

    Television, 1 Aug. 2017, www.biography.com/people/christopher-columbus-9254209.

Myint, B. “Christopher Columbus: Hero or Villain?” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television,

     6 Oct. 2017, www.biography.com/news/christopher-columbus-day-facts.

Poole, Robert M. “What Became of the Taíno?” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 1 Oct.     

    2011, www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/what-became-of-the-taino-73824867/.

One Comment

  1. Bret, I agree with your viewpoint of the need to diminish our praise and “heroification” of figures such as Columbus who brought more harm than good to the world around them. It is also important for us to observe other European explorers during this time such as Hernando de Soto and Ponce de Leon who carried out similar actions to Columbus and are also widely heralded by many young students. However, it is crucial for us to also recognize that even if we begin to phase out one heroified figure, there will always be others that remain or rise up. Take Andrew Jackson, for example. He is regarded as one of the best Presidents of the United States, but his claim to fame of defeating the British in New Orleans actually occurred after the war. Even though I agree that we should view these historical figures differently, it will be extremely difficult, even impossible, as decades have passed where we have praised these figures to no end.