Columbus Day!

The man does have a point. Amusingly enough there is a little rhyme Indians learn about to remember their white guys who tried to find (and stick a flag into) India.

De Gama has Brains, Colombus is Useless (it rhymes in Tamil)


  1. says

    If you can find a copy in your country, read “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn. He made a bit of a name for himself by going back to original source documents and pulling back the curtains of history to show just how much of what we think we know was just thick layers of rose-colored varnish.

    Regarding Columbus, he went to the actual logs that Columbus kept, letters sent back and forth between him and the monarchs, diaries kept by his crew, and various other such documents. What he found as the truth was definitely NOT flattering. The Oatmeal has a nice summary.

  2. says

    You totally stole my thunder!

    I was going to write about Bartholome!

    *Shakes FIst*.

    There is a similar character in Indian history called St. Xavier who was responsible for the Portugese Inquiisition in India where hundreds of thousands of Indians were forcibly converted to Catholicism. He was sainted for this. And is “fondly remembered”.

    The final joke is on the Catholic Church.

    St. Xavier was nicked wholesale as a Hindu God. More Hindus visit his grave than Christians. To the point that the Catholic Church regularly throws a hissy fit and tries to stop Hindus from going in but since Hindus in India look pretty much like Christians it’s impossible to keep them out and the local priests let them in because Hindus are “better tippers” since Hindus bring food. (The idea of food offerings is very very common in India).

    But yes, Colombus was a lousy dude.

  3. says

    @Gregory in Seattle: I was just about to mention Zinn’s book as well, because I’m currently reading it. It was really an … experience reading the passages from the letters and journals. Of course, I had already heard about the violence and the killing, enough that I didn’t see Columbus in the idealistic way that’s taught, but it’s quite another thing to read the actual words written by people who were there.

    @Avicenna: I never knew that about St. Xavier! I’ll have read up on that. It sounds fascinating.

  4. lpetrich says

    Christopher Columbus’s voyages were the beginning of the first permanent European settlement of the New World. It’s unfortunate that he was such a major-league jerk.

    Leif Ericsson had indeed made it across earlier, but his settlement of Vinland didn’t last. St. Brendan likely made it across, but he didn’t even start a settlement. If some classical-era explorer made it across, we have no record of it. The closest approach we know of was that of Pytheas the Navigator. He reached northern Europe, but he could not go further because of the “frozen sea” (Strabo: pepeguia thalatta, Pliny: mare concretum).

  5. lpetrich says

    I once thought about what some early European explorer might have discovered if he’d gone further.
    Vipers with rattles on their tails.
    Hedgehogs as big as small dogs.
    Badgers that spray a strong stink.
    Masked dogs with broad faces and banded tails.
    Wild oxen with the manes of lions.
    A big swamp filled with crocodiles.
    A grain that bursts when one roasts it, making bread.

  6. Pteryxx says

    Gregory in Seattle: thanks for mentioning Zinn’s book. I started researching and found all the text is here:

    The treatment of heroes (Columbus) and their victims (the Arawaks)-the quiet acceptance of conquest and murder in the name of progress-is only one aspect of a certain approach to history, in which the past is told from the point of view of governments, conquerors, diplomats, leaders. It is as if they, like Columbus, deserve universal acceptance, as if they-the Founding Fathers, Jackson, Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt, Kennedy, the leading members of Congress, the famous Justices of the Supreme Court-represent the nation as a whole. The pretense is that there really is such a thing as “the United States,” subject to occasional conflicts and quarrels, but fundamentally a community of people with common interests. It is as if there really is a “national interest” represented in the Constitution, in territorial expansion, in the laws passed by Congress, the decisions of the courts, the development of capitalism, the culture of education and the mass media.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>