In A Peoples History of the United States, Howard Zinn begins reshaping readers view on history from his first chapter: Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress. The common story of Christopher Columbus is one of heroism where he is celebrated for the so called “discovery” of America. As Dr. Bezio tells us in her podcast, the history we learn is told by the victors, and this rings true. Yet Zinn tells us the other side of the story. The true tragedies that Christopher Columbus caused. The pain and destruction that this “hero” caused. He brought mass genocide and enslaved Indians who welcomed him with gifts and food.
Zinn mentions Bartolome de La Casas, a priest who was originally with the Spaniards, but eventually wrote and released the truth behind the Spanish conquests. Knowing this drove home the some points from Wednesdays readings. How history was selectively recorded and glorified a leader because of his accidental success. But isn’t it possible to acknowledge his success finding America while condemning and bringing awareness to the true cruelty of his ways? We tend to gloss over the flaws of our leaders because of the important symbolism of leaders in America. But this needs to stop. Without Batrolome de La Casas, would we know the truth of the horrors that occurred, or would the genocide of the Arawaks be lost and forgotten history??
One reason we look at history to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, and we learn from them. But this story, the true story of Columbus is not commonly known, and so it does not appear to be learned from. In fact, a pattern of the same tragedies developed; Cortes, Pizzaro, Jamestown and much more. It created a dangerous pattern in America. One of inequality and glossing over inequality and tragedies because of the reward reaped from the cruel actions. Its something still with us today. I am curious to know more hidden truths of American history that Zinn will continue to tell in his books, something I think that should be widely spread through the American education system.