Wednesday, October 14, 2015


From A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn:

While the men were sent many miles away to the mines, the wives remained to work the soil, forced into the excruciating job of digging and making thousands of hills for cassava plants.

Thus husbands and wives were together only once every eight or ten months and when they met they were so exhausted and depressed on both sides ... they ceased to procreate. As for the newly born, they died early because their mothers, overworked and famished, had no milk to nurse them, and for this reason, while I was in Cuba, 7000 children died in three months. Some mothers even drowned their babies from sheer desperation.... in this way, husbands died in the mines, wives died at work, and children died from lack of milk . .. and in a short time this land which was so great, so powerful and fertile ... was depopulated. ... My eyes have seen these acts so foreign to human nature, and now I tremble as I write. ...
When he arrived on Hispaniola in 1508, Las Casas says, "there were 60,000 people living on this island, including the Indians; so that from 1494 to 1508, over three million people had perished from war, slavery, and the mines. Who in future generations will believe this? I myself writing it as a knowledgeable eyewitness can hardly believe it...."

More here.

Here's what I wrote when I posted this on facebook for Columbus Day on Monday:
Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States taught me that Christopher Columbus IMMEDIATELY began murdering and enslaving Indians when he first arrived in America. There is no way to separate his great contributions to Western civilization from his genocidal behavior. He was the great adventurer; he was a heinous killer and slaver. He ushered in the era of history that ultimately led to the nation we are today; he ushered in the era of history that made death and oppression a way of life for white Westerners for centuries. Same guy. And we have to recognize that.

So sure, celebrate Columbus Day. He did, after all, do some really cool stuff. But never forget the horrible stuff, either. Glossing over historical fact for feel-good reasons is pretty lame--it helps us deny who we are today.
'Nuff said.