Nowadays Columbus is one of the most controversial persons in the world history. This mysterious figure provoked many questions related to the European history of the 15 century and the history of the New World before 1492. Columbus has been described as a great mariner, a national hero, a genius and, on the other hand, as a ruthless imperialist.
In the first expedition to India Columbus opened the Bahama Islands, where the Arawaks lived. The tribe met Columbus and his crew with food, water and gifts. They traded everything they had. Columbus wrote that they were naked, tawny and looked very strange. “They… brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks’ bells” (Zinn).
After the first voyage Columbus concluded his exaggerated report for the King and promised to get gold and slaves. For the next expedition he got approximately seventeen ships. The main aim of the Columbus voyages to India was to find gold. During their second expedition Europeans didn’t find gold fields, so Columbus decided to get slaves. In 1495 they loaded onto the Spanish ships five hundred Arawaks. During the long route two hundred natives died and the rest were sold in the slave market in Spain (Zinn).
Columbus had to fulfill the promise to come back with gold. On the Haiti he gave the Indians an impossible task to bring every three months some gold. Those who brought the gold got the tokens. In few month Indians that were funded without that token were cruelly killed.
After the opening of the gold mines the natives were forced to work hard there. They dug and splinted rocks and carried it to the rivers. Those who washed gold spent all day long in the cold water. More than a third of the men died after near six months of work in the mines (Zinn).
Bartolome de Las Casas, a young priest, was the first serious critic of cruelty and violence of the Spaniards in the islands. He participated in the expeditions to Cuba. His books are very important source of information about the life in the New World after coming of the Europeans. Las Casas tells about total cruelty of the Spaniards. He viewed how the Europeans killed, destroyed and ravaged the natives (Bartoleme de Las Casas).
Five hundred years ago the history of the invasion of the Europeans to America began. More than three million of the Indians perished because of wars, slavery, diseases and victimization. Nevertheless, Americans celebrate Columbus Day, and children read the heroic story about the opening of the America.