Close reading about Columbus and The New World
Working for the Crown of Castile, Christopher Columbus went on a mission in order to find a Westside route to Asia. The Crown wanted to know the source of the spices, a trade that originated in the civilizations especially in Asia. The failure of his mission was because of his encounter with the New World between Europe and Asia. Following this failed mission, Columbus makes four voyages between Europe and the Americas, which leads to the colonization of the Americas as well as colonization of the New World. Christopher Columbus and Bartolomé de las Casas develop the new world as well as a racialized image of the Americas throughout an account of the four voyages that Columbus later made between the Americas and Europe between 1492 and 1502. This essay looks at the development and advancement of the new world as constructed by Christopher Columbus and Bartolomé de las Casas through “The Four Voyages.”
Before Columbus explorations, there is a note of the “Old World” explained as a composition of Africa, Europe, and Asia. However, when Columbus faced the challenge in finding a Westside route to Asia, a new world was found and the Europeans started exploring what could be on this world and the inhabitants of the New World. Columbus describes the inhabitants of the Americas and the islands around them including Bermuda and Clipperton Island consisted mainly of Paleo-Indians, showing a racial view of the original inhabitants. Columbus shows the slave trade in the “New World” through enslaving slaves and sending them to Span and Portugal. He shows the racial issues within the Americas by trading off the slaves and even noting that the proceeds from the slave trade were the first return from 75-year investment in Africa. He continues to push the racial idea of the new world through showing that the Cicaoan indigenous residents in the Americas were forced by Columbus to collect and deliver a specific quota of gold monthly.
Columbus shows an idea of racial slavery of the native Paleo-Indians by noting that when the Indians delivered the gold, they were given copper tokens worn around the necks and anyone without a token had their hands cut off and bled to death. The concept that Columbus pushes through this is clear. First, the new world was a land rich in minerals. Copper was just part of the minerals as this was only his second voyage and he had not sufficiently explored the islands. The other narrative is that the Indians were discriminated on racial grounds and turned into slaves essentially working for Columbus. Making the Indians work for him advanced the racial element about the Native Americans as well as showing Africans as slaves that were traded off to the Spanish and Portuguese rulers. Columbus even annoyed Queen Isabella by allowing the settlers to capture and take home the Indian women with whom they had started families essentially complicating the racial composition in the new world as well as enslaving the Indian women even when Queen Isabella wanted to abandon the policy of slavery.
When Columbus made the third voyage to the Americas, a journal by Bartolomé de las Casas notes that the main aim of the voyage was a desire to confirm the belief by King John II of Portugal that there was a continent located on the Southwest of Cape Verde. This would turn out to be the largest characterization of the new world in the voyages as well as the racial description and characterization of the Americas. Columbus showed that he had discovered a land that he thought was Asia but it was not noting that the people were uncivilized and struggling to find names for some things in the new world. For example, when he killed a large animal, he called in tiger even though there were no tigers in Spain. The racial characterization therefore was that the people inhabiting the world that Columbus had landed on that he thought was the Americas were uncivilized and the third voyage was important for confirmation that this was not Asia but a new continent. Columbus also develops the new world as an uncivilized world where people were totally naked. There were cotton clothes that had been made in Europe and became a signature of trade with the Asians. However, some inhabitants wore no clothes, which surprised Columbus.
The journal by Bartolomé de las Casas reveals that the mission by King John II of Portugal in the third voyage revealed that indeed there was a continent southwest of Cape Verde islands. The Island is the present day South America. Brazil was found to have a unique habitat and climate that had only been seen in Africa but the Europeans found that they were uncivilized. Their ways of life were different and their religion unorganized as the Europeans viewed it. After the third voyage, there was a rush to colonize the Americas as characterized in the journal. The Spanish wanted a piece of the new world and Christianity was the preferred mode of entry. Giving religion to the people in the new world was viewed as a way that the Europeans could enter and conquer the new world. This view is a characterization of the Americas and their culture as disorganized and the journal’s characterization of the races of the people including their body structures and description of their skin colours and differences with the Europeans was a racial categorization of the new world.
The discovery of the new world as largely uncivilized was a characterization of the indigenous inhabitants of the country as racially inferior. The journal by Bartolomé de las Casas reveals an encouragement to the Europeans to rush to colonize the Americas. One of the things that amazed the Europeans was that a world they knew nothing about was so organic and unexplored with a huge potential for minerals and natural resources that could be explored. Columbus characterized the new world as rich in resources and with the people introduced to Christianity, the path for colonialism was clear. Spain, Portugal, England, and other European countries either considered or colonized territories in the new world. However, Columbus did not only say the negative and uncivilized aspects but also some positive aspects like when he wrote that the Arawak Indians of Española were some of the handsomest people in the entire universal.
However, he negates it by saying they spent all their days idling like children. This was a racial characterization of the people in the new world. On the contrast, the Caribs, who were described by the Arawaks as man eaters were hateable but highly industrious. The racial characterization showed a lack of unity among the people in the new world and this was a huge element that would be used in advancing colonialism.
While the initial outlook of the new world in the voyages of Columbus and as described in the journal by Bartolomé de las Casas depicted a new world devoid of civilization, rich in weird racial composition, full of slaves, and rich in resources, it is Columbus’s characterization of the new world that attracted colonialism especially comparing the Arawaks and the Caribs. Columbus characterized the Arawaks as a soft landing spot for the Spanish to launch their colonial escapades into the Americas. The Arawaks were described as ready to be ruled and forced to work, cowards, and welcoming with rich lands that could be cultivated and were hugely productive. This view essentially gave the Spanish the leeway to colonize the Americas.
In conclusion, the voyages by Christopher Columbus was one of the most significant periods in the history of the Americas especially his mission to find a channel through to Asia through the Southwest route. The building of the new world has been developed through a period of discovery of the new world, its exploration, and eventual colonization by various European countries. Columbus has been credited as having provided information especially that showed the races in the Americas as weak, uncivilized, divided, and disorganized in a way that gave the Europeans a strategy to colonize the Americas.
Cohen, Mark Julian. The Four Voyages of Christopher Columbus;: Being His Own Log-Book, Letters and Dispatches with Connecting Narrative Drawn from the Life of the Admiral by His Son Hernando Colon and Other Contemporary Historians. Penguin Books, 1969.
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