Victor said there were a few places on the island in which Columbus was depicted, but that they had been erected by colonists.
“Why hasn’t the Columbus stuff been taken down?” I asked.
Victor answered soberly, “As with Americans, some Cubans still believe the lie.”
This did not sit well with a particular member of our group, Jennifer, who folded her arms and fixed Victor with a piercing look.
“You call Columbus a murderer, but everyone kills during war,” she said.
“War?” Victor raised his eyebrows. “This man initiated unprovoked massacres, Madame. Indians fought back. Against a documented mass murderer, rapist, and thief. Columbus did not ‘discover.’ He invaded. He did not ‘defend.’ He attacked. He did not ‘settle.’ He conquered.”
Jennifer eyeballed Victor. “That may be your history but it’s not ours.”
“The hell it isn’t.” This came from Pita, one of the “brown people” in our group.
But Jennifer defended her stance. “Columbus brought innovation to the Indians, let’s not forget. He brought new foods, weapons— ”
“Disease, pestilence…” someone else finished.
“How was that his fault? He didn’t bring disease as a biological weapon,” a man in our group added.
“And his gifts to Indian communities improved their lives,” Jennifer repeated hotly.
Leslie, another “brown” group member, added her viewpoint.
“John Wayne Gacy contributed to his community, too. He worked as a clown for children. Sure, he also kidnapped, raped, tortured & killed them. But, by all means, let’s focus on his good points, shall we?”
“Oh, that’s relevant,” Jennifer snarked. “Let’s compare a serial killer to the famous explorer who discovered our country.” She shook her head. “Not in the same league.”
I wondered if the families of Gacy’s victims would defend Gacy’s good points the way we defend Columbus. Or if the descendants of native Indians in each of the countries Columbus ‘discovered’ would place him in a more exalted “league” than that of a serial killer?
Leslie responded, “As we’ve established – both here and back home, Jenni-fer (and let me tell you, the weight she put on Jennifer’s name could have crushed a boulder), Columbus didn’t ‘discover‘ our country.”
“Or anyone else’s,” Pita chimed in.
Jennifer bristled. “Well, that’s a matter of opinion.”
“No, it’s an historical fact.” Leslie corrected. “A fact that’s censored back home in our great democracy.”
Karli & I exchanged looks.
I found out later, when she and I dissected this war of ideologies, that Karli was dumbstruck by the exact same thing I was dumbstruck by…
Americans, fighting about Christopher Columbus…in Communist Cuba!
There was more back-and-forth, and other group members chimed in – even a few of those who re-joined us after walking away earlier (except Eleanor, who started this whole thing with her “magical history“). But this was the most volatile part of the Columbus conversation. At some point, Victor smoothly interjected himself between snarks to continue the story.
In a nutshell, Spain’s King Ferdinand II & Queen Isabella I (who, btw, are the ones who initiated & had just that year intensified the deadly Spanish Inquisition) financed Columbus for a mission to find a new route to Asia.
Columbus would get a cut of everything he ‘found’ along the way, and win fame for blazing a new route to the land of silks & spices.
Along the way, as the fable goes, Columbus ‘discovered’ America, Cuba, Hispaniola, the Bahamas….stopping in each place to kill off the natives (except for a manageable number of women and girls (and boys) to rape, and men and boys use as slaves) so that he could pillage all the booty (especially gold) to send back to Spain.
The more treasures Columbus could get, the bigger his cut.
So, he committed genocides, instituted slavery, and took it all.
In the case of of Cuba, rich Spanish colonists eventually flocked to the island from Spain & began importing Africans as slaves to work the plantations.
What was the deal with stealing Africans?
Seriously, who came up with that?
It seems that no matter which country I go to, there’s a history of “brown people” oppression – Africans, Indians, Arabs, Latinos….you name it.
Brown skin = oppression.
If all the “brown people” in the world decided to join forces to turn the paradigm upside down, it wouldn’t be much of a struggle. As a h.s. history teacher once literally whispered to our class, brown people outnumber white people around the world. By a landslide.
So, I wonder why people with brown skin haven’t done it already? Join forces, as Whites did, for a worldwide (reverse-) racist coup?
I wonder if one day they will?
If they do, I hope it’s not in my lifetime because, no diggety, that would be WWIII. After the way they’ve been treated – are still being treated…their tortured histories swept under the rug, denied, discounted, minimized, even ridiculed…
That degree of united pain, rage & resentment might be deadlier than a nuclear war…